Common Mistakes Pastors Make With Church Finances
By John Brummitt
Many pastors spend years digging into the Scriptures, caring for the members of their congregations, and learning new ways to share the gospel with a lost and dying world. However, few pastors spend much time researching business management skills and financial management. It isn’t really in their vocation to do so, yet we often saddle our pastors with these responsibilities.
Many times, pastors do a fine job of managing the business side of the church or
develop a team to help them with that side of things. Yet, it is also common for
church finances to be mismanaged. Five common “management styles” that
develop with pastors can cause major problems in a church:
Ignorance is bliss. We see this most often when churches have a finance team in place. The pastor believes—and often the finance team believes—that the pastor should be completely hands-off. “We will take care of the money. You just focus on the Word.” This really is a nice thought, but the leader of any company should know about the finances of the organization he manages. While the pastor doesn’t have to know how much every person tithes on Sunday, knowing whether or not the church is tracking toward meeting the budget is crucial when it comes to planning and ministering to the community. If your leader doesn’t know the financial picture, it could put the church in financial trouble or kill momentum when the finance team has to terminate a project due to lack of funds. Pastors need to be informed about the finances of the church.
Lone wolf. On the flip side of being completely hands-off is being 100% hands on. This is where the pastor is given the church checkbook and is allowed to treat it like his own personal account. He has complete control over all finances. Usually, this management style is pushed upon pastors at first. Perhaps no one else is willing to take on the responsibility, so it falls to the pastor out of necessity. Complete control of the checkbook leads to other problems: corruption, distrust, questions, etc. Being a lone wolf does not make a pastor corrupt, by any means, but not having checks and balances to protect the pastor and the church is a mistake.
Dictator. Some pastors don’t have complete control of the finances in terms of writing checks, but not a penny of church money is spent without his approval. The biggest problem with this style is that many opportunities are missed, and ministerial needs are never met because one person makes all financial decisions. This situation is true whether it is a pastor or layman in the “dictator” role. Whether church, home, or business, two heads are better than one. Don’t handicap the ministry of
your church by limiting financial leadership to one person.
Church mouse. This is probably the most common financial management style for pastors. Have you ever heard the phrase, “as silent as a church mouse?” Many churches struggle financially because the pastor has adopted this style. Some churches have adopted the belief that money is evil, and if a pastor asks for it he is just looking to line his pockets, that he can’t possibly be a man of God.
The truth is money is a necessity to survive in this world. The church is not exempt. The love of money is evil, not money itself (1 Timothy 6:10). We should be talking about money…often. It is one of the most common themes in life and one of the main reasons we work. A good portion of Scripture deals with how we handle and interact with money. It is important to allow the members of the congregation an opportunity to support the Lord’s work.
Clandestine agency: The CIA is a clandestine agency known for the deep secrets its agents keep. The church should never be a clandestine agency when it comes to money. Tell the congregation everything, no matter how small. If someone questions why or how funds were used at the church, an answer should be provided. This doesn’t mean everyone will always be kind or understanding about the answer given, but confrontation should not be avoided. The more a clandestine style is adopted, the more distrust and questioning will arise from the congregation. Distrust usually presents itself through withholding tithes. Not only is the church hindered, but also the person withholding the Lord’s portion, who is no longer fulfilling his or her Christian duty.
If you or your pastor have fallen into one of these styles of management, it is never too late to address it. Remember, the ministry of the Lord is bigger than one person. Ultimately, you want to protect yourself and the church from any questions or doubts. The church needs to be managed properly to have the greatest impact on the world around it.
If you would like more help or information on setting up proper management styles for your church contact the Board of Retirement. We offer a wide range of services regarding church finances: www.BoardofRetirement.com.
About the Writer: John Brummitt became director of the Board of Retirement in January 2016. He graduated in 2011 with an MBA from Tennessee Tech University. A 2004 graduate of Welch College, he has been with the Board of Retirement since the spring of 2006.