7 Ways to Talk About Money in Church Without Being Awkward

Share This Post
money in church

Let me guess. Every time you need to talk about money in church, you wince. And when you open your mouth and start talking, so does everybody else.

I know… because I’ve been there.

The truth is, it isn’t fun to talk about money at church. It’s awkward to bring up budgets and bank statements from the pulpit — even though it shouldn’t be. It’s a normal part of running a church and leading an effective ministry.

So, let’s start to fight back by saying it together. Ready? 

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

There, we said it. It’s the truth. It isn’t personal. It’s practical.

Talking money matters at church shouldn’t be a problem. And yet, few church leaders I know are ready to talk finances in front of their congregation.

Here’s why.

This post was updated and republished on September 18, 2023.

Money at Church Feels Like a Target on Your Back

When you talk about money, it can feel like you’re putting a target on your back. You can end up taking a lot of flak — even when you speak about it as earnestly, Biblically, and honestly as you know how.

As a result, many pastors avoid the subject like the plague. 

They only talk about it if there’s a financial crisis looming for the church or, you know, you need to fundraise for a new building or that one-off missions trip that everyone should suddenly be uber-willing to donate to… even though we normally never talk about this financial giving stuff.

That right there is the biggest mistake you can make. Only talking about money when you need money is the best way to set everyone up for failure.

Nobody wins in that scenario – not the church, not your people, and certainly not you as a leader.

Guys, please hear me when I say that you have to talk about money at church. There’s so much at stake if you don’t.

Pastors who refuse to talk about money can ultimately leave both their churches and their people broke. Don’t let your ministry go down that path. 

Instead, let’s discover how to talk about money at church the right way.

Only talking about money when you need money is the best way to set everyone up to lose. Click To Tweet

It’s Not Hopeless …Really

I know what it’s like to lead with meager finances. I also know what it’s like to lead with more resources available.

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

The annual budget for one of the churches was $4,000/year. 

No, I’m not kidding

There are no missing zeros. The other churches weren’t in much better shape, either. Added together, the budget of all three organizations was less than $50,000 for the year. The doors were on the verge of closing for the entire trio.

There was an easy way to ameliorate the problem. Talk about money.

By addressing financial needs honestly and openly, we freed up additional funds for each ministry. Today, what was the tiniest of churches is now vibrant, healthy, and alive — not because we made a $4,000 per year budget work, but because we tackled money in a Biblical, ethical way head-on. 

We didn’t wait for dire circumstances to get worse. We started figuring out how to talk about money at church. 

We were open and honest about what needed to happen to keep those doors open. And God used those conversations to move generous hearts and minds.

What’s even better is the ripple effect that this healthy approach to money at church has had on the individual attendees. We’ve watched as people who attend our church have become financially healthier in their personal lives.

Before we tackled money matters from a Biblical perspective, far too many people were driving car payments rather than cars. They were buying so much house that there was no money left for anything else. 

Despite the despondency and the surrender to bad money habits, no one seemed to be interested in casting a different vision. Not until I came in, and our team began shaking up the status quo.

It’s been a joy to cast vision. It’s been a genuine honor to help people live with margin and live on mission. It’s been a blessing to hear favored souls express gratitude for having margin in their financial lives.

Which leads us back to our premise. 

How do you get over your innate fear of talking about money at church?

Let’s count the ways. 

Here are seven tried and true ways to shake things up and make discussing money at church the new normal.

1. Realize People Talk About Money Every Single Day

Think about it. Do you know someone who doesn’t talk about money in some way daily?

Seriously, I’m challenging you. Come up with an example of someone who doesn’t discuss finances in some way or another throughout the day. 

Sure, your Great Aunt Ida might make the list. 

But I guarantee you, there’s no family in your church, or your larger community for that matter, that doesn’t have some kind of daily dialogue about money.

People talk about it, argue about it, and try to make their plans around it. It drives our lives, whether we like it, hate it, or are even aware of it.

So why not bring that conversation into church? As we’ll break down in more detail in a minute, bringing up money at church shouldn’t be a sermon on tithing or a donation pitch every time. 

On the contrary, if you’re comfortable with how to talk about money at church, you can bring it up as a way to connect with your congregation.

Money as a Stewardship Topic

Almost everyone in your church and community thinks and talks about money daily. In many cases, they’re probably struggling with it, too. 

When that’s the case, where are the people who can step up to help them? Who can be a sounding board, a mentor, or a brainstorming companion?

When most church leaders are afraid to talk about money, it can leave people high and dry in this critical area of everyday life. This is especially true when the little money talk that does take place is in a theological vacuum or only relates to putting something in the metaphorical offering plate.

