Stewardship

The Invisible Scandal: How Bad Debt and Poor Stewardship Are Killing the Church’s Reputation

There’s a scandal going on in the church today.

It is one of the biggest scandals in church history, yet it remains invisible to most of us.

No, it’s not the sexual sins of some of our leaders. It’s not the physical, emotional and spiritual abuse of church members, or the cover-up of those sins. It’s not the self-righteous legalism on one side, or the moral compromise on the other. It’s not even our tendency to quarrel and back-stab each other.

Those scandals are horrifying, for sure. Many of them have been well-documented and need to be exposed to the light of day even more.

The scandal I’m talking about has flown under the radar for a long time – centuries, actually. It’s so common we seldom think of it as the sin it is, or how badly it hurts people and tarnishes the reputation of the church in the eyes of those affected by it.

The most widespread sin of the modern-day church is poor stewardship.

The Invisible Scandal: How Bad Debt and Poor Stewardship Are Killing the Church’s Reputation

There’s a scandal going on in the church today.

It is one of the biggest scandals in church history, yet it remains invisible to most of us.

No, it’s not the sexual sins of some of our leaders. It’s not the physical, emotional and spiritual abuse of church members, or the cover-up of those sins. It’s not the self-righteous legalism on one side, or the moral compromise on the other. It’s not even our tendency to quarrel and back-stab each other.

Those scandals are horrifying, for sure. Many of them have been well-documented and need to be exposed to the light of day even more.

The scandal I’m talking about has flown under the radar for a long time – centuries, actually. It’s so common we seldom think of it as the sin it is, or how badly it hurts people and tarnishes the reputation of the church in the eyes of those affected by it.

The most widespread sin of the modern-day church is poor stewardship.

The Best Way To Reduce Money Problems In A Local Church

Churches have to do more ministry with less money.

That’s becoming truer with every passing year, and it will increase for at least another generation.

For example, 15 years ago, the church I serve was smaller and less healthy than it is right now. By every indication of growth, health and effective ministry, we are doing better today. Except in one way. It’s harder to pay the bills now than it was then.

Some of that is because the average age of our church members has dropped, and younger people have less money to give. But mostly, it’s because that’s the trend in churches across the board.

So, how do we fix this trend so we can keep doing all the ministry we need to do?

Do we hire a firm to help us raise funds? Preach more about discipleship? Do more fundraising? More bake sales? Sell property?

No. The absolute best way to solve our church’s financial problems is so simple, so biblical, it almost seems redundant to state it.

Discipleship.

The Two Biggest Mistakes Churches Make With Money

There are two equal, but opposite mistakes churches regularly make regarding money. Especially for smaller churches, these may be the main ways that finances (or lack of them) stop us from doing what we should be doing.

(This is part of an ongoing series, Money and the Small Church.)

Mistake #1: Giving veto power to the accountant, treasurer or budget

In many churches, Jesus in not in charge as much as we’d like to think he is. Neither is the pastor or the congregation. The treasurer or accountant is. Sometimes literally, with a dictatorial hand. I’ve heard from far too many pastors who feel completely hamstrung in their church because all the power is in the hands of one person who has been given the power of the purse.

Sometimes it’s not one person, but a committee of people. Sometimes it’s just looking at the amount of money that isn’t there and feeling helpless.

Either way, the results are the same. Money is in charge of too many churches.

How I Overcame My Dread Of Talking About Money From The Pulpit

Pastors fall into one of three groups when it comes to money.

Pastors who hate talking about money at all
Pastors who talk about money obsessively
Pastors who have discovered a biblical balance

Most pastors I’ve met, maybe two out of three, are in the first group. We want to avoid any appearance of greed because we’ve seen how that can undermine the cause of Christ. But we back off too far.

The second group of pastors may get a lot of press for their excesses, but they make up a very small subsection of pastors. Easily less than five percent of us talk about money obsessively. Maybe less than one percent.

The final group of pastors, maybe one-third of the total, have found a healthy balance. They know that we need to talk about money in the same biblical way that we talk about prayer, ethics, compassion, and every other part of Christian life.

I used to be in the first group of pastors. I hated talking about money. So I did it seldom, poorly and apologetically. Not exactly a recipe for a financially healthy church.

In the last few years, I have been able to turn a corner on that. I now have no problem teaching on finances. Therefore, I’m doing it in a more healthy, balanced, biblical way. It’s also a far more joyful experience, both for me and for the congregation.

Money And The Small Church: Job One – Don’t Spend More Than You Bring In

When it comes to the issue of Money And The Small Church, (or money and big churches, money and family finances, money and business, etc.) there is one principle that stands high above all the others.

It’s so basic, I almost feel silly having to write it. But it is Job One for faithful financial stewardship.

Don’t spend more money than you bring in.

That’s it. There is simply no financial principle more important for a church to observe than that.

9 Ways To Reverse A Downward Giving Trend In An Otherwise Healthy Church

In even the healthiest and strongest of churches and ministries, finances are never automatic.

Giving patterns have changed. Even people who love the church and are fully committed to its mission are not giving as much as they once did.

Giving is like any other skill. Very few people are born with an inbred desire and ability to give. Everyone needs to be taught how and why giving matters. And that’s up to us, pastors.

Thankfully, the Bible is full of great teaching about stewardship and generosity, but we must always remember that God’s Word is not as concerned with our money as with our hearts. Which is why we need to teach more about generosity than giving.

It’s possible to give without being generous, but no one can be generous without giving.