Personal finance checklist for pastors

A Prayerful View of Your Money

Be honest – are you one of those pastors who is hesitant asking people to give because your own finances are not in order? I’ve talked with a lot of pastors who struggle personally with their own financial life. They can feel embarrassed, ashamed, and hesitant to lead and preach boldly about money matters.

In talking with both pastors and others, I’ve learned there’s a lot of shame about money and how it is spent, about debt, about feeling overwhelmed. It can be hard to face the reality of the financial choices we’ve made in the past and are currently making. Here’s another way to approach it: bring prayer into your life with money to help you find more freedom.

Here’s a checklist – you can pick and choose. Do what you are ready for.

  • Track your income and outgo daily. Simply start by writing everything down. You don’t even need to add it up. Then give thanks.
  • Figure out your net worth. Add up all your assets and liabilities. Here’s an Excel spreadsheet to use. (Or try Mint for an online option.) And here’s the trick: Give thanks for it all. Even if you have a negative net worth, give thanks. If you have seminary debt, celebrate all you learned in seminary.
  • Make a budget. It can be simple: Income, and a few simple categories for expenses, including giving. Just get started. I know someone who keeps a two-week budget on a 3×5 card (net income, projected expenses, disposable income). If you want, you can add categories later. Prepare it prayerfully, considering your priorities.
  • Do a monthly cash flow statement. Here’s a template. Add your own categories in. Later, take the next step: check it with your budget. Celebrate if you have increased (for example, savings or giving) or decreased (coffee? mindless shopping online or in the store?) as you intended.
  • Advanced: start on retirement planning. If your church has a pension board, check with them. Do the numbers. Even if it’s challenging news, it’s better than not knowing. Prayerfully commit your future to God.

As you take these steps one by one, you’ll find more freedom in your life. I know I have. It’s taken me years (literally) to do all of these steps, and it’s a huge relief. And it truly has been a profound spiritual practice to do them in the light of God’s love, acceptance and provision.

You’ll also find more freedom and enhance your leadership in money matters in the congregation.

And here’s another post on managing your anxiety about your personal finances.

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