‘Tis the season for stewardship!

Questions concerning money are usually among a congregation’s top priorities, but no two churches’ money issues are exactly the same. A church with rich endowments may struggle to discern how to transform abundant financial resources into real impact. Leaders in a church that just barely meets its annual budget may already be biting their fingernails — no one knows the effects of COVID’s second year on year-end giving.

Wherever your church falls on the spectrum of financial resources, try to avoid two common — but false — assumptions about money.

The first assumption is that money is a private matter that must be shrouded in secrecy. Some pastors don’t want to know what each member gives, because they wouldn’t trust themselves to treat each member fairly. Some churches may withhold the giving data even if the pastor wanted to know. Both of these positions are problematic. What someone elects to give is one of the most spiritually motivated decisions they make, often reflecting their commitment to the church over time. Pastors know who attends Bible study and who comes to church, and they should be trusted to know what people give. When churches do not trust pastors to have access to giving records, they reinforce the idea that the issue of money is fundamentally different from other aspects of discipleship, like prayer or marriage.

A second false assumption is that the pastor should not talk about money. No pastor wants the reputation of “always talking about money,” but the pastor is usually the person most trusted to talk to the church about faith and matters of spiritual importance. The pastor needs to be comfortable leading the conversation about financial stewardship — and leading that conversation by example. If congregations are going to see financial stewardship as an issue of faithfulness to God, the pastor needs to be an influential voice from the pulpit and transparent in the discussions in church boardrooms.

Money funds the mission of the church, so start having healthy, generative conversations about it. Check out the following resources as you reflect on how to lead your congregation in financial stewardship.


Before you go…

We can’t bring up the subject of money without acknowledging the amount of financially rooted anxiety that’s in the air these days. People are resigning or scaling back their jobs to find work that is meaningful, even if the new job pays a little less than what they earned before. Some churches have seen their income from contributions take a dip, and they may not be sure if giving will rebound to pre-pandemic levels. 

The one thing we can do is stay focused on the mission. With love and compassion, remind your people of why God calls us to give. Celebrate what the church is doing for others. Invite people to participate in the reign of God. We’re all figuring out what’s next, so if you have ideas about cultivating a culture of generosity, share your thoughts with me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu.

Until next week, peace and blessings!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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