A Chemistry Conversation with Jeremy Moore
Money talks—at least that’s what the world says. In this Chemistry Conversation, Jeremy Moore, of Bank of the West, and Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, drill down on the essential business principles churches that grow and survive in crisis have in common.
About Jeremy Moore:
Jeremy Moore is a nationwide leader in the field of Non-Profit Business and Finance, focused on large faith-based institutions. He has been instrumental in funding over $4,000,000,000 in loans to non-profits over the past twenty years.
But don’t let the large numbers and banking experience fool you. Jeremy cut his teeth in Youth Ministry until he realized it wasn’t what God had for him. Over the last 20 years, he’s helped churches think outside of the box for ministry and especially in maximizing their finances.
As always, we are here for you, and we're praying for churches and teams all over the United States!
Read the Full Transcript
Jeremy Moore: Yeah, that’s one way to do it. For sure. We’ve got the checkbook.
Matt Steen: Outstanding. That’s so good to hear. You and I will be talking after this. Jeremy has been working with churches for at least 20 years now through good markets, through 2008, which I’m sure you’re still in therapy for, and everything in between. Jeremy, man, thanks for taking some time to talk.
Jeremy Moore: Yeah, good to see you, Matt. Always a pleasure to hang out and talking a little bit about what we’re doing for the church and how we can better serve them.
Matt Steen: Yeah. So tell me, man, what are you learning now? What are you learning about the church?
Jeremy Moore: Aw man, I’m learning don’t say, “I’ve seen it all.” Right? And for every time we say that, something crazier happens. I know you mentioned ’08, and that was certainly an incredibly uncertain time for all of us. But for church - I have a friend who said, “What happened was, everyone was in the water and the tide went out and you found out who was swimming naked.”
Matt Steen: There’s a Zoom analogy in there, isn’t there?
Jeremy Moore: There you go. I have pants on today.
Matt Steen: That’s good to hear.
Jeremy Moore: No, it is interesting what has happened in the last 18 months now. None of us have seen anything like it before. Continuing to see churches evolve. I think the good news is, for me - like you said, we’ve been serving churches for decades. We are a part of a big bank that has a lot of other lines of business. I get to serve ministries. It’s my calling, and I can do that at a secular bank, so that’s awesome. But for them, this is a credit risk. And so it’s been neat through this last 18 months to see churches weather this well, be good stewards. Obviously, there’s a lot of fundamental disruption happening, but in the midst of all that churches have managed their money pretty well. So coming out of that, when you’re talking about from a banking and financial institution standpoint, for me to be able to go to our credit risk team and say, hey look. Here’s an industry that was shut down for months and really didn’t miss a beat. They made the changes they needed to make and they’re doing well. That part has been encouraging, certainly a very different experience than what I experienced back in the financial crisis 12 years ago. So never a dull moment, but all in all it’s been a positive experience for us.
Matt Steen: And that’s been kind of shocking, hasn’t it? There’s a lot of us, myself included, who when this started to happen, we’re expecting the sky to fall. There’s been some stories of churches that have just struggled. But for the most part, most churches have actually managed well financially.
Jeremy Moore: Yeah, that’s so true. Different studies and different polls have it different places, but on average based on our information, we would say the average church is down maybe as much as 10% on average in revenue. But their expenses have been down every more. We cut a lot of the events and artillery spending. From a banking standpoint, debt coverage was up. Net cash available was up, which makes for a stronger institution. It has been surprising. And here we are recording this going into Q4 of 2021, so we’ll date it a little bit. The hits keep coming. And yet, the church has been remarkably good at adapting and figuring out ways to adjust their financial situation so that they can continue to reach people.
Matt Steen: That’s phenomenal. So as you’re looking to the future - and who knows how long we’re stuck in pandemic times. I don’t see that changing any time soon. But what are you looking out and seeing and saying, hey church, we need to be aware of this?
Jeremy Moore: That is always the question. I think it’s more front and center for all of us today than usual. Okay, where do we go from here? We’ve seen some trends over the last decade plus that have been continuing to evolve. I think what’s happened in the last 18 months is we got 5-7 years of trend punched into a very short period of time. We fast-forwarded. And what we fast-forwarded to is a more remote-friendly culture, as evidenced by the conversation we’re having today. This is not going away. Even as people get more comfortable with in-person meetings - I was on a plane yesterday. So some of that is happening. But just as often as we are doing that, this is not going away. I think that transitions for church too. From a staffing standpoint, there’s going to be some interesting, continued evolution of, okay, those staff positions that don’t have to be in person, could we have an offsite remote executive pastor, CFO, financial people. I think we’ll see more of that. And the other piece, we’re seeing this in other industries and we’re certainly seeing it in church is the big getting bigger. Consolidation. Those that were strong going in are stronger today. Those that were struggling going in, some of them are already gone. I don’t think we’re done with that. I think we’ll continue to see some consolidation. I talk about church and business interchangeably because I think a well-run church is a business. Now, are businesses -
Matt Steen: You just ticked off half the…
Jeremy Moore: That’s right. Keep listening.
Matt Steen: There’s one person that’s no longer listening. But yeah, I get what you’re saying.
Jeremy Moore: When you look at those churches that are doing better today than two years ago, the common denominator isn’t actually the visionary, great teaching pastor. It’s actually that they have a well-organized and well-run financial systems and a good business in place.
