Things every pastor should know about money

Pastors, what do you know about money?

How we relate to money is a deeply spiritual matter and a critical part of ministry. No money, no ministry. Doing God’s work requires resources. Raising and managing money for ministry is holy work.

Here’s what you should know about money. Or better said, here’s what you should be learning about money as you grow in your ministry.

1.      How to ask for it

You can have staff or volunteers handle many of the practicalities of dealing with money in church life. However, the pastor needs to ask people to give. You don’t have to be the only one asking, of course. But if you’re the pastor, you need to ask.

Remember, the pulpit is a powerful platform for helping people grow in their giving.

2.     The basics of how to read a financial statement

Almost no one learns how to do this in seminary. (Let me know if you did!) Some of you may have learned in another career, or learned on the job in ministry. I always recommend Ministry and Money: A Practical Guide for Pastors, by Janet T.  Jamieson and Philip D. Jamieson. They tell you exactly what to look for and how to prepare for a finance committee meeting. I still have to work hard to read a statement. Words are my native language, not numbers. However, I keep getting better.

3.      Someone to ask about it

For many of us in ministry, dealing with money doesn’t come naturally. We like the softer relationship and spiritual side of our work. However, attending to the bottom line is also part of the job.

Find someone you feel comfortable with and ask them questions. One of my early mentors was particularly helpful. I knew I could call him up and he would answer my questions without making me feel dumb.

4.      Your own cash flow and net wealth

How much are you bringing in and how much are you spending/giving/saving? I recommend you keep track of it month to month. I know it can be difficult to find time for it, as well as dealing with the emotional resistance to it. My daughter swears by the app You Need a Budget. It helps her track both cash flow and net wealth.

5.        Your worth doesn’t depend on your net wealth (or your church’s)

I’ve quit using the phrase “net worth” even though it’s in common usage. It’s all too easy to assign our value based on that bottom line figure. We can experience deep shame about past financial decisions and current circumstances. No matter how much money you have or don’t have, or how much debt you have accumulated, you have infinite value. No matter what the bottom line is at your church or how successful the latest stewardship campaign has been, your ministry has value. Never forget that.

None of these things happen overnight. I’ve been working on my relationship with money personally and professionally for over 30 years. I’m still learning. Everything I learn contributes to my life and what I have to offer to others.

What are you learning about money right now?

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