There’s an old joke about a pastor who was being pursued by two congregations. One was smaller, offered less salary, and had very little prospect for growth. The other congregation was somewhat larger and offered a significant increase in money compared to the other. The pastor called a former professor about his dilemma is wanting to discern where God wanted him to serve. The professor said, “God is everywhere. Go where the money is!”
These are tough times, especially on the financial front for churches and their attendees. I’m mindful of this reality every time I stand in the pulpit, and even more so when attending monthly finance board meetings. I heard it said and agree to some degree that every church member ought to be required to serve on the finance committee or board for at least one year for an education into the struggles of what to pay and what not to pay for. It’s not easy talking about money or the lack thereof, but I do believe that the people need to know what is going on.
We made budget reductions like just about every other church I know of, and hope that these expense cuts will bring spending and receipts more in line with each other. One of the unexpected yet painful benefits of this kind of exercise is determining what priorities are to be supported and what other areas need to be reduced. For sure, not everyone agrees with what should be cut and where, and for this reason it’s vital to pray and ask for wisdom along the way. This is an oversimplification of the troubling process, but needs to be emphasized.
One of lessons we ministers need to learn is that, despite the economic downtown, people will support those ministries and projects that are important to them. Here is an interesting article about what can gleaned from the people in the pew concerning their spending habits. The old adage that people talk with “their pocketbook and the pew” has good application for clergy in leading their congregations.
I think the one lesson I’ve taken in regarding these budget reductions is that not everyone agrees on what is important in the life of the church. There are important and surprising revelations to be taken in by ministers, in that what they think is significant and vital for church operations might not be important to the congregation. As such, there can be a disconnect in attitudes regarding how money is spent and where it goes.
The economic ills of church members have a direct impact on the congregation as a whole, and my hope is that all of our churches will use the past years of difficulty as a teachable moment. I know how blessed I am to be in our congregation, and have seen the sacrificial giving of the people. Our folks need to be encouraged and thanked for their ongoing support of the Lord’s work. If the support isn’t there for a particular ministry or project, then perhaps this is a way of saying that it shouldn’t be done in the first place. That might not be the case in each instance, but it is worth consideration.