A pile of U.S. coins sits on a one- and twenty-dollar bill.
Aarush Kochar / Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic forced churches to rethink many issues related to money. How much money do we need in our reserve accounts? How can we communicate financial needs without reinforcing a scarcity mentality? What technology should we use to collect money? If giving patterns shift, what priorities will we want to protect? While we may have figured out the answers to some of these questions, we are likely still learning valuable lessons.

Financial performance is not the goal of the church, but money is a critical resource for fulfilling the mission of the church. We use money to give benevolent aid, to pay employee salaries, to fund disciple-making initiatives and to maintain facilities for worship and fellowship. Nevertheless, clergy are not always comfortable talking about money and the importance of financial stewardship. Money is a topic that is sometimes labeled “a private matter,” which implies that it is not on the table for public discussion. But if we talk publicly about other deeply personal issues like faith, prayer, love and death, why shouldn’t we talk about money?

Often the church members who serve on congregational leadership teams come from diverse professional and personal backgrounds. Having varied strengths, perspectives and abilities is great, but when mental models about money compete, it can lead to long, difficult meetings. It’s important for congregational leaders to cultivate a biblical and theological vision of money. Without this vision, the prevailing economic forces that shape our culture — like scarcity and hoarding  — will likely influence a finance committee’s decision-making. Having a shared theological understanding of faith and finances will change the way we discuss everything from staff compensation to building repair and renovation. Check out this week’s resources for more insights on why money matters. 

Resources

David King headshot

David P. King: Reimagining Giving Traditions

In this episode of “Leading and Thriving in the Church,” Prince talks with David P. King, Karen Lake Buttrey Director of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving as well as Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies within the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

A chalkboard illustration of four figures struggling to hold up a line that goes up and down, then points up

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

An illustration of hands extended toward each other, with one hand having a dollar sign in it

How do you fundraise and ask for major gifts? Don’t pitch. Nurture relationships first.

Fundraising is about forming relationships, sharing the mission of your organization, and inviting others to participate.

By Melissa Spas

Edgar Villanueva headshot

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

A stack of quarters sits on top of a collection of U.S. bills

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 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


Before you go…

Money is about much more than financing the church’s ministry. Money has profoundly significant spiritual implications. Jesus taught the disciples to live without anxiously worrying about whether they had enough from a material perspective. He said, “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). Living in this world does involve planning for the future, but it’s also true that our churches have members who are trapped by their fears about money. No one ever taught them how to make money decisions with confidence in God’s abundance. Instead, they overidentify with work and wealth. Preaching and teaching about money can provide an opportunity for people to reflect on how and why money matters to them.

I guess this is why I’ve learned to enjoy preaching about money: I’ve seen what happens when someone gets a new perspective on faith and finances. All I can say is that it’s worth taking the risk.

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