…is not something most pastors relish doing. We approach the task with fear and trepidation, at our best, and at our worst, we avoid it entirely. We know that Jesus talked about money a lot, but we prefer to think he didn’t mean we should too. We know that money is a touchy subject, along with religion and politics, and we are intensely afraid of saying the wrong thing. What if someone gets mad? Or leaves the church? The “what if” is always ready to stop us from doing anything we need to do or should do.
So, how do we conquer our fear and accept the mantle of stewardship leadership in the ministry of money? Here are a few thoughts on finding the courage to talk about money:
- Sort out for yourself why it is an important thing for you to do. Being able to talk about money well is a key leadership skill for pastors. We are the ones who have the “pulpit” and can speak to God’s guidance for our lives in regard to God’s blessings and resources; we are the ones who need to communicate that generosity is the conduit of God’s love flowing through us in what we say, think, and do; we are the ones who can help our congregations frame money in a healthy, faithful way in their lives.
- Start by talking to your spouse, your family and to God. Why? Because they love you and are highly unlikely to get mad or leave because you want to learn how to get better at something. And they will be the ones to help you clarify the role of money in your own life before you try to help others do the same.
- Create a framework that holds the conversation together. When talking about money, gratitude is the foundation with which we begin. We are grateful to God for every breath and blessing. We are grateful for the congregations who come together to work out what it means to be followers of Jesus in the world and to faithfully answer God’s call. Next, the understanding that we are “stewards” and not “owners” of God’s blessing sets the right perspective. Finally, when we realize that we are the conduit for God’s love in the world, that God’s blessing flows through us, and when we realize that generosity is the current, we know that money is a critical part of making those blessings real.
- Find a colleague or mentor to keep you accountable. When our courage fades and we are tempted to let the fear and the “what ifs” overwhelm us and send us scampering for cover, we need someone to remind us of our calling, which includes stewardship leadership, to help us hone our thoughts in how we can lead the conversation with grace, purpose, and even joy, and to push us toward our best efforts.
Talking about money…can be something you are good at and find joyful. Really. If you are a pastor and want to learn more about how to do that, and how to help your congregation re-frame its conversation around money, stewardship, and generosity, consider joining The Generosity Project. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more. Grace and peace to you in all the ways you minister and bear God’s light to the world!
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.