It’s 2011 and the United States is in hard times. High unemployment, combined with poor government policy, has mired the nation in economic woes. As members lose benefits, jobs, even their homes, many churches have also fallen on difficult days financially. I’ve written about this before, and have received many requests to write more and expand thoughts on this topic. I want to address stewardship and the economy from a pastoral perspective. How should the pastor communicate these issues to the congregation? Here are a few practical ideas:
Talk early. The time to begin educating the congregation on a difficult financial situation is early in the process—long before your budget is running on fumes. If your financial outlook is not in the black for the next 12 months, I would recommend connecting with your congregation and especially leaders within your congregation on this issue.
Talk honestly. By all means do not sugar-coat the truth when it comes to finances. Let people know your precise weekly needs, what is not getting met, and what the consequences will be, and when those consequences will occur. I’m a strong believer in the congregation owning the burden of the church’s finances along with the Pastor and leadership team. The better the communication, the higher the degree of trust your congregation will have in leadership.
Talk biblically. Jesus spoke often about money and possessions. The Bible has more than 2,600 verses on the subject. So to avoid the topics of stewardship and money is to avoid a large portion of the Bible. The biblical example in the New Testament church is believers giving regularly, sacrificially, and typically above and beyond the tithe. Systematic and biblical education about money is necessary in today’s world to develop generous believers in the church.
Talk optimistically. With so much bad news in the nation’s economy, talking about the church’s financial challenge can be a downer. Approach the subject cautiously and optimistically. First, don’t wait until the sky is falling. And if the sky really is falling, our speech must be tempered with the knowledge and belief that God does provide for His people exactly what they need. Look at stewardship challenges as a way to build not only trust in church leadership but more importantly trust in God and dependence on Him.
Ask yourself if you have complained about lack of money publicly in the last 24 hours. If so, think about getting someone else to be the spokesperson for financial issues—or adjust your own behavior to speak from a position of optimism versus pessimism.
Talk confidently. Finally, we must realize and we must preach that the church is not dependent on money to survive. In fact, the reality is that in the most impoverished areas of the world, where churches are literally tent-poles in squatter camps, the church is thriving and flourishing. God does not require our resources to accomplish His purposes. The realities of a tough economy must be dealt with, but our confidence in God, His mission for us, and His provision for that mission cannot be shaken.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.