Monday, September 28, 2015

Small churches and money

As I work with smaller churches a frequent complaint I hear is their lack of money. When we begin talking about ministries they might consider or the low salaries they pay their pastor they often insist they don't have the finances to do new ministries or improve the salary and benefit package of their pastors. My response is always the same: Small churches don't have money problems. They may have a vision problem or a stewardship problem, but they don't have money problems. Money issues are just a symptom of the real problem.

If a church has no real vision for ministry they are merely doing maintenance work, and that is the level of financial support they are going to receive. When a church does nothing but pay utility bills and a small stipend to the pastor, there is no incentive for people to give any more than what's necessary to keep the lights on. People don't give to pay the light bill, but they will give towards a vision.

A few months before I resigned my pastorate our church voted to build a new fellowship facility. Our architect told us what we wanted would cost us about $250,000.00, a large sum of money for a church that averaged about 55 people each week. Still, we felt this would provide us more ministry opportunities so we voted to build the facility. We scheduled a Commitment Sunday to see how much we could raise in one service. We raised about $52,000 that Sunday.

When asked where we should borrow the remainder of the money I challenged the church to trust God to provide the funds. Some were skeptical, but we proceeded to build as the money came in. About 18 months later the building was dedicated and was debt free. People give to vision.

I've seen this happen when churches want to begin new ministries. People get excited and give more than usual to help fund these ministries. If God's people have bought into a shared vision they will financially support it.

However, this is only true if they've been taught stewardship. Some pastors are so scared to talk about money their people have never even heard of the tithe. They don't know how to give to the church. We are told to preach the whole counsel of God, and you cannot do that if you never talk about money.

I've had pastors tell me their church doesn't allow them to talk about money and giving. Those are the churches that need to hear it the most. I absolutely would not serve a church that spent all its time poor-mouthing and demanding that I not talk about money. Life is too short, and there are too many churches looking for a pastor to lead them to waste time in such a place. We must teach sound, biblical stewardship principles or we are cheating our congregations of the opportunity to grow in that area.

With very rare exceptions, your small church has plenty of money available. As church leaders our responsibility is to teach them about healthy giving and keeping a vision before them worthy of their support. If we do these two things, God's people are often very generous.

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