Are you afraid about the end-of-year church giving or next year’s budget? About whether you will get a raise? Whether staff will be cut? Whether the late-arriving pledges will come in – or not?
Fear about money is pervasive in our society, and churches are susceptible to the infection. For churches on a calendar year budget, this time of year can be anxiety-ridden. Our fear can overshadow the hopeful words of Christmas we say aloud.
I’ve been reading some chapters from a forthcoming book on the brain by neuropsychologists Dr. Angelo Bolea and Dr. Dennis Romig, along with Laurie Romig. I heard Dr. Bolea speak years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. One of the chapters is called “Heal Your Brain and Body: Think and Speak the Positive.”
They suggest that for maximum healing (or dealing with any challenge), we should aim for at least three positive thoughts for every one negative thought – in time of illness or real challenge, aim for four. You’re trying to influence the inside part of your brain, the part that can react with fear and override the thoughtful part of your brain. When you are afraid, your horizons narrow and you can’t see options.
The purpose is not simply to “practice positive thinking,” but to engage the energy of your own God-given brain to face challenges and find creative solutions. It helps you get beyond fear, blame and anger and focus on what you have control over: your own functioning. I’ve been practicing this, and it’s not easy, but it helps.
Here are three examples of how you might reframe your thoughts about money at church.
Initial negative thought: “What if people don’t come through at the end of the year?”
1. I’m grateful for everyone who has given this year.
2. Dealing with this situation is not solely up to me. There are other leaders who share the burden.
3. I’m looking forward to the Christmas services. People always give generously at the end of the year.
Initial thought: “I can’t face another year without an increase.”
1. I’m grateful I have a job.
2. I could ask for what I want.
3. I could draft a resume so I can explore other options when I want to.
Initial thought: “What are we going to do? Our biggest givers are old, and the younger people just aren’t as faithful?”
- Many creative people in the wider church are thinking about this matter and devising approaches.
- I am glad we have younger people in our church, and I want us to begin teaching them more about giving.
- I want to thank those older givers while they are still with us.
You may think, this is a little gimmicky. But it helps us get factual. Every situation has at least as many positive factors as negative, even if the main positive is that we learn to rise to a challenge.
In addition, it is a spiritual exercise, to see the gifts God has for us. I believe God loves us and does not want us to live in fear. As the angel said to Mary, “Fear not: I bring you tidings of good news to all people.” This practice is a way of looking for the good news in all circumstances.
How can you see good news of great joy in your end-of-year financial situation?