So how are your congregation’s finances? Coming out of summer and with the tough economic times many congregations are struggling. In times like this it is tempting to buy into unhealthy financial patterns, so as you look at your congregation’s stewardship remember these 5 things:
1. Remember that budgets need to be based on God’s vision for the congregation. It is easy for us to let our preferences, fears, habits or doubts determine what we budget or how we minister. However, it is the job of the congregation to seek out God’s dream for the ministry in your location and then to passionately pursue it. How much time in prayer, study, discussion and reflection is your leadership giving to identifying where God is calling the ministry to go?
2. Remember that God is able! As the VegieTales so aptly put it in song:
“God is bigger than the boogie man, bigger than Godzilla and the monsters on T.V.
Oh, god is bigger than the boogie man and He’s watching out for you and me.”
I know that I can doubt that God is really ready to give a helping hand with the ministry that I pursue. I know that it can be hard to anticipate when and how God is going to step in, or how God could possibly overcome some of the ‘monsters’ we face. But scripture teaches that God can and more importantly, that God will act to fulfill the Lord’s work. So where do you need to trust that “God is able and big enough” as you pursue the vision that the Lord has set out for you?
3. Stewardship Campaigns are about helping believers act faithfully. A stewardship campaign is not about raising a budget. It is not a fundraising technique. Even though these are often (perhaps usually) how a stewardship campaign is run, it instead should be all about helping believers respond faithfully to God’s calling with our time, abilities, skills, experiences, gifts, money and resources. The stewardship campaign should be about supporting people so that when they stand before Christ and review what they have done with what He gave them the Lord will proclaim “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What is the focus for your stewardship campaign? How are you helping your members faithful care for and utilize what God has placed in their care?
4. Trust instead of panic. One of the common directives that church leaders give when trying to encourage a faithful response to God is that we need to “trust God.” Yet when times get tough and the budget is tight the church seems to throw out that advice. Instead we turn to panic and paint a gloom and doom picture. We do need to be honest and upfront with financial information yet we need to always do so from a place of trust in God. We need to live in faith that God will provide what is needed. We do need to act responsibly but that doesn’t mean that we write fear filled articles to the congregation about closing the doors if the offering doesn’t pick up. How prevalent is the trust of God in the way your congregation talks about finances?
5. Give people as little or as much financial information as they want. OK, there are a very few items that you might not fully disclose (e.g. some congregations don’t list out salaries except for the personnel committee to see). However, we need to make readily available information on what is spent and how it is spent. At the same time we need to be aware that if we give too much information many people get lost in it. So how about giving graduated amounts of information, starting with a little and then having two or three steps up for those who want more.(e.g. level 1 being basic income and expenses for broad categories, level 2 being categories and subheadings expenses and budget, level 3 being detailed ledger information which shows all expenses under line items)?
So those are my 5 thoughts to remember as you deal with your congregations finances and as many congregations look toward a stewardship campaign. I pray that God will share a fantastic vision for what part of the ministry your congregation is to carry out and that you will find the joy of working beside our Lord in making it happen.