As congregational leaders enter the fall planning season, they likely have more questions than answers, especially as it relates to money. In-person worship attendance is roughly half of what it was pre-pandemic. Consumer prices and interest rates are trending upward. Under these conditions, congregations often take a defensive position. They scale down their plans so they don’t take on too much risk.
Risk management is not a bad thing, but too much of a good thing can have unintended consequences. As you make financial plans for the rest of this year and next year, try not to let yourself and other leaders get trapped in fearful speculation about the future. Since God can do a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19a), even a church that is about to close its doors for good can have hope that their ending has the potential to be a new beginning.
As the world becomes more anxious about money, congregational leaders need to move beyond talking about money as a need for institutional survival and instead encourage people to think about money as a resource for ministry and transformation. It is difficult to encourage generosity when we start from a place of scarcity, because scarcity thinking is often rooted in fear. We sow seeds of hope when we find ways to publicly and frequently make the connections between what people give and what the church is doing for others.
These are challenging times for so many reasons. Speak about financial stewardship with love, grace and hope. Love and grace will help you convince the unconvinced. Hope can inspire those who are afraid.
Q&A with Laura Ullrich and David Brown
By Ken Garfield
Before you go…
Let’s talk about hope. Hope is more than a feeling or an attitude. Hope is embodied in our faithful actions, even in what we do with money. In Jeremiah 32, we read about how the word of the Lord came to the prophet Jeremiah, who was confined in the courtyard of the royal palace in Judah. During his period of confinement, Jeremiah heard God tell him to buy his uncle’s field at Anathoth. Jeremiah did as God commanded. The prophet’s actions did not make sense in purely financial terms. Given his uncertain future, he should have been living defensively. But Jeremiah’s purchase was an act of hope. God had not abandoned Israel, and the prophet paid 17 shekels for his uncle’s field to demonstrate that he had more hope than fear. When we talk about money, let’s encourage our people to do the same.
As always, you can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next week, keep leading in hope!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity