Many churches struggle with whether to have a particular staff member handle supply purchases or to allow church members to buy materials and be reimbursed. There are pros and cons to both options.
The greatest pro of having someone on staff handle all church supply purchases is quality control. This way you have someone with an insider’s understanding of buying for a non-profit, knowledge of possible tax exemptions and relationships with vendors for bulk discounts. It is also much easier to track budget expenditures for supplies, since the majority of them will come out of the same line item or budget account. This allows the church some measure of confidence when it comes time to set the next year’s budget.
A potential con of having a staff member in charge of buying supplies is that the person many not know all the needs of each ministry within the church. Perhaps the designated staff person is a male who has no experience or passion for women’s ministry, or conversely if the purchaser is a female with no experience or passion for men’s ministry. What if the designated staff person is the children’s minister? Will that person be in tune with the needs of your church’s senior adult ministry? Having one staff member responsible for purchasing may cause some programs within the church to be overlooked or forgotten.
This leads us to one of the biggest pros for letting various church members purchase supplies and be reimbursed, that those individuals may have a gift or passion in a particular area. By allowing them to make their own purchases, you further empower them to serve the church with their God-given talents. An additional benefit is that staff members are freed up to serve the church in other areas, unencumbered by the responsibilities of overseeing supply purchases. However, the obvious drawback to this method of purchasing church supplies is a lack of control over what is purchased and how much is spent, both with the possibility of a negative reflection on the church.
An additional con is that there will be no overall vision for the church in regards to materials for various ministries. Members typically can’t create a unified vision for the church and carry it out through the age-graded ministry areas.
With pros and cons in both purchasing scenarios, every church should determine its overall needs for handling church supplies and address the problem with a solution that best meets those needs. The church must be diligent in being a good steward of its resources and in making sure that the “bottom line” remains reaching others for the glory of the Kingdom.