Red letter money talk

Recently, I was privileged to lead a Barnabas Foundation webinar on the topic of the pastor’s role in growing generous hearts. Despite my doubt that anyone would bite, a good number of church leaders showed up to hear what I had to say. Even better, they responded with questions, comments, and illustrations from their own experiences.

webinar-2016-10-13

When you have an hour to spare, I invite you to check out the webinar. Until then, here’s some of what I had to say to pastors and other ministry leaders.

MAY THE WORDS OF YOUR MOUTH

I began by reassuring pastors that it’s okay to talk about money, pointing to Jesus as the master of talk on the topic. Jesus knows our human weakness — our squeamishness — when it comes to money and so He spoke about it over and over. In fact, 17 of the 38 parables of Jesus are about possessions.

From there I listed the three “goods” of seeking to grow generous hearts:

It’s good for the folks in the pew. As Dick Towner of Good $ense Stewardship fame tells us, “the local church should be the place where believers come to understand stewardship in a way that transforms hearts, conforms their lives to the image of Christ, and results in overflowing generosity.”

It’s good for the church as an organization.  As you tell and re-tell your church’s story and invite parishioners into ministry possibilities through their giving, the church grows stronger organizationally, financially, and spiritually. “More money, more ministry” beats the socks off the more commonly heard adage of “no money, no ministry.”

It’s good for the wider community. Study after study show that people of faith are the backbone of charitable giving and volunteering in the U.S. and Canada. As pastors encourage hearts to grow in generosity toward God and Kingdom purposes, local communities, nations, and the world benefit.

Yet the majority of pastors remain reluctant to mention money from the pulpit — or so researchers tell us. But before the tongue clicking and finger-pointing get out of hand, let’s remember that clergy have lots of company.

All the time in my work with faith-based nonprofits, I bump into organizational heads who are expert at worming their way out of money-focused conversations (AKA fundraising) and for reasons similar to those of their ordained brothers and sisters.

The lingering social taboo against talking about money. Growing up, you likely heard it said that some topics – money being one of them – are out-of-bounds in polite conversation. But I say to you, speaking about money with confidence and care is essential to the spiritual development of the people you serve and the ministry effectiveness of the organization for which you work.

Personal financial difficulties. You cannot ask others to go where you have not gone in your own relationship with money. When a ministry leader – clergy or other – is weighed down with debt and struggling to make ends meet, when scarcity rules your life, it’s tough, even impossible, to encourage generous, joyful giving by others.

Criticism received in the past for talking about money from the pulpit — or in the case of a ministry head, a solicitation call gone bad. This is where the support of trusted colleagues can make a world of difference. It takes courage to put oneself out there again, but with your eyes fixed on the prize of God’s high calling, the courage comes. I promise.

Fear of criticism in the present for talking about money. For some folks, simply thinking about what could happen is enough to hold them back from money talk. Horror stories get passed around and believed. The good news is that you’re not asking for yourself. You are the messenger, not the message. Proclaim the Word, present the challenge, invite, and trust God to do the rest.

At the end of the day, we don’t talk about money because the church or other faith-based organizations need money to support ministry. We talk about money because the talk is ministry – and a glorious one at that. So write this assurance in red letters: It’s okay to talk about money in church or wherever God’s people gather in God’s name. Really.

For more on the importance of money talk among the faithful, see:

First some good news, then the bad about giving and the faithful

A challenge to pastors: embrace the ministry of fundraising

Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors. Where are the givers?

 

Comments

  1. Ann E. Steel says:

    Amen,,,and amen!

  2. Dear Rebekah, I loved this blog! As a stewardship educator and retired pastor, I agree with Dick Towner that we can come to understand stewardship in a way that transforms hearts and conforms our lives to the image of Christ. But it’s an ongoing lifelong process! Both confidence and care are good to have in equal measure when we allow use of money to be part of our spiritual care for those we serve.
    The best part, as you say, is knowing that we are not asking for ourselves, but instead “present the challenge, invite, and trust God to do the rest.” Thank you for your encouragement! Betsy Schwarzentraub, generousstewards.wordpress.com

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