You don’t have to get comfortable with talking about money at church strictly to increase tithes and church budgets. Start talking about it in the context of living. Normalize the money talk by talking about normal things.

When it comes to money, don't just talk about giving, talk about living. Normalize the conversation by talking about normal things. Click To Tweet

2. Recognizing Money Talk as a Form of Pastoral Care

Here’s a challenging thought. 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 couples in your congregation are getting divorced, could a timely word about finances have a surprisingly powerful effect on keeping them together?

We may live in a culture of plenty. But we are burdened by massive personal debt and a lack of fulfillment around money. In that oxymoronic context, families are looking for hope and help. 

They often don’t know how to handle a medical expense or a car payment. They might even simply find themselves struggling with debilitating stress from potential financial issues. 

These are the moments when a wise word from a church pastor, elder, or other ministry leader can make a world of difference (don’t leave all pastoral care to the pastor). Proverbs 22:7 can guide a young couple away from crippling debt. Jesus’s exhortation not to worry about tomorrow in Matthew 6 can save a fretful individual from sleepless nights and worrisome days.

This isn’t just nice. It’s part of a healthy ministry and church culture.

If the church won’t help people figure out how to handle their personal finances, who will?

The scriptures are packed with practical advice and missional claims on personal finances. These can literally change people’s lives.

Why hold out on people? Who will bring them help or hope if you don’t?

If the church won't help people figure out how to handle their personal finances, who will? Click To Tweet

3. Help People Plan Their Financial Future, Not Just Yours

Addressing money in your church shouldn’t just be about your needs in ministry.

Too many leaders only think about their church’s needs when it comes to money. Wise leaders think about their congregation’s needs when it comes to money, too. 

In fact, they’re willing to put them ahead of their ministry’s financial goals when necessary.

The concept here is simple. If you help people plan their personal financial future, you’ll have a better future as a church.

The tagline that we came up with a few years ago for our ministry (and that I already mentioned earlier) is that we want people to live with margin and live on mission

This kind of mindset infuses daily financial activities with purpose — and that infusion should start at the pulpit.

Personally, I kicked this concept off at our church by starting to tell people I wanted them to pay cash for their next vacation, save for their children’s education, save for retirement, create an emergency fund, and so on.

I also wanted them to live generously.

I think people were shocked that a preacher: 

  • Wanted them to take a vacation
  • Wanted them to pay cash for it
  • Offered a program to help them realize their financial goals
  • Didn’t expect all their money to go to the church

There are multiple Christ-centered financial management courses and programs out there for churches.

My joy as a leader is to see hundreds of people paying in cash, saving wisely, and giving generously to the Kingdom.

That can only happen, though, if you want something for people, not just something from them. 

The takeaway here? Help people plan their financial future, too — not just yours or your church’s.

Church leaders, help people plan THEIR financial future, not just yours or your church's. Click To Tweet

4. Overcome Fear of Push-Back and Foster Financial Health

Both the world and the church have many idols — and money is high on that list. When you attack an idol, you need to prepare for a counter-attack.

Let me just warn you upfront that you’re going to get push-back when you address money at church. 

Some people might feel guilted by a sermon on tithing. Others might argue about how they should give or what financial activities a church is engaging in.

These are normal resistance points — and they shouldn’t stop you from bringing finances up. 

If you help people with their finances as a ministry and steward the money that you receive from your congregation appropriately, you won’t just be managing money. You’ll help break the power of an idol in your culture and church.

When pushback arises, take the time to address it. Explain yourself. Address individuals and not just groups. Stay calm, cool, and collected.

As you address pushback, remember that the enemy is not always outside you. Sometimes, the idol you’re trying to get your congregation to slay might also be your own. When that’s the case, it’s important to recognize and be open and honest about that reality. 

Genuinely question your motives when you talk about money. Be honest about how you struggle with money and the love of it. After all, if you don’t struggle with money, you’re probably not human.

As you overcome pushback through communication, explanation, and love, don’t let the past derail your money message. Continue talking about finances in church post pushback as a way to show that this really is an important part of the Christian walk — and resistance from the Enemy is just one more confirmation of that fact.

Preachers, remember that the idol you're trying to get your congregation to slay might also be yours. Click To Tweet

5. Tap Into the Desire Most People Have to Be Generous

It’s easy to think most people are stingy. I’m not so sure that’s true.

Try shifting that mindset for a minute. Consider how you would approach your congregation if you assumed most 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 food bank seems out of reach; it’s hard to come across as a philanthropist.

