It’s no secret that many churches and pastors are worried about money nowadays. But Edwin Friedman used to say, “The issue is never the issue.” He meant that issues and problems which are perennial in church life, or the latest hot-button challenge, are really primarily a focus for people’s anxiety. We live in highly anxious times, and there’s a lot of free-floating anxiety around. Somehow we attach it to certain issues. In church life a few are favorites: music, children and youth ministry. And, of course, money. As one pastor said, “There always seems to be an exclamation point when money is involved.”
Of course there are genuine financial challenges that must be faced. Bills must be paid. Staff must receive their salaries. The endowment must be managed. Budgeting must be done (and sometimes cuts must be made). But if we can delete that exclamation point and stay calm even when others are anxious, we’ll provide better leadership and the church will make better decisions about financial matters.