No pastor enjoys talking about money. No congregation enjoys hearing their pastor talk about money. Yet, money has to be talked about. Missions and ministries can’t happen without money. The work of God’s kingdom has to be financed. Here are five things I have learned about dealing with money in a congregation…
1. Increase trust in the system
Church finances must be beyond reproach. The process of planning the budget, adopting the budget, accounting for expenditures, authorizing payments — in short, the system that takes the money from the moment it is given to the moment it is spent for kingdom work— must be done under best accounting practices…and then some. Too many nationally known ministries have mishandled donations and most people are now suspicious of churches and their appeals for money. If people are going to give, they must trust the system. As Paul teaches, we must refrain from the “appearance of evil.” Anything less will discourage generosity in the church.
2. Have a vision and workable strategy
The church must know where they are headed and how they are going to get there. Big, audacious dreams are nice, but without a workable strategy, dreams are just dreams. The church must have clear understanding of what the mission of the church is and the steps the church is taking to accomplish this mission. The mission can be challenging, but each step of strategy must be doable. In other words, the pastor must compellingly communicate the destination and the steps necessary to get them there. Your people must have a reason to give to their church. Yes, I know about tithing, but a lot of people now see 10% as the total of their charitable giving. That means people in the congregation are weighing giving to the church against the needs of other non-profits. The pastor should always be able to present a compelling reason to give to the church.
3. Celebrate small victories and milestones
Every Sunday, be able to tell the church what has happened the previous week. Children’s camps, mission trips, responses to community needs, and impacts made by particular ministries show the church their money is being put to immediate use for eternal purposes. Make these stories as concrete as possible. Success breeds success. Seeing their giving make a real difference in the world will encourage them to remain engaged in the financial health of the church.
4. Help your church manage their finances
Here is an interesting discovery we have made within our congregation. Most of our members WANT to give, but can’t because of real issues with their finances. Some have lost jobs or their investments have gone bad, while others have been unwise in their spending. However they got to where they are they literally can’t afford to give. We have found it helpful to offer Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace and courses by Crown Ministries to be very successful in helping our people gain control over their finances and their lives in general. After these courses, people usually find they can give more than they thought they could. If you aren’t aware of this, you will end up trying to get your people to do something they can’t do, leaving your people with unnecessary guilt and shame.
5. Make it about Lordship (and stewardship is part of that)
The issue isn’t stewardship. It’s Lordship. Stewardship is an aspect of Lordship, but not the whole of it. Jesus Christ is Lord. He owns us…every part of us. Our talents, our time, our relationships and resources are all under His control. As Christ-followers, we are called to use every blessing from God to bless others and His Kingdom. This is why we give in our worship services. Giving is an act of worship. As stewards, we are entrusted with kingdom resources to invest for kingdom purposes. That includes every expression of our lives — including our money. Real disciples don’t ask Jesus how much they should give, but they ask themselves how much they really need to keep.
Jesus taught that our hearts would be where our treasure is. This is why we talk about money. Money, more than anything else, reveals our hearts and the hearts of our people are what we are really interested in.
What have you learned about giving and your church? I’d be interested to know.