Handling the financial pressures of a church are without a doubt the toughest task we face as pastors in our churches, especially when the expenses of our ministry have increased, and the income has leveled off or even decreased. Add to that the needed incomes of a growing church staff, and you have a formula for many sleepless nights. Nothing adds stress to a pastor’s life like church finances! So, what is the answer? How do we keep things financially afloat? In this article, I will simply share several ideas that have worked for my ministry, and could well work for yours.
1. Develop a Strong Financial Base
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38
The biggest obstacle to developing a strong financial base in a local church is the pastor. Not that he is not a generous giver, but he is generally hesitant to preach and teach about finances. He is afraid of the label: “He is only after your money,” or “All he preaches about is money.”
By now, it should dawn on you that people who are not in accord with your ministry will find anything to complain about, but you should not worry when it is a biblical subject. The greatest revelation you could have about finances is that God wants people to give, not to impoverish them, but to prosper them. That is what Jesus said in Luke 6:38. You must understand that you are helping your people not only obey Scripture, but also advance their financial situation. God’s Word declares that they will be blessed as they give in accordance to biblical precepts. So, first you must fix yourself. Realize that you are hurting your church and people by not properly promoting a biblical understanding of finances.
Second, you must teach and preach about biblical principles of giving and finances. Since change is often resisted, the subject of finances must be brought up often and in many different ways. Just as a preacher explains salvation from many different angles to reach different people, so a preacher must preach and teach finances and giving from many different angles.
It is best to preach a series concerning finances for at least a month on a Sunday morning, and perhaps several months as a Sunday night or Wednesday evening series. Since so much is in the Bible concerning our finances and our giving to the cause of Christ, you will not have any problem finding plenty of material for many months of preaching/teaching. You will want to have a stewardship emphasis each year. Be sure to give a two to three minute talk before every offering. You will want to teach briefly by illustration, by exhortation, by biblical principle, by explanation, etc. (Either you or a different staff member.) I have a staff member pray for the offering, but I always do the talking before the offering—it is just that important. After a while, you will have many dozens of ways to teach briefly on finances.
Have a testimony on tithing/giving each service for a month during your stewardship month in addition to your preaching and teaching. Have all of your Sunday school classes teach on giving that month. Make it a big deal and it will transform the financial base of your church.
No one is growing spiritually who has not learned to be a giver. That is a fact. We should realize that giving is first, biblical. (God’s Word is full of financial principles.) Giving is then, practical. (God’s Word promises to bless your people as they give.) Finally, giving is effective. (God uses it to meet the needs of a growing ministry.)
Just as you would have a guest preacher for missions, revival, etc., have a guest preacher in for the express purpose to preach on giving. This should be someone who can explain biblical principles and present them in a winsome fashion. This should be someone who knows finances, and someone who has built a church with strong finances. Many times a guest preacher can be more focused and forceful in his preaching and yet still hold the interest of the people. Much can be accomplished in a one or two day meeting when you have the right man being used of God. It will prove to be a great help to your ministry.
Having a strong missions program will help your church grow stronger financially. Just as a Christian has the principle of giving and receiving, The same principles apply to churches. Missions is the heartbeat of God, and your giving to missions excites God about investing in your ministry. Biblically, you will see that giving gets God’s attention. We certainly need God’s attention in our churches. Giving to missions will not hurt, but it will help your church’s finances. So, have a mission’s conference each year and seek to support new missionaries each year.
In strengthening the finances, be sure to practice financial transparency. Give a monthly report to your deacons and post a monthly or quarterly report in the church foyer, or somewhere noticeable. Present your yearly budget and have it voted on each year and bring all financial items before the church that require a church loan to accomplish. If possible, have an outside financial review each year when your income approaches one million or more per year. Make sure two or three people handle the offerings at all times. Have multiple counters and have them sign off on each count. Make up an envelope for each check given and save it for many years. These are some ideas that will make you financially responsible with the funds God entrusts to your church’s care.
