Most church leaders talk about money once or twice a year – during stewardship season. This only makes the subject more uncomfortable. Congregants are left thinking that the only thing the Bible says about money is “Give till it hurts.”
Chris Harris, Associate Rector at Christ Church Cranbrook in Michigan, has made preaching and teaching about faith and finances a specialty. He recommends discussing our relationship with money throughout the year.
Quite a few. More than 2,000 Bible verses refer to money and its role in our lives. Find a list of them here. Certainly for Jesus, money matters were too important to ignore. Sixteen out of the 38 parables deal with money and possessions.
Even if a sermon isn’t focused on money, you can find illustrations involving money to teach other spiritual principles. People interact with money every single day. Use examples they can relate to: the paycheck that burns a hole in our pocket, the lemonade stand we had as a kid. As you use more financial illustrations, it will become easier for listeners to make the connection between spiritual truth and healthy financial practices.
Share your own experiences with money – even the scary ones.
If you have ever felt shame or embarrassment around your personal finances, consider sharing those feelings with your congregants. There’s no need to detail your assets and liabilities. But you can open up about small, even humorous financial transgressions that others can relate to.
Brendan O’Sullivan Hale is a Certified Financial Advisor (CFA), and Canon to the Ordinary for Administration and Evangelism in the Diocese of Indianapolis. He shares a story about the first time he made a pledge to his parish – and one of his checks bounced! “In the moment I was mortified, but with some distance it’s a reminder to me that making a financial commitment can be risky and failure is part of spiritual growth,” says Brendan.
Here’s an idea: collect “Dollars and Nonsense” stories from your own experience – friends arguing over the check at dinner; wedding expenses that get out of hand, kids who con their parents for extra allowance. Use these to introduce Bible lessons about wise money management.
Open a line of communication to normalize money conversations.
If you want parishioners to feel comfortable approaching you when they face a financial problem, you can’t just open the door and wait. You’ll have to clear a path to the door. Try using thoughtful conversation starters, such as these:
- Why is there so much pressure to act like we’re better off than we are?
- What messages did your parents send about money?
- How does God want us to help one another through financial challenges?
- How do we feel when yet another cashier tells us we need their credit card?
- When is enough, enough?
Steven Tomlinson, a professor at Seminary of the Southwest, has developed a guided exercise that helps clergy and congregants reflect upon their money habits, and make small, intentional changes. He tells how to lead such conversations in a positive, non-threatening and productive manner. Read about it here.
Why money is worth talking about in church.
People need a spiritual context for their financial lives. When we bring financial topics into the church, we help them bring money worries out of the dark and into the light of God’s abundance.
We invite you to spend time with Pathways’ resources and readings about personal finances, and use them as a springboard for your own financial wellness ministry.