What I’ve Learned About Money and Ministry

First of all, I’m in search of people who would like to read/re-read Yancey Strickler’s book This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World. Seriously. Email and we’ll do this in late August/September together. No more space for book group. Thanks for your response, friends.

I don’t agree with everything Yancey Strickler says, but I’m basically in, in terms of this manifesto. (Churches call them Mission Statements and – sometimes – they don’t mean much.) Secondly, as an English major who never learned anything about managing or making money from my parents (fodder for a longer post), I am now obsessed with the topic of money and ministry.

Things we need to know about money and I hope you knew this decades ago:

  • Budgets are moral/mission documents. When I look at my Mint account, I can tell fairly quickly what my and HH’s priorities are. We love subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and movie streaming. We like to eat out. We like to travel. We also like to give money away and we definitely have a profile in terms of what we support financially.
  • Supporting organizations financially is about investment – not survival. We invest in things that make an impact where we live and beyond. We invest in organizations that bring hope.
  • Investment is not just about money. It’s boring to send a check with no skin in the game. It’s the 1950s way of “doing mission.” Church people send checks to a hospital in Asia or a school in Central America or a well-drilling project in Africa and that’s the extent of our efforts. There are no relationships. There is no proximity to the issues at hand. Investment is about personal relationships and partnerships with those on the ground where the need is greatest.
  • Church leaders need financial education. We are – generally speaking – a bunch of humanities people. We need to educate ourselves about budgets. Nothing in the Bible suggests that we who believe can sit back and wait for the funds to appear magically.
  • Tell people what’s needed. When we started a new church in Northern Virginia comprised mostly of young adults, we tried to have a money talk once a quarter about the needs of our community. One night, a couple joined us for the first time and as we were finishing up our money conversation, someone said, “Well, they’ll never be back again.” Actually, they were back the next week and they stayed because they loved that we were talking money openly. What exactly were we talking about? Relational tithing. Someone needed a car and we made it happen. Someone needed help with rent and we took care of it.

We have been in a scarcity mode or in a sentimental mode for a long time. We now look at what the post-pandemic Church might look like and we are afraid “nobody is coming back.” We fail to re-think our staffing or our programs because “we love Ms. Betty and even though she can’t play the piano anymore, we keep her on staff” or “we keep doing The Peach Festival even though it loses money every summer but Mr. Joe loves that Peach Festival.” We give $50 to this organization and $100 to that organization because that is what we’ve always done even though our meager donation doesn’t make much of an impact and that organization doesn’t make much of an impact either.

So who wants to do a Zoom Book Study with me about becoming a more generous world? Please email me or share your email in the comments. And have a life-changing Monday.

Image of Yancey Strickler’s book. He’s one of the co-founders of Kickstarter.

23 responses to “What I’ve Learned About Money and Ministry

  1. Melanie Hammond Clark


    I would love to participate in this book study if it is open to people outside your presbytery.

    Thanks! Melanie Hammond Clark

    Sent from Melanie’s iPhone



  2. Deborah Warren

    I would love to join this book study! And thank you for all of your posts. I often share them with the congregation I serve.

    Rev. Deborah Warren Second United Presbyterian 412-242-4440. Church 412-377-2498 Mobile



  3. I’m in. September is great.


  4. I’m in. September is good.


  5. I’m in. September is good!


  6. I would love to join! September would be fine.
    Judy Cunningham
    Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church
    Cincinnati, OH


  7. Jan Christensen

    I am interested!


  8. I would like to join and September is good.


  9. I would love to be a part of this study and September would be fine.


  10. Andy Casto-Waters

    Thanks, Jan. I am interested in the study as well. I appreciate your work and words.


  11. SarahLee Morris

    Jan, I’m a Certified Christian Educator and Ruling Elder in Palo Duro Presbytery (EP Scott Campbell). Palo Duro is embarking on a growth-in-generosity endeavor, and I’d like to participate in your book study. My email address is sarahleemorris@hotmail.com. Thanks for the offer.


  12. SarahLee Morris

    Oops, just saw your comment about the group being closed. If you do something similar in future, I’ll definitely be interested. Sorry for not speaking up sooner!


  13. Melanie Hammond Clark

    Sent from Melanie’s iPhone



  14. Brandi Casto-Waters

    Hi Jan,
    Is there still time to get in on this book study?
    If so, please sign me up! All the best, Brandi

    Liked by 1 person

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