Pastoral leaders need to pay attention to their own personal finances. If we can be thoughtful about personal money management, it will help our leadership in stewardship and church finances. You can’t lead others where you haven’t gone yourself. Does this mean that you have to get yourself together completely before you can lead people to work on their own financial issues? No. But you have to be honestly working on your own life with money.
These matters are not just financial: they are emotional and spiritual. We can make anxious choices about money, whether we are spending with a credit card, postponing investment decisions, or never asking for a raise because people might get upset. Or we can make thoughtful choices and take responsibility for our own financial future-which can be hard. I know this myself: I’ve taken years to make certain financial decisions.
Here are some ways I have found to work on these issues: I’ve learned more about the history of how my family has dealt with money through the generations. I’ve joined a financial accountability group where I make commitments every month on actions I will take about financial matters. And I’m cultivating the spiritual practice of tracking my own anxiety about money daily, recognizing that the fear I can feel is not from God.
My spiritual director talks about the way money has us, rather than us having money. When money has us, we are emotionally fused with it. We are dependent on it in ways beyond the material. This is true whether we have a lot or a little, whether we are right on top of all our records, bills and investments or we have piles of unopened statements on the dining room table. It’s true of congregations, too: does your church have money, or does money have your church? When money has us, it’s hard for God to have us. Our fear about money gets in the way of our relationship with God and our leadership in the congregation. How might your own financial situation be influencing your role in the church’s finances?
Have the goal of being less anxious. I’m never going to be non-anxious about money, but I’m less anxious about it than I used to be. I’m better able to manage my money, plan about it and make decisions about it – and trust that God is caring for me, now and into the future. Money “has me” less than it used to. I am freer. And I can testify that a little lower anxiety goes a long way, both at church and in personal life.
Here are some questions to consider as you work on your own personal finances:
1. How do you make decisions about money?
2. What are your patterns of saving? Spending? Giving?
3. What resources do you have to help you make decisions? (Denominational resources, fee-based financial advisers, books or periodicals or online resources you like.)
4. If you struggle in this area, what would be one very small step you could take to help yourself?
5. If you are strong financially, what is the next thing you need to do?