I’m not a pastor, but I love pastors. They’re prayerful and thoughtful, and they spend their days shepherding God’s people. I, on the other hand, work with numbers. I’m a finance professional, having served for nearly two decades in executive financial officer positions.
For the last 18 years, though, as president of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) Foundation, I’ve been able to work at the intersection of my love for the church and my love for finance. Although I’m sure I’ve learned more from my pastors than they have from me, I recognize that I can help them, too. After all, they lead churches that have budgets and are called to be faithful stewards of the resources entrusted to them.
Here are three simple pieces of financial advice that I hope will help pastors.
1. Learn Basic Accounting
I wish every seminary would introduce pastors to basic accounting. Why? Because I’ve watched pastors struggle to understand the language of finance and basic accounting—profit, loss, assets, liabilities, cash flow, and so on. Many lay leaders spend their days in vocations where this understanding is assumed. Pastors could better communicate with these lay leaders regarding the financial affairs of the church if they shared this common language.
Even more, the core truths of Scripture are built around basic accounting concepts. Christ has purchased our salvation in full, and his righteousness has been credited to us. This is the language of finance and accounting. A better understanding of these terms will lead to a deeper appreciation of Christian doctrine.
Pastors, you can complete an online course or pick up an introductory accounting textbook. It will help you better navigate the church’s finances, communicate with your congregants, and likely benefit you with your personal finances as well.
2. Speak Positively About Business
There’s a tendency—sometimes subtle—among some pastors to speak of business negatively. For example, we tend to celebrate persons entering vocational ministry, but I hardly ever see someone applauded for entering the business world.
There seems to be an underlying assumption that vocational ministry is of more value since it deals with matters pertaining to salvation. I believe we should honor church leaders, as the Bible makes clear, but I also believe all vocations have kingdom value.
Christian teachers, lawyers, electricians, baristas, accountants—all of these workers are rendering their service to the Lord in their vocations. He is using them to love his image bearers. Make sure you speak of, and treat, all vocations as sacred callings.
3. Unleash Our Generosity
Most business people are accustomed to being challenged at work, to stretch themselves beyond their normal capacities with their time and skills. We don’t mind being challenged. Please feel free to call us to be more generous with our money. The Bible does. You should, too.
The offering plate is restrictive, however, since it only allows us to give one type of asset—cash. It also doesn’t enable us to give anonymously while enjoying the benefits of the charitable tax deduction. Finally, it often can’t handle large or complex gifts, like when we sell a business or receive a large bonus.
An acquaintance of mine, for example, worships in a Reformed evangelical church and just sold his business for more than $10 million. He can’t tithe the profit to his local congregation in one lump sum, so he created a donor-advised fund to spread his giving out over time in a tax-efficient manner. His local church will be a primary beneficiary, but his giving needs to be paced, or it will create problems.
The wealth of many business professionals is not in cash. It is in appreciated assets, like stocks, bonds, and real estate. If you want to unleash our generosity, enable us to give more than cash and beyond the offering plate. Using services like the PCA Foundation offers, you can enable us to donate various types of assets to support the work of the local church.
King Jesus gives gifts of various sorts to his church. He’s not only using pastors to advance his kingdom; he’s using finance professionals to build up Christ’s body, too.
Pastor, you don’t need to become a chief financial officer—just like I don’t need to become a pastor. But I do hope you’ll receive this advice as it’s intended—simple tips from a fellow lover of Christ’s church.