Wealth With Purpose

Church Finances – some things I’ve learned…..


Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where you’ve learned something – through a conversation, something you’ve read, something you’ve seen – but over time your experience builds and you just have a deeper insight than you did ten years ago. That’s the case here with these church finance ideas – I see them as gifts (James 16:17), bits and pieces of wisdom and insight that have been passed on to me, and which I am pleased to pass on to others. And I’m grateful for all the people who shared these insights – my pastor, fellow board members, authors and so on. I don’t claim any of these ideas as original – they are simply part of my journey, and perhaps yours.

So, what are a few of the key things I’ve learned in the area of church finances?

It is appropriate to have a generally positive and biblical view of money and revenue raising. This has been a learning curve for me. I can tend towards being a worry-wart and a wet blanket. My natural approach in communicating finances would be to state the need and explain the consequences of falling short. But one of the key things I’ve seen/learned with my pastor is to link financial teaching with vision – ultimately, it’s not about dollars it’s about God’s kingdom, and when our vision is firmly there, the dollars take their place (Matthew 6:33). I’ve been privileged to experience our pastor lead us through a number of financial crises with a vision-based, honest, hard-working, collaborative, prayerful approach, and we’ve seen the congregation respond in amazing and exciting ways.

Integration of solid business methodology with community principles. That is, having a team willing to explore and implement business principles to church finance, but with a solid biblical framework to accept good principles and benefit from them, without idolising them. An example of this for us would be the move to a pledge-based budgeting process. It was new for us and we drew on the wisdom of others (and have been blessed with great results). But like with anything good, the temptation is to rely on the system rather than God. That doesn’t mean we abandon the system (necessarily), but rather aim to approach it with careful, open hearts for how God would have us grow.

Correct provisioning – churches can often have lots of ministries and lots of projects going on, each one with its own mini-finances. Keeping track of all this can be so important, especially keeping things correctly provisioned on the balance sheet. Failing to do this can give a false impression of financial performance, and could mean that there are not enough funds kept aside to meet important obligations.

Balance of risk-taking and risk-averse management. Another thing I have learned from my pastor – it is helpful to keep an eye on the dynamics of the deacons’ board (or parish council or equivalent). It’s good for healthy growth to have both entrepreneurial and conservative input. God has gifted us in different ways and it’s not only character-building to work with people who have very different opinions and approaches, but it can lead to better decision making. If we were all super-conservative, would we ever start a new ministry? If we were all super risk-taking, would we survive without going broke?

Talk directly about money. This relates to the first point – regular, methodical, engaging, challenging, biblical teaching about money. Without this we are in danger of just defaulting to our culture (1 Timothy 6:9-10). We know that greed is an issue we struggle with – but rather than treat is as taboo, let’s be willing to be taught, to be rebuked, to be challenged and inspired.

Good bookkeeping and reporting. It’s amazing how easily a report can cause false alarm or false complacency, either
because the source data is incomplete or inaccurate or because the report is not properly structured or understood. For monthly meetings to make informed decisions, it’s great to have up-to-date monthly reports with a good quality of data.

I guess for some, these points might seem a bit “old-hat” – things you had under your belt decades ago. But for others there may be one or two ideas that give you a nudge in the right direction. We are all works in progress – as individuals and as churches. Why not toss an idea or two around with your colleagues and pass on some things that you’ve learned as well?

Today’s post was kindly provided by Ed Johnson. Ed is the founder and owner of Exdia, a bookkeeping and administration service for Churches and small businesses. To find out more visit www.exdia.com.au

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