Tim Taylor Pastor Victory Baptist Church Vergennes, Vermont
In 36 years of being the senior pastor of two churches, the ins and outs of church finances loom large. While honoring Christ, winning souls and discipling saints are the highest priority, managing the church finances ranks up there. Coming out of college most pastors have no idea how much management will be required of them.
The first church I pastored had not had their books balanced in so long that when I got there, I had to work with the local bank manager to sort out the mess. Many churches when you candidate just don’t understand what condition their church is in financially. This is your responsibility. You must ask probing questions and take time to look at their books. If they are over your head, ask someone to go through them with you. You need to know what you are potentially inheriting. As quickly as you can, make things very transparent. Avoid placing blame if things are bad, but be quick to praise if things are good. Fan the flame of praise. It will pay you dividends down the road.
If things are not good financially do not become a beggar. Do not condemn or complain, it will only drive a wedge between you and the people. Begin to manage the money, don’t let it manage you. Watch every expense and nip out every waste. Cast a vision for the people. Show them that you will lead by example. Make the money that is there work for you. If people see positive results, no matter how small, it will encourage them to trust you to manage more. A cleaner, brighter, sharper financial outlook earns you leadership points to help navigate through the deep water.
As you see finances improve some of the hard steps will be learning new management skills. What do you do when there are surplus funds? It cannot be overstated how important it is to begin to build reserves. It wears down a congregation to constantly tell them there is another special offering to cover repairs and upgrades that were obviously coming. Start setting aside money so you can celebrate with them that the money is there for the new furnace, roof, or sidewalk. Recently I had an elderly couple come see me. They wanted to give a large check to the church. I had not pleaded for extra funds. They simply said that they knew it would be used wisely. I have pastored here 32 years. When I came here there was a for sale sign in front of the antique shop the church had purchased and was meeting in. The interest on the mortgage was 12%. The folks were pitching in to pay the bills, on top of their tithes. This older couple had seen the Lord take the church from nearly closing, through multiple building projects, to a strong ministry both financially as well as spiritually. The people you are pastoring are looking for you to be a wise businessman as well as their pastor.
If you have been blessed to take a church with great finances don’t be so foolish that you burn through it believing that it will always be there. Earn credibility so that people will continue to give. Don’t forget, they can stop. There was a time when many pastors lead their churches into massive debt, then moved on. This left many lay leaders to carry the burden or leave the church, like the pastor did. Churches closed, testimonies were destroyed and the kingdom was harmed.