Do you want more money for the ministry of your spiritual community? You’re not alone! Here are three mistakes to avoid in your quest for more resources.
1. Don’t Avoid Leadership.
First of all, step up and share the vision with your church. People want to know what they are giving to. Paint a picture of what has happened in the past and what you are envisioning in the future. This is a leadership task that you cannot delegate. They need to hear from the minister. Remember, more than numbers, people respond emotionally to stories. So tell them the story: Make it about much more than keeping the building open and the lights on.
You can even tell a story with numbers. At the end of the year, Rev Sharon Ketchum of Unity Spiritual Center of Lansing, Mich., shares the number of experiences people have had in Sunday services and in classes. She says she finds it inspiring and eye-opening herself when she sees how many have been touched by the ministry. Ketchum also suggests you expand the story beyond your congregation and talk about ways you are giving beyond your walls. Unity Spiritual Center will give away 20% of their tithes to local ministries selected by the congregation which align with their center’s values.
You also need to exercise leadership around vision with the board. They may not know it, but they need you to lead. Rev Edwene Gaines says, “A lot of ministers take their leadership from the board. It needs to be the other way around. The minister has to set the tone and the vision. If the minister feels no passion, or afraid of the board, or put upon by the board, the ministry is destined for failure.” Of course, this doesn’t mean they say yes to everything you want, but you start a conversation about what you are all going to do together, and work together to develop a vision you can all sign up for. Then you share that with the congregation and invite them to support it.
Leadership extends to looking at the numbers, and reading the financial statements, even if it’s not your greatest strength. Find someone who can help you grow in this area. Sharon Ketchum also suggests you pay attention to what percentage is giving the lion’s share: Are 10% giving 90%, or 20% giving 80%? Those are common percentages, and you want to know if one person is carrying the congregation. Leadership with the board and the spiritual community includes being honest about challenges like these and working together to expand the support of the ministry.
2. Don’t Focus Too Much on the Money.
Keep an even bigger picture in view: It’s not just about the money coming in, or even the specific vision for your community. It’s about cultivating a deeper relationship with God and with our resources. The heart of Edwene Gaines’ work with ministers and with others is this, she says. “The pure principle is that God is my source, God is our source—if we are doing our work, which is to acknowledge that God is our source by tithing, the promise is the windows of heaven will open for us, so we don’t have to go scrambling for money.” She believes if ministers spent more time teaching this principle to their people and less time asking them to give, people would learn to love to give.
Of course, those who are mature spiritually are more openhanded with their resources. When you spend time helping people grow and understand spiritual principles, you are supporting not only the spiritual, but the financial growth of your congregation. Focus on developing people’s service to the congregation as well. Rev. Sharon likes to acknowledge the many ways that people give to the congregation, through their time and commitment, without sidestepping the importance of financial giving.
An anxious focus on finances will not bring more money in for ministry. We are often very serious when we talk about money, which can work against our desire to draw people in to giving. I recently heard about a spiritual community that plays dance music and shines a strobe light on a disco ball to show that giving is a positive act. That may not be your community’s style, but what can you do to bring a mood of joy and celebration, even laughter, into giving?
3. Don’t focus too much on them and changing them.
I’ve heard ministers say, “If only they would give more, we wouldn’t have this budget problem.” On one level, that may be true. However, any time you try to change others, you are inviting frustration. People intuitively know when you are trying to pressure them to be different, and they resist. Instead, focus on yourself and your principles and beliefs. Consider your own giving, your own trust in God, and your comfort level talking about money. What are the ways you can you grow in these areas? Edwene Gaines thinks it’s critical that ministers be in alignment with God, in spiritual integrity, themselves. She calls on us to remember, “The congregation is not our source; God is our source.” Share your own beliefs rather than telling them what they should do.
In addition, see how you can grow in your own comfort level with financial matters. While it is important to keep your focus broad, there are times to talk about money matters, and we need to be able to do so freely. Many families do not talk about money openly, and many ministers grew up in those kinds of families. In my own case, I always knew my parents gave generously to the ministry, and they taught us to tithe. I’m grateful for that, and it has been a gift in my ministry. However, they didn’t always talk openly about money in other ways, and I’m still learning and growing in my comfort level. It’s a lifetime process.
As you work on stepping up to leadership, keeping money in its appropriate place, and focus in on your own growth, you can find money matters will be easier. In addition, there can be more money for the ministry, and you and your people will find greater freedom.
5 Tips for Money in Church Life
- Connect your own vision for ministry with the money, both in your own mind and in the things you say to others. Over time, this can help raise the level of the conversation. It’s about bringing the vision to life, not about the money.
- Be honest with the community about financial realities, both blessings and challenges.
- Track giving patterns over the years. Facts, whether positive or not so positive, can help lower anxiety, yours and others.
- Clarify your own thinking about money and giving, and deepen your spiritual understanding in this area. The clearer you are yourself, the easier it will be for you to teach others and help them grow.
- Keep (or cultivate) your sense of joy around money, and recruit leaders who can be light and joyful about it.