Tis the season: many congregations are launching stewardship campaigns this month. Early in my ministry, this was my least favorite time of year. Over time, I began to see it as a valuable if challenging season.
Here are some more thoughts on making it easier to talk about money at church (see the first article here: http://localhost/old-margaret/blog/?p=888).
1. Do it more often. If all our financial teaching takes place during three weeks of the year, it’s not enough for people who deal with money every day. If you preach and teach about faith and financial life at a time when you are not asking people to give, people won’t say “They are always asking for money.” At the same time, you can talk about financial stewardship at points throughout the year. When I was a pastor, I found when we implemented a year-round stewardship program, doing something related to stewardship every month of the year, it was much easier to launch the fall campaign, and we had better results.
2. Tell your own story. Rather than trying to get people to give more, tell them why and how much you give. You can share your own challenges in making these decisions. Joe Clifford, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, spoke in a stewardship sermon about his journey toward giving: “I talked about a time in my life when I was giving $500 to the church. I felt like I was doing pretty well, I’d never given $500 a year to anything in my life. But I realized I was giving basically 1% of what I was earning, and that really wasn’t a big deal. We got on the journey toward tithing. We couldn’t start at 10% but we started at 2% and we worked our way up and over time we got to 10%. I was very honest about the fact that we set a personal goal to be at a tithe, but there are years we make it and years we don’t. I spoke very openly about it, and I had so many people who came to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for being that honest.'” Telling your story helps you stand alongside your people as they make these decisions for themselves.
3. Enlist others. Recruit leaders who are generous financially and otherwise, and who are a calm presence in the congregation and on the board. A treasurer with a sense of humor is a gift from God!
4. Limit media exposure. The more anxious you are, the harder it will be to have conversations about money. The media intentionally tries to raise anxiety to get attention – about everything, and these last few years especially about money. You might want to know in general what’s going on in the world at large and to have a sense of what your people are taking in. But consider whether it’s necessary to spend hours watching CNN or reading news online.
5. Read the gospels. Jesus’ words about money again and again challenge me to grow and help me manage my anxiety. In Matthew 6, Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and wealth, “and “Seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”