Is your annual meeting coming up in the next few weeks? Or are you thinking ahead to a spring stewardship campaign? No matter the time of the fiscal year, we can usually find a reason to be anxious about money. Yet it’s true that the annual budget vote raises anxiety for most clergy and church leaders. And we can find it easy to focus on others, asking “what will they do?” – whether “they” are the church board, finance committee or the people in the pew. Will they approve the budget? Will they follow through on their pledges? Will they ask uncomfortable questions at the annual meeting?
Remember to focus on yourself. Leadership in the area of money as in all other areas comes back to focusing on self rather than others. The reactions of others are out of our control. James Lamkin, pastor of Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta and my teleconference guest this month, says, “The key to the kingdom is self-regulation.” I remember one annual meeting where we were cutting the budget, and I wasn’t regulated enough. I made comments I still regret.
Here are three aspects of managing self in relationship to money matters:
1. Recognize the power of anxiety over you. Become better acquainted with how you respond out of anxiety. In the final budget meetings or during the annual meeting, what do you notice about your own physical reactions? Does your heart start to beat faster? Do you sweat? Do you find it hard to take in numbers or hear what people are saying? Do you argue? Get quiet?
2. When money issues surface, ask “What’s my part in it? How am I contributing to the problem?” This is not to blame yourself or to negate the real responsibility of others. But you can check in on your leadership presence. Are you distracted from your ministry for any reason? Are you overfunctioning in some way around money? (For example, who is preparing the written financial reports?) Or are you too distant from money issues at decision-making time? That’s one kind of underfunctioning.
3. Then ask, “Do I need to define myself in some way?” If finances are going to be an issue at the annual meeting, think about a clear way you might state your views. Even if you don’t have to say them, knowing what you think will help keep you calm, and you’ll be present in the meeting in a different way.
The tagline on my newsletter says, “Moving from the impossible, changing others, to the merely difficult, managing myself.” In a high-anxiety congregational meeting, it can be very difficult to manage yourself. When you can do it, it changes your relationship with others and offers hope for a different future.