When money brought me to my knees

I love having you in my community of leaders. And frequently when I write to you, I think about the challenges of ministry, identify a topic, and come up with a series of action steps to remedy or support it.

But not today.

Today I want to tell you a story about my past.

For a long time I found money to be one of the most challenging areas of ministry. I absolutely dreaded stewardship time and was relieved when it was over. I did my best to read the church’s financial statements each month, but I was never confident about it. I clearly remember how it felt, as a young pastor, to sit with the executive committee and feel light headed and slightly nauseous. These older men and women, most of them with backgrounds in business, looked to me while these words pounded in my head: “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

I was interested, but afraid.

In my own family, there was always a powerful sense of scarcity. Even though my parents gave generously and taught me to tithe, it always felt like there was, and would never be, enough. My father’s challenging Depression-era upbringing and the financial difficulties of earlier generations deeply shaped him, and me in turn. Money was something that existed, but no one liked talking about it. Money was something you had to deal with, not something that worked for you. Can you relate? When I found myself having conversations about money, and leading initiatives around giving, I was at a loss. And quite frankly, I was terrified to lead in this area.

So, what helped me?

First, I worked hard to see stewardship as ministry. I reframed it from an annoyance to a tool to make the ministry I loved possible. I actively started to learn details around financials, and gained more competence. I stepped out of my comfort zone and began asking people to give. I honestly explored my own multigenerational family story, and the strengths and traumas that shaped me in relation to money.

I came to see money as a great resource in ministry and in life, rather than something scary or tainted. Used rightly, money can be a blessing for us and for others.

It was deeply liberating to feel a sense of competence and even power in this area as a pastor. I continued to grow in clarity and confidence. Of course, that wasn’t the end. I’m still on my journey with money. And I’ve come a long way.

I know what it’s like to struggle in this area as a leader. That’s why I’m committed to helping pastors and lay leaders gain more comfort in talking about money in church life and making better decisions about it. I also know what a difference we can make  when we mobilize resources, both financial and personal, to make more ministry happen. I wrote Money and Your Ministry out of a sense of conviction that pastors need help getting more thoughtful and clear in this critical area of ministry. And what I’m hearing from people is that it’s a real help to them. I’m continuing to develop resources to support you and your congregations in this area.

Money, of course, is only one challenging area of life in ministry.  Next week I will announce a new offering to help you not only with money, but also with other arenas of ministry. Stay tuned and keep up the important work!

Blessings,

Margaret

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