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Not every pastor feels comfortable preaching and teaching about personal stewardship and church finances. However, as the economy continues to ebb and flow, congregations will need to discern how to talk about — and be good stewards of —  money.

No minister wants to be known as the preacher who “only talks about money.” Honest members might confess that they hope the day their friend comes to church with them is not the day the sermon is about tithing. Yet even though interest rates continue to rise and inflation is real, this is not the time to shy away from reminding disciples about God’s expectations related to stewardship. Of course, stewardship extends beyond finances. We are called to be stewards of our bodies, relationships and the earth. Yet money is often more difficult to discuss publicly because so many people treat money as a private concern. Our culture tells us that it’s nobody’s business what we do with our money. It’s worth reminding people that the gospel challenges that assumption.

A first step for a church that wants to have healthy conversations about financial stewardship is for the pastor to be self-aware regarding their own financial journey. Does the leader practice faithful stewardship? It is almost impossible to lead people where we are not willing to go ourselves.

A good second step in building a healthy stewardship culture is for the lay leaders to get on the same page about the language that will shape the church’s practices and theology. What is money for? If the church is affluent, how will you describe what generosity looks like? If members have more limited economic resources, how will you communicate about money without shaming or guilting people who already face serious financial challenges?

Money can be a tough topic. You need to talk about it. Are you ready for the challenge?

Resources

Why pastors should understand economics

Economists live in a world of scarcity. Christians believe in God’s abundance. In this conversation, an economist and a pastor talk about the ways in which that tension plays out in ministry and life.

Q&A with Laura Ullrich and David Brown

Afraid to preach and teach about money in your congregation? Don’t be.

Breaking the taboo about money talk can be fruitful for congregations, a new study shows. The more congregations talk about money, the more likely they are to see a corresponding increase in giving, according to the National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices.

By Edie Gross

Churches must reimagine their relationship with money

With over 15 years engaging in “social justice philanthropy,” an author and member of the Lumbee Tribe encourages faith communities to revitalize the ways that they approach money, wealth and philanthropy.

Q&A with Edgar Villanueva

Shaping a theology of money

Religious institutions need not live out of a scarcity mindset. Our religious communities are full of the necessary assets to cultivate a culture of generosity.

By David P. King


Before you go…

I agree with Henri Nouwen’s perspective on money. He wrote that fundraising, which I would broaden to include stewardship, is just as spiritual as “giving a sermon, spending time in prayer, visiting the sick or feeding the hungry.” This is a key reason congregational leaders cannot afford to be silent about money: too much is at stake.

Financial resources help the church actualize the vision of God’s beloved community. The communal approach of pooling our money to fulfill a mission that is bigger than any one person challenges our culture’s hyper-individualistic values. As we pass the plate (or give on our apps), we’re saying, “We’re all in this together.”

As you strive to be faithful in your calling as a leader, don’t forget that money matters.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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