If you want to make a bunch of pastors uncomfortable start to talk personal finances. Immediately the conversation will go to how little they are paid by their church or what major financial obstacle they are trying to overcome. It saddens me because what I have found is that pastors are some of the worst stewards of their own money. This has little to do with how much they get paid or what financial challenge they are facing but more to do with how they spend what they do have.
I am shocked at how many pastors still rent even though they have lived in the same city they are ministering for close to 20 years. I talked to one pastor who has moved 19 times in the 20 years he has been a pastor in his town. His excuse was that he couldn’t afford a home in his city. If you do the simple math and add up all the deposits he put down on all those rentals along with the costs to turn on and turn off utilities, not to mention the sheer cost of moving all of those times he would’ve had more than enough money for a good deposit on a home. Add to that conversation the fact that the typical pastor has the latest technological gadget, an impressive wardrobe, and fairly regularly frequents restaurants and entertainment and you start to see why so many pastors are in bad financial shape.
We are called to be good stewards of our money. That starts with not being afraid of money or mastered by it. We need to stop the excuses face the facts. Too many pastors have resigned themselves to the fact that they will never be able to get ahead and so they proceed to go and spend every dime (and then some) of expendable money they have on frivolous things. I am talking about more than just a starbucks addiction here. We’ve developed a lust for almost anything new.
Let me give you a few suggestions:
- Start in the Pulpit: Calvary Chapel pastors pride themselves on teaching verse by verse and only talk about money when it comes up in the scripture. I’ve heard this refrain since well before I joined on as a pastor. It comes from a reaction to the tele-evangelists of the early 1990’s always asking for money. Unfortunately when money does come up in scripture we spend a good deal of the sermon apologizing that it’s there. We make assurances that we don’t know who gives what and what they do with their money is between them and God. All of this is okay but there are people in the congregation who are dying to know what the Bible says about how They should use their money and we are not giving it to them. When the Word of God talks about money PREACH IT! Don’t be ashamed that the Bible tells us to give. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most of all do not worry about the finances of the people in the pews. We need to stop making excuses for how bad people have it. The Bible tells us that if we trust God with our money He will supply all of our needs and more.
- Stop Starving Yourself: 2 Timothy 2:6 says “It’s the hard working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” Pastor make sure that the church pays you. Stop sacrificing your family for everything else the church is doing. You are a priority for the church and need to stop taking a backseat to every whim and waffle. Your wife wants to know that the family is going to be secure and provided for. She is not asking for much, just that the basics needs to provided for. You should have the tough discussion with your elders that once all the basic expenses of the church are paid you come next. If your church is running short on that then I refer you back to step one.
- Stewardship Starts at Home: You have already read my diatribe above. Stop frivolously spending your money. How can you expect your church to have its house in order if yours isn’t. It goes beyond how you spend your money. Do you have plan, budget, or dream? Your money should be a servant to these not the other way around. When I started out I made $18,000 a year had $20,000 in school debt and a car payment. Owning a house wasn’t even a pipe dream. Then I got married and my wife had higher expectations for our family. We paid down our debt, saved up enough for a down payment, and bought a house by year four of our marriage. We were frugal (nice way of saying we didn’t spend any money) and we were faithful with our giving. God provided. Pastor get your financial house in order.
I know this is a lot and some of it vague but my heart hurts for those who are breaking under the pressure of finances. I recommend using Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. It’s the best book out there. Too many times in the stress and frustration of ministry we use spending money as an outlet of stress. Buying something or doing something that costs is shown to produce a chemical reaction in our brains. Problem is that feeling goes away quickly and just like a drug we need more and more to produce the same effect. Don’t be mastered by your money. It is a neutral tool that God has given us to accomplish His purposes.