A team working together around the challenge of stewardship in the 21st century has worked hard over the past eighteen months to put together “The Generosity Project,” a pilot program running from Sept. 2017 – Dec. 2018 which worked to provide stewardship resources and support to a cohort group of pastors from New England regions. Members of the team have prepared blogs for “The Generosity Project” participants, which are shared on the ABCUSA website. To learn more about The Generosity Project, click here.
Church and Money: 5 Important Truths
by Rev. Margaret Marcuson
It pays to face facts when you are dealing with money matters in ministry. It’s a challenging topic for many clergy for a variety of reasons:
It seems a little “dirty,” not spiritual.
- We feel inadequate because we weren’t trained to deal with it.
- People’s giving pays our salary, so we feel defensive.
- Other people think they know more than we do (and sometimes they do).
- Giving patterns are changing, and we (and lay leaders) are not sure what to do about it.
Here are five things to remember that will help you as you lead in this important area of ministry.
1. Money matters.
Starting with the obvious: money itself matters.
It takes resources to do ministry. This is not a bad thing. It is just a fact. You can confidently take on the leadership in this area because it is an essential part of ministry. Paul says in II Corinthians 8:7, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” He never hesitated to ask people to give to support ministry. Christian theology suggests that money itself cannot be dirty. Remember, it’s not money that’s the “root of all evil,” but “the love of money.” (I Timothy 6:10).
Question: Do you know your own theology of money?
2. Anxiety matters.
Money is a high-anxiety topic (stop me if you are surprised…). It’s an automatic focus for anxiety. As we’ve just talked about institutionally, we need money to survive. In addition, biologically, we need money to buy food to eat. So when money is scarce, our survival instincts kick into overdrive. It’s harder to think creatively, to imagine new ways of doing things.
Question: Do you know your own anxious responses when money issues come up? Your congregation’s?
3. Leadership Matters
Good leaders provide a calm presence when anxiety is high. You can’t calm others down, but you can manage yourself, and that makes a difference. Have you ever been at a meeting where you could feel the temperature going up in the room? A key person calmly says, “Here’s how I think we can handle this,” and you can almost hear everyone give a sigh of relief.
Appropriate leadership in financial matters doesn’t mean balancing the checkbook or creating the financial reports. Not at all. It means offering spiritual leadership to the congregation and the relevant boards. It’s about the power of the presence of the leader in a vital area of ministry.
Question: Are you taking the lead in some way in financial and stewardship matters in your ministry?
4. Relationships Matter
Stay connected to the money people, as well as to other key lay leaders and staff. Money conversations will go more smoothly if you have ongoing relationships. Those relationships will help carry you through tough times.
You don’t have to talk about money every time you talk, of course; in fact, it’s better if you don’t. Developing these relationships is like money in the bank (maybe literally at times) that will enhance your leadership. You’ll have more credibility with them and others.
Question: What relationships do you need to develop to improve the ministry of money in your congregation?
5. History matters
Your church’s history deeply influences the present. You may be surprised, if you look into the past of your church, about how much of that past is still going on in the present.
Here are a few ways a congregation’s history may repeat itself in financial challenges and strengths. Consider these options, and see what else you notice:
- An angel donor who rescues the budget every year
- Capable financial leaders
- Periodic conflicts about staff salaries
- A financial committee or board that always functions well — or never does
- Strong support for mission and outreach over generations
Question: What do you know about the financial history of your church?
Try this: Do some writing—even a few minutes—about each of these questions, perhaps one per day this week.
Many pastors struggle with feeling like everyone wants a piece of them. Margaret Marcuson offers a way they can bring their best to their ministry without giving it all away, so they can have a greater impact and find more satisfaction. Find out more at http://margaretmarcuson.com.