Financial stewardship classes are becoming the norm at churches throughout the country, and not just when there’s a building campaign going on or in order to foster greater generosity. There’s a growing recognition that money is a central factor in a person’s life of faith, impacting their relationship with God, their marriage, their parenting, and so much more.
Offering such classes—whether they’re about getting out of debt or developing a comprehensive biblical approach to money management—is an important way that churches help their people grow as Christ-followers. Equally important is how the church manages its own finances, because that serves as a model that’s more visible and impactful than you may realize. Here are some suggestions, which apply not just to church leaders but to leaders of other Christian ministries as well.
1. Be transparent. For many people, money is a tough subject. Mix it in with church and you have a recipe for much misunderstanding. Perhaps they grew up in a church that only talked about money when it needed to raise more money, and it always seemed to be in need of raising more money.
What to do? Be open about your finances. Some churches list their weekly budget in the Sunday bulletin, along with the most recent week’s tithes and offerings. Others give an annual report to the church body, providing more details.
2. Share the impact. Tithes and offerings are acts of worship and tangible ways to acknowledge that God is our provider. But they are also investments, with the potential to generate returns that far exceed anything people will see on their brokerage statements. How many first-time visitors is your church attracting? How many people have been baptized? What sort of impact is God generating through your various ministry activities? People want to be part of something bigger than themselves, so help them see how their tithes and offerings are changing lives.
3. Model generosity. You probably encourage the people you serve to live generously, but do you regularly demonstrate what that looks like? Do you devote a certain percentage of your church or ministry budget toward giving to other ministries? Are you generous with gifts for first-time visitors or donors?
4. Talk about more than generosity. When money is the topic of the Sunday sermon or ministry update, the theme is usually focused on generosity. While that’s an important aspect of financial stewardship, it isn’t the only aspect. Why not explore themes related to earning, planning, debt, saving, investing, spending, money & marriage, or teaching kids about money? How can you unpack what the Bible teaches on these topics? What are you learning about them personally?
5. Choose your business partners wisely. As you know better than most, churches and other ministries operate differently than secular organizations. Instead of profit motives, you’re spurred on by faith and a desire to glorify God. And instead of sales, you’re funded by the generous support of those you serve or by people who believe in your ministry. By partnering with a Christian financial organization, such as Christian Community Credit Union, you’ll not only interact with people who understand and support your unique operating structure, you’ll also find that the terms — the interest your organization receives on savings and the fees it may be subject to — are more favorable than those offered by secular organizations, freeing you to more fully invest in the work God has called you to.
6. Contagious money management. When my wife and I began the journey of parenting almost 16 years ago, a wise person told us, “More will be caught than taught.” In other words, our kids will pick up far more than we may realize just by observing our behavior. Something very similar could be said about your church or ministry.
You may think that how your organization deals with money is simply part of the “behind-the-scenes” work of ministry. But you’d probably be surprised at how much people who are part of your church or supporters of your ministry are picking up from how your organization’s finances are being managed.
Matt Bell is the author of four Biblical money management books published by NavPress. He speaks at churches and conferences throughout the country and writes the MattAboutMoney blog.
This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.