I sometimes joke with students that “committee meetings” rarely come up in call stories. Further, most of our students at Luther don’t discern a call to Christian public leadership because of their love for finances and accounting. For these reasons, they might indeed hope to avoid attending Finance Committee meetings in their future calls. I’m grateful, therefore, that Rev. Angela Denker reminds us below of the important role for pastoral leaders in Finance Committee meetings. Indeed, we all have different gifts, but we must employ them together.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Why Pastors Need the Finance Committee -- and Vice Versa
Reverend Angela Denker
When I started my second call about a year ago, I was told: “you don’t need to come to the finance committee meetings.”
The meetings would have been easy to skip. The committee met at 6 p.m., just before Council, and right in the middle of our family’s post-school, post-work scramble known as dinner, bath, and bed for our baby and preschool-aged son.
I went, though, every month. I’d learned early on in ministry that the finance committee is often the heart of the church. If your finance committee is healthy and spiritually aligned, so too will be your church.
The finance committee holds power in the church. It’s usually populated by men and women with success and experience in the business world. Sometimes members of the finance committee, particularly in smaller churches with more pastoral turnover, see themselves as the “true guardians” of the church.
Many churches even see a divide between the “spiritual” and the “financial” leaders of the church. If pastors aren’t seen as viable and capable leaders in both worlds, they won’t be able to do the important task of erasing that artificial divide.
The financial is spiritual and the spiritual is financial.
Pastors can help church treasurers and finance committee members see themselves as spiritual leaders of the church. A church budget can be a barometer of a church’s spiritual health. Not simply: do we have “enough” money, but where are we under-spending? Where are we over-spending? How are we investing -- stewarding -- our God-given financial resources?
Are we spending to maintain what exists or are we investing to grow the kingdom of God?
How Pastors and Finance Committees Help Each Other -- and the Church
Finance committee members can help pastors gain confidence in their role as financial leaders. They can help pastors read and understand budgets, in order to speak fluently with business leaders in the congregation. Finance committee members are often influencers in the congregation. Other congregation members often look to finance committee members to learn about how the church is doing: to see if the church is on an overall positive or negative trend, at least financially.
When the pastor and the finance committee are united in vision for the future mission of the church, conversations about budgets, cuts and stewardship drives go more smoothly. The pastor and finance committee see each other as allies rather than adversaries, and this has ripple effects throughout the entire congregation.
Suggestions for Pastors
Make certain that you don’t treat finance committee meetings differently than any other meetings you attend. Make prayer an integral part of budget and finance discussions. Take time to attend to the pastoral care needs of financial leaders in the congregation. Help them see themselves as disciples who’ve been gifted by God to steward financial gifts and help others be set free from the tyranny of money, so that they can live in a world of abundance and not scarcity.
Mutual respect goes a long way. Understand that the pastor mustn’t model a fear of talking about money or numbers. When the pastor is confident and grounded faithfully regarding church finances, the finance committee will follow his or her lead.
Suggestions for Financial Leaders in the Church
Different churches will meet their need for financial leadership differently. Some churches employ an executive pastor, a theologically trained and called leader who oversees and leads the business operations of the church. Some churches have a lay Executive Director, such as in my current call. Some churches have paid treasurers or bookkeepers; some have all volunteers.
Whatever the situation in your church, whatever role you play as a financial leader -- know how vital you are. Know that you are in this role because of God’s gifting to you, and your gifts of financial acumen and numbers knowledge are just as vital to the church as gifts of healing, prayer, teaching or care ministries. Be empowered to share your own faith, and how it impacts the way you talk about -- and use -- money, in the church and in your personal life.
Rev. Angela Denker is a former sportswriter turned Pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Orange County, California. She lives in Brea, California with her husband, Ben, and sons Jacob and Joshua. Denker blogs at Overwhelming Jesus and is a contributing writer to Sojourners and Red Letter Christians.
Stewardship Speaker Series: On August 18, the CSL invites you to campus for our last breakfast event of the summer. Pastor Drew G. I. Hart, author of Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, will be our speaker. For more information, and to register, visit www.luthersem.edu/stewlead.
Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising: Luther Seminary, in partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving, is hosting a four-day intensive course, October 17-20, 2016. For more information visit:www.luthersem.edu/ECRF.