Nearly every pastor or church leader knows the burden of carrying the financial responsibilities of a ministry. Since I became pastor of Shawnee Baptist Church, finances have been a constant battle. And while we are not yet debt-free, last week God completed a miracle that has launched us past the largest obstacles between us and that goal. Below are some ideas that have helped us navigate some of our most difficult decisions these past five years.
Be Open and Honest
Communicate clearly throughout the process. Allow time for questions to be asked. One of the most precious resources that a ministry going through financial difficulties can have is unity, and that begins with your willingness to communicate. Let me add this: be honest with all parties involved. Church members, lenders, bankers, lawyers—everyone must be on the same page.
There will be many different options that come up throughout your discussions, but always remember to do right. If you owe the money, you should work to repay it. If you are using the buildings, a payment is expected.
The goal should not be to profit while someone else loses. One of difficulties is remembering that, while you may be able to hold out or play hard ball, it would be unfair to the other parties involved.
Don’t Obligate Yourself to Something You Cannot Do
If you can’t meet the demand that is being placed on you, then don’t agree that you will. Perhaps an alternative will need to be found.
Hire a Good Lawyer
I hope this goes without explanation, but it’s here just in case. Most ministry leaders don’t have any kind of formal legal training, so knowing what laws and rights you have will protect you and your ministry.
You Are a Steward, That Is All
Remember that you are only a steward of the resources that are entrusted to the church. You can’t perform a miracle. No gold coins will be pulled out of the mouth of a fish. Don’t shy away from discussing the financial condition of the church. And there are plenty of people who would love to help if you allow them the opportunity.
Make Hard Decisions
Don’t be afraid to make difficult decisions with discernment, good counsel, and much prayer. The situation doesn’t just fix itself. You must put all the options on the table: pay cuts, selling vehicles, even letting staff go. None of these options are fun or enjoyable, but they may be necessary.
I admit, this is easier said than done; but you could spend countless hours talking about different options or scenarios with countless people. Determine how much time the situation needs, then work and discuss plans during those times and only those times. I understand that ministry would be all but impossible without any finances, but don’t make finances the focus of your ministry.
Find a Hobby
Ministry leadership already comes with difficulties, adding financial stress only compounds those. Go golfing, hunting, or fishing. Learn a new skill. Find something to do that allows you to relax and tackle the problem again with a refreshed view.
Finish the Job
It is demoralizing to the church and other ministry leaders when you leave before the job is done. You have an obligation to your church to complete the tasks that lie in front of you.
This topic is both sensitive and challenging, but hopefully these will encourage others going through similar difficulties. And, at the risk of assuming too much, let me say our priority should always be to ask God each day for wisdom and discernment.