Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff writes that churches can promote financial transparency and enhance generosity by addressing the often-taboo subject of money more openly and faithfully. She offers seven practical strategies to improve the tone of your conversation around money and giving.
Some congregations are so close-lipped when discussing money and giving that members might think the Christian faith requires silence on the subject. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus talked about money more than any subject other than the kingdom of God. And how we live in relation to money and possessions is a deeply spiritual matter at the heart of Christian discipleship. Christians can and should talk about money!
1. Don’t limit money talk to stewardship season. Talking about money only when we need to ask for it is self-defeating. Preachers should strive to integrate stewardship themes into their preaching throughout the year — not just when the stated subject is money, but when the subjects of generosity and living in right relationship with money and possessions relate to other spiritual messages.
2. Address people’s financial reality not just the church’s needs. Rarely do churches address the financial reality of members, who may be burdened with student or consumer debt, struggling with medical expenses, or inadequately prepared for retirement. A ministry of financial literacy can spur a larger conversation about faith and finances while also providing much-needed pastoral care and financial guidance to members.
3. Focus on the spiritual significance of money. Lovett Weems suggests two simple principles that can move a church in the right direction. Never talk about people’s money apart from their discipleship and never talk about the church’s money apart from its mission.
4. Share stories. Inviting people to speak from the heart about their personal history with money and giving can begin to pierce the veil of secrecy around money. But testimonies can be offered in worship, small groups, and even online.
5. Lead with generosity, rather than stewardship. The vocabulary of gratitude and generosity can be a more gracious and inviting way to begin the conversation and one that is equally faithful and biblical. But our faith tells a wonderful, hopeful, inspiring story of a generous God who calls us to be generous.
6. Stay positive. Appeals to guilt or obligation motivate few, if any, people, so it’s important to keep a positive tone. Our faith is one of abundance, not scarcity. It teaches that giving is a joy not an obligation. We need to lean into these narratives.
7. Say thank you. Talking about money in a more balanced way involves an ongoing cycle of communication that always begins with thanking people for what they have already done. One of a spiritual leader’s most important roles is helping others see money and giving through the lens of faith. Effective pastors and church leaders learn to speak about money more frequently, frankly, and faithfully.
excerpt from an article by Ann A. Michel, staff of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.
“This article is reprinted by permission from Leading Ideas, a free e-newsletter from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and available at churchleadership.com.”