Churches_2 Rev. Rick Hill of Friendship-West Baptist. photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Friendship-West Baptist, Dallas

Members: 12,000
Staff: 63
Budget: $10 million total

Rev. Rick Hill spent most of his professional life in the corporate world. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Houston and then worked for U.S. Gypsum and later DAP Industries in Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Dallas.

Although he was a church member and supporter for years, Hill thought he knew enough to stay out of the church-business world until he got a call from Friendship West Senior Pastor Frederick Haynes, who asked him to help run things.

“This is a multimillion-dollar business, but the church is so much more difficult than the corporate business,” says Hill, who’s now Friendship West’s executive pastor.

“If we did all the things people do in the corporate world, people would accuse the church of being cold and hard-hearted,” he says. “We have to be [both] loving and efficient.”

Although Friendship West has avoided layoffs and salary cuts over the last several years, it did have to close its church school this summer due to the economic downturn.

“We worked hard to save the school, but had to close it,” Hill says. “That was a very hard thing to do. But that is part of keeping the body of the church together.

“I feel Dr. Haynes gives us the what and the why,” Hill adds. “I focus on the how and the when.”

Like many large churches, Friendship West operates with multiple entities, including social and human services, a development group,  a social-justice operation, and an educational arm.

“We have a large, multimillion-dollar note on our building and we have a $25,000 to $35,000 utility bill a month, depending on the season, but we have to let the ministry of the church go forward,” Hill says. “We give away $100,000 to $125,000 just to the poor and homeless every year.”

One newly employed tool for financial success is applying for more corporate and government grants, which can be used for some facets of the church operation. Another strategy is embracing a money-saving concept rarely seen at many large corporations: the power of volunteers.

“We have 2,500 volunteers at Friendship West. There is no way we can run the church on a dozen paid staff people,” Hill says. “We are asking people to work for free, and then asking them to give significantly to that work. You don’t ever see that in corporate America.

 “As a business, I get to work for the creator of the universe,” Hill says. “If my game was good outside the church, it better be even better here.”