It ain’t about money

I was speaking with a pastor a few weeks ago and as we parted I felt very good about his church’s money culture.

He was looking for resources he could share with his Finance Committee about healthy money cultures in churches. This happens sometimes when a church is in real trouble and the minister is going to “force feed the truth” into a committee-gone-astray. But his was different. He has a chairman in his mid 30s with an inquisitive mind. A systems thinker for sure, this young leader wants to understand not just the numbers, but the process, the logic, the reason people give, what their trends and, most importantly, how the Finance Committee can both affect these trends and deal with them responsibly as church leaders.

I sit with a lot of Finance Committees and it’s always interesting to observe where they are coming from. A month or two ago I had a leader who was most interested in making today’s church finances look exactly like they did three decades ago. He wasn’t happy with most of what I said.

Others see themselves as the sole voices of responsibility in a church that spends like Congress. Some want to squirrel away every nickel they can into the rainy day fund, bypassing the opportunity to grow the ministries.

I think part of the problem is how we staff our Finance Committees. It seems we slot our visionary leaders on the ministry side and put the proverbial bean counters on Finance. This is the place, we seem to believe, for bankers, accountants, and number crunchers.

But Finance can be a critical bottleneck when it comes to funding and therefore growing ministry.

Don’t get me wrong, a strong Finance Committee is critical to a well-administered church. Too often I have had consultations with a church that let their former pastor spend without accountability. But this committee and all of your committees need to realize that they exist for one purpose: to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Sometimes they will do this by voting yes. And sometimes by voting no. But whatever the vote, whatever the issue, it can never be just about money. It needs to be about ministry.

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