This past week, Joleen and I attended one of our remaining requirements for ordination, an all-day training day sponsored by the Board of Ordained Ministry. The day featured Dr. Lovett Weems from Wesley Theological Seminary. The topic was “Church Finances.”
Part of the content confirmed some things we already knew, but we did learn some new things, or at least, were challenged to rethink some things. Here is some of what we took away from the event …
- Change the way we communicate the church budget. Instead of publishing the line item budget, break it down into major categories. I’ve done this a couple times in the past (more in addition to than in place of the line item budget, though). Categories I normally use: (1) Shares of Ministry, (2) Benevolence, (3) Ministry, (4) Pastor & Staff, (5) Building & Grounds. We’d still announce that copies of the line item budget, which is approved by Church Council, are available upon request. The purpose is to give a simpler, more mission-focused presentation of the budget.
- A significant amount of discussion was on whether or not pastors should know what individual people give. Weems stated that most pastors are divided 50/50 on the issue. In our case, we’ve never chosen to know what individuals give, but Weems made a strong case that pastors should know.
Weems offered other ways of getting a sense of the church’s pulse without knowing what individuals give (e.g., the financial secretary providing general info on things like, how many people gave less in the last year, how many gave more, how many started giving for the first time, etc.). The point is not really to know how much people give, but because handling money is a spiritual issue, it is an indicator of people’s spiritual condition. That’s why, Weems said, we should “Always tie money talk to our walk with God.”
- The death rate in the U.S. has been, and is expected to remain, pretty stable from 2003 through 2018, then increase dramatically through 2050. It’s estimated that there will be 50% more deaths in 2050 than in 2010. Clearly, this has implications for aging denominations like the UMC.
- Nationwide, church attendance held pretty steady (and strong) in the 1990s. Church attendance spiked for five Sundays after September 11, 2001, and then has been decreasing ever since.
- When it comes to attitude toward money, there are two kinds of churches: (1) Pay the Bills Churches and (2) Serve God’s Vision Churches (though no church is purely one or the other). I have always tried to lead churches to be the latter type! Weems said, “Discipleship and giving go hand in hand.”
Money is one of the topics pastors tend to fear the most talking about. Thankfully, it’s never been one of our fears. Joleen and I normally spend a few weeks each year talking about stewardship (which is the larger issue; it can deal with things other than money).
We are stewards of everything God entrusts us with, and it matters how we handle it!