Clergy and other church leaders can find it difficult to talk about money. Pastors list many reasons why: they don't want to offend people by talking about it too much; they are reluctant or uncomfortable because giving pays their salary; they know that people are struggling in recessionary times.
But we can also list at least as many reasons to increase our comfort level with this important topic: our leadership is essential to fund the ministry of the church (not simply our salaries); we have a pastoral responsibility to address an issue which touches people's lives every single day; helping people grow in generosity is critical to their spiritual development.
If you struggle with preaching, teaching and talking about money at church, here are some reminders to ease the way:
1. Remember to lighten up. Money, like all anxious topics, causes people to get serious. If you can cultivate your sense of humor about it, you'll find it easier. When I was a pastor, I started making a file of money humor and cartoons. I took a look at it before money-related meetings. (My favorite was the cartoon about the church treasurer running off to Las Vegas with the endowment.) Sometimes I shared one of the cartoons, sometimes I didn't. Either way, it helped me lower my anxiety (and made the meeting more fun for me and others).
2. Remember it's not about money, it's about leadership. To live out God's purpose as a church requires resources. To become reality, a vision needs not only energy and creativity, but also money. Remember why you are challenging people to grow in financial stewardship. In your own thinking and speaking about giving, keep the vision in the forefront. (It doesn't have to be a big vision to start - if you're stuck, keep it small.)
3. Remember it's not just about money, it's about ministry. People need a spiritual context for their financial lives. If you talk about money more often, you can help them develop a way to think about their resources, apart from funding the church budget. In today's money-minded world, this is an essential part of our pastoral ministry.
4. Remember it is about you. It's not about your salary or your personality, but your own presence in the congregation, courageously addressing these difficult questions about money. Take the time to figure out what you think about money, and little by little, tell your people what that is. You are not responsible for what everyone else thinks or does - but you are responsible for yourself. Learn more about your family story regarding money, and little by little, share that with people - and give them the opportunity to tell their stories in return.
5. Remember it takes time. Increasing your comfort level with these conversations won't happen overnight. Seeing a shift in your congregation's relationship to money won't happen in a week, or even a year. But, over time, you can look back and say, See how far I've come - see how far we've come. We handle money better. We give more. We are more faithful in our lives and our ministry together. That's a reason to celebrate.
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