2. Start Prayer Meetings in Times of Special Need
“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” Acts 12:5
In times of financial strain, schedule a monthly prayer meeting, and then weekly as the crises increases. (Fridays from 9:00pm to 10:00pm work well.) Simply meet in the auditorium, have some soft piano music playing, give a two minute talk on what to pray about, and then have the people scatter throughout the auditorium and pray for an hour. Call them back together at 10:00pm and thank them for praying.
Other things to do:
- Set aside a day a week for God’s people to fast and pray.
- Call for a deacon or other church leader to pray at certain church services.
- Get children and teens praying during Sunday school. (God hears the voice of children)
“And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.” Genesis 21:17
3. Have a Capital Stewardship Program
“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.” Exodus 25:2
“Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass,” Exodus 35:5
In a growing ministry, you will have building projects, and these projects should be at least partially funded through capital stewardship programs. This will give you the money for the down payment, or outright pay for the building. This greatly frees up the general fund from making the building payments or having a building payment. In considering a program, realize that many pastors have gone through a multitude of such programs and some of them will be able to help you immensely. Fly in someone who can help you organize your program, meet with your leaders, and preach at your fundraising banquet. Committee groups will need to be established, prayer meetings set up, programs put together, testimonies scheduled, goals set, etc.; and for the most part, it should be laymen led. The program usually will take two to three months to culminate in the banquet where commitment cards are filled out. It is based on a three year commitment to your program, and it will usually cost about what is committed for one month of the three year commitment.
4. Make a Special Appeal When Finances Are Tight
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.” 1 Corinthians 16:1
Here are a few things I have done in the form of making a special appeal when funds are tight:
I have presented the need before our people and asked for them to give 2% more. (If they give 10%, then give 12%; if 12%, then give 14%; etc.)
Invite the top ten givers to a banquet and share with them a program to meet the needs of a certain ministry. Your top givers are almost always ready to give a little more because they believe in your church and they also have seen God bless them as they have given. They will almost always respond very favorably. Make it a nice banquet and tell them why you have invited them and let the need be something that will bless the lives of others.
You can also send a letter to the top givers (25 to 100), and ask them to give $100.00 more each month, and since some cannot do so, ask some to give several hundred more if they are able. This should raise another $2,500 to $10,000.00 per month.
You can also have a time where you challenge the people to raise a needed amount on a certain evening. Have someone with a calculator adding the sums and go through each section having people raise their hands and tell what they can do in the next six weeks. Some people might not feel comfortable with sharing what they are giving, but you will find they give much more than when they are asked to fill out a card and turn it in.
5. New Ideas for Increasing the Giving
In recent months, we have started implementing a giving protocol that I have learned about in reading books on church finances. Here are some of those ideas we have implemented:
Track every first time giver, and send out a letter with a gift to each new giver. When someone uses a tithing envelope for the first time and we have a name and an address, we send them a letter thanking them for their gift and a short thought about giving. We include a booklet on finances, a $5.00 gift card to Starbucks, a church pen, another tithing envelope, a larger tithing envelope that is postage paid, and all of this is sent in a 6x9 envelope. We want them to continue on their spiritual journey. The idea is that just as we would track a visitor and follow up, we should do the same to cultivate givers in our churches for God’s glory.
Track every giver who crosses a threshold in their giving. ($500/$1,000; $2,500/$5,000; $7,500/$10,000; $15,000/$20,000 and above.) At each level, a packet is sent to thank them, and to encourage them with more items that cultivate their giving. Our goal is to help them grow to be generous to the cause of Christ.
Send out quarterly reports with a nice letter that shows comparative giving with last year’s giving and this year’s year to date. Each envelope should have a book or booklet that teaches stewardship with a gift from the church. Members can learn generosity by the church being generous to its own members. You will not want to charge for everything—find a way to provide free materials for your people to grow and flourish. If they see your church as giving, they will enjoy giving too.
The ideas presented here will not solve all of your problems, but each one of them has helped my church at various times. I hope they will help your ministry too.