The Minister and His Money

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

9 replies
  1. Gunnar Hanson
    Gunnar Hanson says:

    Excellent post! This is so true. Unfortunately many pastors fit the statistics when it comes to money and debt in the United States. I love preaching on this subject as it comes up AND it comes up a lot if you view money as a part of stewardship and contentment. Amen brother, amen!

  2. Bill Holdridge
    Bill Holdridge says:

    Chuck, I think you need to work on expressing yourself. Tell us how you really feel. 🙂

    Seriously. Excellent post. I’m in agreement with you on almost every point (I heard Walter Martin once say, “If two people agree about everything, one of them is not thinking.”)

    My wife was part of an excellent church fellowship on the East Coast, for years. In their Sunday AM services, they would have one of the pastors get up and give a short two minute talk on some aspect of stewardship, then he’d pray for the offering. I have seen them do this myself a number of times … in person and online. I like it. They are putting into practice what you suggest here. They are putting the subject of stewardship regularly before the people. That’s a blessing for those dear saints, who have come to church to learn and hear from God.

    Stewardship is so important that Jesus taught that if a man is not faithful in his stewardship, the Lord will not be able to entrust the true riches (Luke 16, the parable and conclusion of the unjust steward). Stewardship is Christianity 101, yet we pastors (I am including myself here) are guilty of doing exactly as you’ve said. We wait for a “money” text, then we apologize for having to talk about what the Bible says. In effect, we’re apologizing for God! That’s a shame.

    I understand that in reality, our motive with such apologies is to apologize for the abuses that are in the church with regard to money. But as you’ve said, we’ve reacted way too strongly in the opposite direction.

    Here’s where I’d express a word of caution: you said, “Don’t be afraid to ask” (for money seems to be your meaning). I would caution against asking for money.

    What I would encourage is the presentation of the Biblical truth, and the presentation of the opportunity to give. My personal philosophy has been “full information without solicitation.” It’s worked well on a church level, with my ministry with Poimen Ministries, and for Boards I’ve either chaired or served on.

    As far as personal finances of the pastor are concerned, I would also challenge pastors this way: “Do you tithe?”

    I believe that a man who does not tithe (on the basic of Luke 16) has disqualified himself from leadership ministry in the church. My additional, unsolicited opinion.

    God bless you, Chuck. Thanks for being willing to go where few are willing to go.

  3. Matt Kottman
    Matt Kottman says:

    I taught 1 Timothy 5 a few weeks ago on not muzzling the ox.

    I felt so awkward and uncomfortable. I think I did the text justice, but I still struggled greatly. Part of me thought, “Yes, my people need to hear this!” and part of me thought, ” I don’t want to be the one to say it… Can’t we get a guest speaker in here or something?”

    Preaching on stewardship is my weakest area, partly because I have never been in a church that preached it clearly, and partly because I’m not wanting to be identified with the abusers. This is an area I’m growing in by the grace of God, and prayer for my growth here is appreciated.

    Thanks Chuck.

  4. Benjamin Morrison
    Benjamin Morrison says:

    chuck –

    great post! yes, i think that, as whole in CC, out of our desire not to come of like the televangelists begging for money, we are embarrassed to bring it up many times. i felt this a lot in the beginning of our church plant. especially factoring in that we have many in our church who have come out of the “prosperity gospel” where they are constantly being hit up for money. but are we embarrassed to call people to stand and sing for worship? are we embarrassed to pass out communion? (though Lord forbid we should pass a plate for offerings! 😉 ) the problem is we are seeing our people’s giving primarily as it relates to us. rather, we need to see it as giving them one more opportunity to deepen their worship to Jesus, to unite their hearts to Him (“where your treasure is…”), just as we do in other areas of presenting opportunities to worship in the church. of course, because it CAN be misconstrued, we do need to be careful how we present it (and because of the inherent greed/selfishness in our own fallen hearts), but that is no reason to deprive our people of a clear opportunity to grow in worship. one thing that was helpful for me to gain this biblical perspective on offerings was a little book by henri nouwen called “A Spirituality of Fundraising” highly recommended!

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