Matt Steen: So let me ask you this. And this, I’m catching - we didn’t’ talk about this. I didn’t know you were going to say that.
Jeremy Moore: Sorry.
Matt Steen: Here’s the gotcha. So you’re a banker and you’re deeply concerned about the business fundamentals that are going on in the back office of the church when you’re lending. But at the same time, you’re a follower of Jesus. You are wholeheartedly committed to the church, and you know that the church isn’t your typical business. How do you balance doing the business side well while also understanding that this is ministry? Sometimes the right decision is a horrible business decision.
Jeremy Moore: That is the tension that I get to live in every day. Frankly, most executive pastors and business administrators get to live there, too. Certainly, there is a walk by faith component, absolutely, in what the church needs to do. But there is also accounting the cost. I think that is frankly what I see my role and calling to be. To affirm those that are making those decisions and being the guy that has to say no on occasion. But also to acknowledge the hard and important work that goes into being in that every day. To me, if we’re talking about the most underappreciated role in ministry, it is the finance executive, CFO, bookkeeping folks. They are essential and yet most senior pastors and certainly, all youth pastors don’t like them. Right?
Matt Steen: Yeah. I think the biggest irony of my career was going from a youth pastor to an executive pastor. Man, I ate a lot of crow during that transition.
Jeremy Moore: That’s a serious one. For everybody watching, I also at one time, hard to believe, was a youth pastor. I tell everybody, I got out of that as soon as I realized I don’t really like teenagers that much. And now I have two of them living in my house, so that’s a whole other story.
Matt Steen: That’s awesome. Very cool. So as you’re going through this, what encouragement are you giving to pastors right now?
Jeremy Moore: Stay the course. I think all of us are experiencing increased levels of uncertainty and underlying - there is this sense of stress and maybe even dread that just kind of is an undercurrent for everyone. And certainly, pastors are no different. Ministry people are feeling all of the same things. And yet, they also have to deal with people coming to them, looking for comfort and expecting them to be the source of calm and steady. And that is incredibly tough and, frankly, unsustainable to do that indefinitely. So I think acknowledging our own, “Hey, this is real for us too,” is a big piece. And then taking regular time - I’m encouraging leaders everywhere, I say, hey, you need to be unplugging regularly. As much as I love these kinds of events, you’ve got to have some days where you’re like, no, I am not going to look at a screen today. It’s essential. I actually have a few days away coming up. I’m counting down for that. We’ve always needed to unplug. I think more than ever, you’ve got to - and when you do it, fully do it. I’m trying to encourage folks to take regular time offline, truly away. And then just acknowledging that, yeah, it’s hard. And maybe this is not the affirmation that they want to hear. It’s hard, it’s important, and, frankly, I don’t know that it ever goes back completely to the way that it was.
Matt Steen: No.
Jeremy Moore: So, it’s interesting for sure.
Matt Steen: And for good and for bad too on never going back completely to the way it was. I love that, the disconnect. And I tell you, it has been a brutal season. And we as pastors, probably more than nearly any career field, understand that the work is never done. It’s so easy for us to fall into the trap, especially now when in many ways we are working more and more remote, to never put it down. But if you’re not putting it down, if you’re not really resting and taking your vacation days, you will fry and that’s not going to be good for you, the church, the congregation, or anything.
Jeremy Moore: Yeah. And if you’re out there and you are one of those church board members or others, a little more grace. We should always have grace. And frankly, revisit your vacation and PTO policies too. I think that’s something - even at the bank, we have a fairly generous paid time off. We’ve intentionally said, hey, let’s give a few extra unexpected Fridays off. Let’s dial back the meetings and try to keep them in normal business hours. The creep is real. You realize, oh, I can do this anytime. I’ll send an email off and expect a response. It’s a thing.
Matt Steen: That’s always healthy. Well Jeremy, thank you, man. Thanks for taking the time to kind of walk through some of this. Thanks for the work that you’re doing for the kingdom. Most people look at bankers and they have some sort of existential dread. But what I’ve appreciated about you in the time that we’ve been able to get to know each other is your heart for the kingdom more than your heart for the dollars. I think that’s super healthy, so thank you for that.
Jeremy Moore: Hey, I do count it a joy and privilege to get to work with ministries, especially those that are really doing the work of saying how can we do this with excellence and be good stewards of the resources that have been donated to us. It’s neat to see so many ministries doing good work and figuring out new and creative ways. I’m excited to see the continued evolution of how we reach people better. I think this whole crisis has created some good opportunities for us to do that.
Matt Steen: Yeah. Forced us into it. Well hey, if you want to get connected to Jeremy, we’ll link off to his LinkedIn down below and point you to where he is at Bank of the West. Any other words of wisdom you have for guys before we wrap up today?
Jeremy Moore: Appreciate all that they do. It is important work. Especially those of you, again, back to the executive pastor and CFO types, I know that they’re not getting thanks at work on a regular basis. Keep it up. It’s important. If you ever need help, I’m always happy to be a - whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, or a lot of folks use me as the bad guy. “We could do that. But Jeremy, he does this all day every day for the bank. He says that’s a stupid idea.” So you can blame it on me if you want to. And please, take your time off.
Matt Steen: Well Jeremy, thanks, man. Thanks for your time.
Jeremy Moore: Great to see you, Matt. God bless. Have a good one.