7 Fresh Ways for Every Church Leader to Think About Money

If you’re going to be effective in ministry, you have to become comfortable talking about money.

Few church leaders I know are.

money and church

Here Come the Bullets

It’s been a struggle for me too. You take a few bullets when you talk about money, even when you speak about it as earnestly, biblically and honestly as you know how.

But talk about it you must. Especially if you want to have a vibrant ministry in the future.

But if you don’t talk about it, you will likely remain broke as a ministry, and chances are so will the people you lead. The message of our culture leads people to overextension on things that matter little in the end, and often end up dissolving families (see below).

It’s Not Hopeless…Really

I know what it’s like to lead with very meager resources as well as what it’s like to lead with more.

When I began in ministry 18 years ago, three small churches called me to be their pastor.

The annual budget for one of the churches was $4000. No, there are no missing zeros. (And I’m not making that up.) Added together, the budget of all three churches was under $50,000 for the year. The doors were almost closing.

But seeing resources freed up for ministry has made a big difference. Nearly 2000 people call our church home, and we see almost 1000 of them every weekend. Today our church is vibrant, healthy and alive (so thankful for that.)

7 Different Ways For Every Church Leader to Think About Money

So how do you talk about money? And why should you talk about this subject so many leaders avoid?

Here are 7 ways to have the conversation.

1. You need to talk about money because the people you lead talk about it every day.

Think about it. Do you know a person who doesn’t talk about money in some way every day? There’s hardly a family in your church or community that doesn’t have a daily dialogue about money. People talk about it, argue about it, and try to make their plans around it. And they do it in a theological vacuum because few church leaders will talk about it. Unless, of course, those church leaders need money. And then you miss most of the conversation.

2. Talking about how to deal with money is pastoral care.

Could it be that your reluctance to talk about money is costing people their marriages? Reports continue to show that money issues are a top reason families break up. If you won’t help people figure out how to handle their personal finances, who will? And the scripture is packed with practical advice and missional claim on personal finances that can literally change people’s lives. Why hold out on people? Who will bring them help or hope if you don’t?

3. What you do for people is as important as what you ask  from them.

This isn’t just about your needs in ministry. When we were thinking about our future as a church, we helped people think about their future. The tagline we came up with is that we wanted people to “live with margin and live on mission.”

What if you started casting vision for people to pay cash for their next vacation, to save for their children’s education, to save for retirement, to create an emergency fund and to live generously? A few years ago in the Thrive Initiative we launched at Connexus, we cast that vision and we offered training for people on how to balance their books and create financial margin by leading them through the Financial Learning Experience. 

4. Understand that when you talk about money, you are attacking a big idol.

If the world (and church) have an idol, money is a prime candidate. So know you’re going to get push back when you address it. But if you help people with their finances as a ministry and steward the moneys received appropriately, you will help break the power of an idol in our culture and church. Just make sure that in the process of attacking an idol, money doesn’t become your idol.

5. People want to be generous. They just don’t know how.

When you can’t make your minimum credit card payments, even a $20 donation to the foodbank seems out of reach. When you help people get their finances in order, generosity can get unleashed. And more people want to be generous than you think. They just need help to be able to get there.

6. Your vision and stewardship needs to be worth the sacrifice people make.

When people give, you receive a trust both from people and God. You need to steward and manage the money well. Things like a third party independent annual audit (which is expensive, but worth it) should be the norm. And your vision and mission needs to compelling and up to the challenge. People don’t give to uninspiring visions.

7. Unchurched people are more open to conversations on money than you realize.

Because most of our growth comes from unchurched people, I hear this all the time: “But what about unchurched people? Don’t they cringe when churches talk about money?” Sure, sometimes. But see points 1-3 above. They’re open if you will help live with margin and live on mission. In my experience, the people who raise the most fuss about talking about money in church are long time church attenders who don’t give much. I can’t prove that statistically, but it resonates with my experience and intuition.

If you are interested in practical resources that can help you get further ahead in giving and helping people, you can get this free report from Giving Rocket that will give you 5 strategies to increase giving at your church (affiliate link).

No organization has helped us see resources freed up for operational ministry than Giving Rocket.

So…what issues are you encountering in the conversation around money in your church?

What would you add to this list? Leave a comment!

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2 Comments

  1. Mary Ann Bowman on June 27, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Thank you Carey. I have only been a pastor for 9 years in rural congregations. And one of the best things I can teach people about money and giving is this: never underestimate the desire people have for giving. Over the years we had several “beyond the budget” projects that were accomplished – each in about a 2 weeks’ time frame. One was air conditioning, another was purchasing a Clavinova electric piano; last but not least, new shingles on the church roof. After making a sound case for each need we broke down the ways people could give: buy a piano key or an octave, buy a bundle of shingles, etc. When people know their money is being well spent they will give. If you don’t ask, they will give their hard earned dollars to other places.

  2. This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg on November 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm

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