By approaching your attendees as individuals who naturally want to give, help, and donate their resources to help others, the only missing piece is teaching them how.

As always, start this process with the Bible. Biblical teaching on tithing, giving, and generosity is a great starting point. It helps you align your congregation’s inherent desires and generosity with actionable examples and standards.

As you teach healthy money management skills, people will learn to forgo spending as much money on themselves in unhealthy splurges or impulse buys. They’ll learn to replace emotional spending with a Biblical filter that allows them to live with margin and live on mission.

When you help people get their finances in order, generosity can be unleashed. 

Keep this approach in mind. 

I think you’ll discover that more people want to be generous than you think. They want to be in a financial position to step up for your end-of-year giving campaign.

They just need help getting there. 

Most people want to be generous. They just need help getting there. Click To Tweet

6. Connect Your Vision and Stewardship for Meaningful Giving

When people give, they are trusting you to manage their hard-earned money. God is trusting you, too.

I’m not trying to intimidate you. I want you to feel confident stepping out in faith and talking about this stuff. 

But part of that confidence comes from understanding the stakes … and embracing them.

Your position as a leader at the center of the flow of tithes and gifts — whether it’s $4,000 or $4 million — is an honor and a responsibility that is unique in the human experience. You are expected to steward your congregation’s funds and, critically, align them with God’s calling and Kingdom.

This makes it important to steward and manage the money your ministry receives well. A few examples of healthy money management include:

  • Avoiding relatives or close friends processing tithes or managing money at your church.
  • Signing up for things like a third-party independent annual audit (which is expensive but worth it) on a regular basis.
  • Transparently reporting your finances to your congregation as a consistent activity.
  • Actively integrating your vision and mission into your money management.

Without proper oversight and direction, you might get people to give once or twice. But if you want to cultivate consistent, generous givers over time, you need to exhibit an updated, inspired, and Biblical vision of how to steward your ministry’s money.

People don't give generously to uninspiring or poorly stewarded visions.  Click To Tweet

7. Unchurched People Are More Open to Conversations About Money Than You Realize

Over the years, of all the concerns I’ve heard in relation to talking about money at church, the number one objection is that unchurched people don’t like the church to talk about money.

And guess what? Most of our growth at my own church comes from unchurched people. 

So, yeah, it’s a pretty live tension.

The interesting thing is that, in my experience, I’ve found that, sure, sometimes unchurched folks really don’t want me bringing up tithes, generosity — that kind of stuff. But most of the time, it’s simply not true

Surprisingly, unchurched people love to talk about money, especially when they realize you’re ready to help them.

If you doubt that people love to talk about money, just ask someone like Ramit Sethi. He has found personal wealth by building a podcasting and blogging empire that helps millions of people manage their own personal finances.

When an unchurched individual finds that they are supported and you are on their side when it comes to money, they’re much more interested in talking about it — and listening to what the Bible has to say about it, too.

Ready for the real truth bomb, though? Once again, in my personal experience, the people who object the most to talking about money tend to be those who give the least.

I can’t prove that statistically, but it resonates with my own past interactions as well as my personal intuition.

The point? Don’t let the people who never give ruin your ministry to people who love and want to give.

The people who object the most to talking about money are the people who give the least. Click To Tweet

How to Talk About Money at Church

There you have it – seven techniques to help you tackle the subject of money at your church.

Don’t be afraid to bring up dollars and sense with your attendees. If you do it wisely, consistently, and Biblically, you’ll find that it can start dozens of tiny personal financial revolutions within your congregation — revolutions that can collectively build until they have a ripple effect that impacts your entire ministry.

Lead With Confidence and Clarity. Grow Your Church.

As leaders, we tend to see the challenges and roadblocks before other people do.

We've all been there before...

  • You need to refresh your vision for the future but know that change will be an issue for that person.
  • You're overstaffed (or missing a key role) and can't find the right person to fill the role.
  • You aren't reaching enough new people even though you've tried everything that's working for other churches.
  • You can see the issue but aren't confident in what to do about it.

And with another Sunday morning coming up, it'll just have to wait until next week when you have a few minutes to figure it out.

Now ask yourself this:

What would it feel like to have those answers at your fingertips 24/7?

Whether it's reaching new people, improving your preaching, increasing volunteers, refreshing your vision, engaging your staff, or any of the countless challenges we face as church leaders, The Art of Leadership Academy will equip you to lead your church with confidence and clarity.

Between comprehensive church leadership courses, live coaching calls, staff and volunteer training resources, and direct access to a private online community of senior-level church leaders, you'll get the exact insights and answers that fuel your church for growth.

Share This Post
Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.