Churches_4 Executive Director of Administration Alan Monk, left, and Executive Pastor Mike Buster of Prestonwood Baptist. photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Prestonwood Baptist, Plano

Members: 28,000
Staff: 700
Budget: $27 million, church; $70 million total operatio

If there’s any institution that symbolizes the resounding success of organized religion in North Texas, it would likely be Prestonwood Baptist.

 It grew from a small church “plant” meeting in a city of Dallas recreation center 32 years ago, to a 28,000-member megachurch, currently sprouting in Plano and Prosper.

In the middle of it all is the son of a chamber of commerce bookkeeper and a former comptroller for a small Arkansas plastics factory, who together oversee a combined $70 million operation.

“Every day I pray for wisdom and discernment,” says Executive Pastor Mike Buster, whose mom kept the financial books for the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce. “But that sure doesn’t mean we don’t use business principles.”

Buster has plenty of chances to do that, in an organization that includes eight separate entities headed by the church itself with a $27.2 million dollar budget.

Prestonwood includes a Christian school, a massive sports operation, radio and TV outlets, a bookstore, a pregnancy center, and a large food court, all operating on a breakeven financial basis. There are five separate 501(c)3 corporations to manage the various entities within the overall church. These entities are all overseen in some way by Buster and executive director of administration Alan Monk, former controller of Gaylord Container Corp. in Pine Bluff, Ark.

Buster says he applies a basic principle to all church operations: “We should never try to spiritualize management problems, and we don’t manage spiritual issues. That applies to everything here.”

Although he has no formal business training or experience, Buster says he’s fascinated by reading business publications for ideas and is always thinking about how he could improve operations. One of the first big decisions he made during his 17-year tenure at Prestonwood was confirming the church’s switch from an employee health insurance plan to a self-insured model, and requiring all employees to participate in a health and fitness program to help reduce insurance claims.

“That has literally saved millions over the years,” he says.

One project Monk spearheaded was an energy-education program that included hiring the church’s first energy consulting group and regulating all of the church’s energy needs. That decision has helped the church avoid $4 million in energy costs since 2006. Newsweek magazine recognized the church for its energy-education program, and Prestonwood was named Best Green Church in a national church conference.

“I’m using every business principle I learned at Gaylord, but I think it’s harder because you have to be a lot more sensitive to the people,” Monk says.  
 He also compiles a complete summary of weekly receipts from the weekend services. Monk then e-mails it to Buster and senior pastor Jack Graham by Monday afternoon to be reviewed for all trends, positive and negative.

Buster says Prestonwood has not been immune to the national financial downturn, but has worked hard to stay in front of it. “We have thankfully never had to lay off staff, but we had a hiring frost, not a freeze,” he says. “We have certainly done more with less people. Everybody has more on their plate these days.”