I’ve been thinking about the mistakes I made about money when I was a pastor. Here are ten.
- Being afraid to talk about money. Early in my ministry this was the area I struggled with most. I was anxious about stewardship and the budget process, and avoided money talk when I could.
- Talking about money only when we conducted our annual campaign. Once I overcame the worst of my fear, it was easier to preach and teach about it. But I still felt relieved when the campaign was over, so I could get back to “real ministry.” Later I realized that talking about money is real ministry.
- Taking too much responsibility for reporting. I designed a system for reporting giving based on what we could expect in each month, rather than dividing the budget by twelve, and I developed a balance sheet for our annual report. I should have asked the lay leadership to do it instead of doing it myself.
- Worrying too much at the end of the year. We always ended up fine when all the December giving came in. Worrying about it accomplished nothing. (Even if the money hadn’t all come in, worrying would still have accomplished nothing.)
- Not thanking people regularly for their giving. My mother taught me to send thank-you notes. I don’t know why I never applied that to church giving.
- Spending too much time thinking about money. Sometimes I thought about it far more than the lay leaders who were working on financial matters.
- Not spending enough time thinking about money. Once we got through the campaign and the annual meeting, I thought I could forget about it until the next go-round.
- Avoiding a capital campaign. We had a special appeal for steeple repair, but we could have raised a lot more money if we had had a real capital campaign. The church had done it before successfully, and they could have done it again, if I had led in that direction.
- Avoiding the issue of deferred maintenance/planning for the future of the buildings.
- Thinking that if the budget was (nearly) in balance, everything was fine. I wish I had challenged us all to plan more for the congregation’s financial future.
Some of the mistakes I was able to correct along the way. Regarding others, I just know better now. What mistakes have you made, and what did you learn from them?