In my last blog we shared the first in a series of four things pastors to lead well in the area of finance.
Those four were:

Pastors need to give
Pastors need to be aware of the financial situation
Pastors need to share good stewardship theology
Pastors need to develop relationships with givers

Today we will focus on being aware of your church’s financial situation. I am amazed to meet pastors who have little to no understanding of their own church’s financial health. They can tell you about worship attendance, and how the food pantry is going, but they seem uninterested in how the resources are flowing in. That is not good. A competent pastor doesn’t need to have a business degree or understand the ins and outs of bookkeeping. However, it would be good to have a basic handle on the following few things:

  1. How are things trending? Are we doing better than last year? Worse? About the same? As a pastor, I was surprised how often folks wanted to know this basic question, “How are we doing?” They don’t want a financial statement, just a summary of general direction.
  1. What do we own and what do we owe? If you have a finance committee that provides a “balance sheet,” you have about all your answers there. Do we have extra property? Vehicles? Do we have an endowment fund? Do we have debt? It is hard to play cards without knowing what hand you are dealt. Know it.
  1. What is our mortgage balance and payment? If you have a mortgage, is it $800,000 or $80,000? Theoretically, both of those could have the same monthly payment, depending on how they were set up. Again, pastors don’t have to be able to quote interest rates and terms but knowing what we owe is important. You will be asked about it.
  1. Who are our giving leaders? This is not something to share, but something important to know. Much as you want to know who your music leaders are, or prayer leaders, or children’s leaders, you will want to know who provides the strength (spiritually and financially) for your resources. You may need them one day, for wisdom or for money.
  1. Do we have our processes securely in place? Have we created a budget from the ministry up?  Are we open and transparent with leadership regarding our financial picture?  Are we auditing regularly?  Do we run an effective annual stewardship campaign and who manages these activities?  These ongoing pieces of ministry seem a little drab, but then so does the oil that keeps your car running.  You can’t do without it.
  1. Are any concerns looming on the horizon? Usually, your finance committee or Council talk about this—and you should be listening. Are we one or two deaths from financial crisis? Is the loan needing renegotiated? How has Covid effected the giving, and will it linger? A pastor doesn’t need to solve these matters but should share any urgency that his or her church is feeling about money.

Again, it is understandable that pastors might have few gifts or little interest in the financial picture. We have strong lay persons leading committees for that reason. Yet pastors cannot exempt themselves from the work of these people. If they will just have a handle on a few key things, they will be able to lead better, as well as give confidence to the laity that they have a basic competence in this important part of congregational life.

Glenn Howell If any pastors out there want a conversation about stewardship and giving, contact your United Methodist Foundation here or by calling us toll free at 877-391-8811.

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Glenn Howell
Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana