Money & the Small Church: 3 Reasons We Can’t Ignore It

Money & the Small ChurchI don’t like money.

I don’t like thinking about it, talking about it, teaching on it or worrying about it.

And I really don’t like asking for it. (No, this isn’t me asking for it.)

I don’t like what it does to people – both when we have it and when we don’t. I don’t like how having too little or having too much of it changes churches, ministries and people. And I don’t like the amount of time and energy that gets sapped from doing ministry to deal with fundraising, budgets and cost control.

But do you know what I really hate about money? When I don’t have enough of it.

How’s that for one of life’s crazy little ironies? Money may be the only thing in my life that I both dislike intensely, but I want more of.

No wonder Jesus warned us we can’t serve both God and Mammon (the god of money). If money all by itself can make you crazy, trying to serve God and money at the same time will turn you inside-out.

Click here for more posts in the Money & the Small Church series

Why Talk About Money?

Not having enough money is a huge problem in life and in ministry. Yet it’s just the way things are for the Small Church – and for the Small Church pastor.

But helping those who are in even greater need than we are is one of the primary callings of the church.

It’s one of the few things every Small Church has in common.

How do we do more ministry with so little money?

Because of my intense dislike of money, I have written very little about it in the two year life-span of But it’s probably the subject I’ve been asked about more than any other.

I haven’t intentionally avoided writing about it. I just feel woefully inadequate to present myself as some kind of expert on the subject.

But in more than thirty years in ministry, I’ve been forced to learn about it – especially in the last half decade or so.

So, despite my misgivings – or maybe because of them – I plan to write several posts on the subject of Money & the Church in the next few weeks. Then we’ll come back to this series on a regular basis.

There are three reasons I’m starting this series.


1. Money Touches Everything

Literally everything. We can’t function in society without earning, managing and spending money. 

It touches our ability to eat, sleep, raise a family, stay healthy, lead a church, bless others, you name it. How we earn, spend, save and give it is a barometer of our character. There are few aspects of our lives that impact us as universally as money.

Like it or not, we can’t ignore it, because…


2. Ignoring or Mismanaging Money Will Undermine Everything Else We Do

While having money is no guarantee of ministry success or church health – and can sometimes undermine it – poor money management will undermine every other effort we put into ministry.

Bad stewardship is like a massive hole in our bucket. And not just in our money bucket, but our ministry bucket, our relationship bucket, everything.


3. Small Churches Have Unique Financial Needs and Challenges

There’s a lot of help if you’re working on your personal and family finances. There’s a lot of help for big church finances, too – namely, you can hire people who manage money well.

But where’s the help for the unique financial situations of Small Churches? For the pastor who has no one else to keep track of the books? For the impoverished church trying to minister to other impoverished people? Who’s teaching us how to do that?

The answer – no one is.

For the most part, it’s trial-and-error. Mostly error.

What’s worse, when we do figure something out, it tends to stay with us and our church. We learn lessons the hard way, but those lessons live and die with us, without being passed on to anyone else who could use them. I think it’s time for that to stop.

So, starting now, I want and our New Small Church Facebook page to be a clearinghouse. Use the comment section to share ideas that worked for you. Warn us about ideas that didn’t work. Let’s create a place to share real struggles, ask hard questions and generate great ideas.


My Promises to You

I’m not a financial guy. That’s not false modesty, it’s a true confession.

But I promise a handful of things as we go along.

  • I promise to share what I’ve learned in the most helpful way I know how
  • I promise to be honest about my failures as well as my successes
  • I promise to listen and learn, then pass along what I learn
  • I promise to put biblical principles ahead of business methods
  • I promise not to pretend I know something when I don’t


What’s Coming Up

Some of the working titles for upcoming Money & the Small Church posts are:

  • Creating an atmosphere of generosity
  • How to teach on giving without being (or seeming) greedy
  • How to do great ministry with little or no money
  • Barter – Everything old is new again
  • Creating and following a reasonable budget
  • Using a budget without being trapped by it
  • Don’t spend more than you bring in
  • The invisible expenses most Small Churches don’t see until it’s too late
  • Looking ahead – The likely future of church finances
  • …and more


I also want to hear from you on this. Are there issues regarding Money & the Small Church that you’d like to know more about? Do you have resources you can recommend?

I’m not an expert. But together, with God’s help, we may discover that we know a lot more about this than we thought.


So what do you think? Can we do this together?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Monopoly Money photo from MTSOfan • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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16 thoughts on “Money & the Small Church: 3 Reasons We Can’t Ignore It”

  1. The impoverished church trying to minister to impoverished people. That would be my church. We minister in Breathitt County Kentucky, #62 in the top 100 poorest counties in the US, average income around 11,000 a year ( which is why my husband was a tri-vocational pastor and still several thousand under the poverty line). Google us up! We’re also known as ‘Bloody Breathitt’ during the height of feuding in our country, Breathitt was in the national news. Money or the lack thereof is just the way of life here. Our church is unique too, in that it was running 80+ when they purchased our bdlg. Then suffered a church split (before we came) and now we’re at about a quarterof that number still trying to pay the bills of the 80+ church…which is why my hubby hasn’t been paid regularly in over two years. The lack of money affects everything. Outreaches are limited or kept to what ppl can do personally. Church has to be done thinking about the cost – we cancelled our Sunday pm services to save on gas/heat in the winter. We can’t run our church van to pick up folks because we have to save on gas. We had to get rid of a van because we couldn’t afford two insurace payments. We do fundraisers just to pay for necessities. I’ve got ideas I’ll share!

  2. Looking forward to these topics. As a Small Church plant we deal with money issues just like everyone else but have seen God respond over and over. It makes us completely dependent on God – which is where we need and want to be anyway.

    Thanks for the book – The Grasshopper Myth – read it twice in 2 weeks. It has changed my view of the church I serve and led to a sense of contentment with hope and expectation I was missing. I found it at just the right time in my life.

  3. I’m not a small church finances expert either, but I have seen how God provided for our church when we sought to be more faithful stewards. We had a deficit of about $400 per month, so we prayed and asked God to give us wisdom as to what to do. We formed a small group to see how we could balance our budget better, and we were able to make about $350 worth in monthly cuts without sacrificing any ministry we were doing, and still giving 10% of our offerings to missions. The result was that God provided. We now have a surplus of about $400 per month due to increased offerings and we’re praying about how to use it for His glory.

  4. Pingback: RT @KarlVaters: How do we do more ministry with so… | The Richard W. Hendricks Experience

  5. We know that Prayer changes everything! When I took over in August the Church was in shambles. I mean what little funds they had was being handled by two or three ppl. The mail, and the ppl was scattered. First thing first, I setup noon day prayer and oh my. God has been meeting us thr. Things are much better now. No growth but our house is now in order. We also struggle with that fact that there’s very little money. But we have faith.

  6. I whole-heartedly agree with TJ Green’s post about prayer. I want to also add that a church needs to continue to give to missions. This is not giving-to-get but a matter of trusting God. We teach and preach this to our people (or should). The local church is no different. I continue to hear stories of missionaries losing support because a church could no longer “afford” to “pay” them. The right word would be “give” – not pay.
    I became the senior pastor of this church about two years ago. I soon found out that we had not “paid” our missionaries for several months. I began to teach about percentage (tithing) giving for the individual as well as the church. At the first business meeting we changed our giving to percentage giving and reinstated sending money to our currently supported missionaries. We also took on two more missionaries. The vote was almost 100%. Then, in the next 5 months, we saw God do the following:
    1) An anonymous of $7,000 was given for the repairs needed on our A/C units (Our church is in Florida). This particular need – which had come up in our meeting – was probably why the vote was not completely 100%.
    2) Another anonymous gift was given for $7,000 with $2,000 being stipulated for children’s ministries.
    3) A lady in our church had died earlier in the year. She did not have any relatives except a brother. We came to find out that her entire estate after the sale of her house was to be split between us and Moody Bible Institute. This was very substantial. It gave us a nice cushion and we sent extra money to our missionaries based on the months that we had not given to them as well as a percentage of her estate money. This lady was a big giver in her life and would have been pleased with this. We received letters back from several of our missionaries stating that a large specific need was met that they had been praying and trusting God to meet. It was a blessing to know that God had included our church in His plan.
    A year later, things are still tight and we are slowly seeing our cushion shrink. But our people now know that when our church shows a trust in God through our praying and giving that God will always come through

  7. I was introduced to this posting through a facebook “Share” and found it very intriguing. Before commenting, I also read a good portion of your other posts to get an understanding of where you come from in general. I believe my comments will be respectfully received.

    For whatever reason, money is a very touchy and largely avoided subject in the church world. Probably because of the combination of; it’s awkward to ask for, we have a fear of “serving mammon”, most have never gained enough of a mastery of it to feel comfortable or adequate to discuss or teach about it, or, in the church, we are afraid to be accused of “just being all about money”.

    I would submit a few thoughts on the subject. The church (as an organization) is more of a consumer of resources than it is a distributor of resources. To serve it’s congregation and to achieve it’s mission, it requires resources. The trouble is, is that it is not a “creator” or “generator” of resources. The church (again, as an organization) relies on the members to supply the resources for the church to utilize to it’s best ability. Having been in a position of managing small church finances AND teaching on Kingdom principles of finances, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. The biggest majority of people live in a personal financial paradigm of scarcity and lack rather than abundance. This translates into giving that is very dedicated on the high end or down to just doing the best they can on the low end. Secondly, they sometimes give based upon the perceived “value” that they see being applied to their giving by the leaders.

    To me the problem lies more in the area of neglecting to educate and train members in how to break free of the scarcity/lack mentality and begin to understand how to move the body as a whole into an abundance reality. Some might say that that is moving dangerously close to “serving mammon”, but I would disagree. A good friend stated once that we are mostly “slaves” or “servants” to money considering that we spend the largest part of our lives earning it and trying to keep our financial nose above water. He also said that if we are unable to pursue God’s purpose for our lives because we are so preoccupied with earning money, then we are serving mammon (or money), the very thing we are trying to avoid in the first place.

    I believe that one of the biggest weapons of the enemy is to keep us afraid of teaching the subject adequately. By avoiding it, not only do church’s struggle in achieving their individual missions, but the members themselves are seldom able to break free of the stranglehold that money has on their lives. Teaching Kingdom principles of money involves much more than just hammering away on the tithes and offerings message. That in itself is still based on a limited, finite base of resources because it’s based on what we can earn, which is limited. A Kingdom perspective on money embraces a paradigm that we are a part of God’s Kingdom of unlimited abundance and practical applications of stewardship open that abundance to our lives to achieve God’s purposes on earth. The wonderful part is that it’s not that hard to teach or understand.

    By the way. Maybe you can tell that I love this subject and love seeing the body of Christ set free of it’s bondage and fear of money.

  8. I am quite familiar with small churches and their finances. I was a treasurer of one church for three years. I was a church planter for a couple years and then a bi-vocational pastor. One thing that helps is that the pastor sets the example. I remember pastoring a small Baptist church where the weekly offerings when I first arrived averaged abut $100. My salary was $25 a week. I had a good fulltime job and I was retired from the Army. I practice tithing. So the first week I was pastor, the offerings jumped. I was teaching the adult Sunday School class (we had 12 members of the church and most were in that class). I was asked why the offerings took a big jump. I set aside the Sunday School quarterly, asked everyone to open their Bibles and for the next month taught on what the Bible says about our giving. By the end of the year our church was commended by our state convention for having the highest per capita giving to missions using a ratio of membership to donations.

    In leading the present work, I have taught the people that we should line up our budget with our priorities and our priorities should be biblical. I emphasize missions and one way to get the people to catch the vision of missions is brining in missionaries to speak in the church. Reading stories of missionaries is not the same as having the missionary tell the story.

    The offerings in the small church I pastor have exceeded our annual budget for the past five years. When people “buy in” to the mission and vision of a church – they will support it.

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