Preaching on Faith and Money
Rev. Mike Slaughter approaches the topic of preaching on faith and money with a simple and hard to argue with reasoning: We should talk about money because Jesus did.
“If money was 40 percent of Jesus’s teaching, it should be 40 percent of my teaching,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter is known as the United Methodist pastor who grew Ginghamsburg Church from a small country church in a cornfield into the fourth largest United Methodist Church in the country with an average worship attendance of 5,000. He has also made a large focus of his ministry, financial stewardship, with his books like Christmas is not Your Birthday, The Christian Wallet and Shiny Things.
He was one of the presenters at the Horizons Faith and Money at Salem UMC in St. Louis on February 5-7. The event was a collaboration between CF2M and the Missouri Conference Center for Pastoral Excellence.
Slaughter said he believes a lot of the fear pastors have regarding talking about money comes from two prevailing myths:
- People stay away from church because we talk too much about money. “Look at the popular secular world television shows: Shark Tank, The Profit, The Bottom Line. At Barnes & Noble, 12 of top 25 books are about finance and investing.”
- People don’t want to give. Every year since 1968 the United Methodist Church loses about 80,000 members, but in 2005, giving increased by 40 percent. The reason was a tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Ginghamsburg promoted giving to Katrina victims during an exit offering, noting that 24 United Methodist pastors had their homes flooded.
Slaughter said his most highly attended worship services outside of Christmas and Easter are when he is preaching about money. He thinks this is because the sermons speak to the congregations felt needs, and have two primary aims: Freedom from financial worry and release from bondage of debt.
In all of Jesus’s talks about money, he didn’t speak in terms of the institutional needs of the synagogue. His purpose was to set people free.
“Our primary mission is to set captive free from bondage of debt,” Slaughter said. “You can’t serve God and money. When you serve God, your money serves you.”
Slaughter noted that the $80 a month that he puts into his United Methodist PIP retirement savings has grown to more than $950,000 over his 40 years of ministry, averaging 12 percent return, which is tax deferred because it is a retirement account.
In addition to his savings, speaking fees, books sales and being the pastor of a large church has Slaughter in a position of financial security, but he still tries to remain frugal. He buys three-year-old used cars instead of new cars. He takes his lunch to work instead of going out. He scoffs at the young staff at his church with their $6 coffees every morning. He lives on a budget, which includes $100 per month for clothing (if he wants to buy a suit he has to save a few months) and $90 per month for miscellaneous.
“If I want a bottle of wine at home, it comes out of miscellaneous,” he said. “For 40 years of marriage, I’ve been arguing with my wife to move the wine to the grocery budget line, but she says no, it’s your miscellaneous.”
Slaughter has found most of his congregation weren’t familiar with the concept of living on a budget. His church now offers a three week class on budgeting and coming out of debt and then moves people into Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. He encourages people to view their personal budget’s as a moral document, just like he views the church budget as a moral document. It points toward priorities. “When you spend money, ask yourself the question: ‘Why am I spending?’,” he said.
C2FMThe Horizons Faith and Money was brought to the Missouri Conference through the combined efforts of the Missouri Conference Center for Pastoral Excellence and the Missouri United Methodist Foundation’s Clergy and Church Financial Ministry (C2FM). The mission of C2FM is to continuously improve clergy and congregational excellence around financial literacy, leadership, discipleship and ministry. The vision of the C2FM is to eliminate financial management barriers (personal and professional) among clergy and laity, so they may more effectively lead congregations to increased health, vitality and ministry effectiveness.
- Trust & Confidentiality – Any information shared with C2FM personnel is held in confidence and shared only as expressly authorized by the written consent of the participant.
- Continuous improvement – Evaluation, assessment and adjustment will occur throughout the program with the goal of achieving positive, lasting results.
- Reliability – C2FM shall always strive to be a source of current, accurate and complete information.
- Practicality – Education, planning and assistance are not effective if not applied. The services of the C2FM will seek to be immediately useful and applicable to meet the real and practical needs of participants
Identify Budget Drains
- Wasted Energy (Home Utility Bill)
- Daily Coffee Trips
- Premium Cable Television Packages
- Unused Gym Memberships
- ATM Fees
- Unhealthy Habits
- Unused Gift Cards
- Credit Card Interest
Prepare to CompeteClif Christopher tells pastors they need to learn how to compete. People have a lot of choices regarding what they do with their money – giving to church needs to be a competitive choice. He gets pushback from pastors on this, with many saying they didn’t enter the ministry to be a fundraiser. His response is “Welcome to the real world.”
Christopher has been an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church for more than 40 years but for the last 25 he has been founder and CEO of Horizons Stewardship Company. He’s the author of several books, including Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate and God vs. Money. He was one of two presenters at the Horizons Academy of Faith and Money at Salem UMC in St. Louis February 5-7.
To be clear, the church isn’t raising money for the sake of having money or to support the institution. Christopher is passionate about how everything the church does needs to be mission driven, and money given to church is going to support the mission. He said too many churches are a collection of people who don’t know their mission.
“I was in the Army for 18 years, and the first line of the warrior ethos is, ‘I will always put the mission first’,” Christopher said. “The Army is good at this, particularly in combat situations.”
Christopher described at scene at a church board meeting that begins with a budget report. After the report of the expenses and receipts being in balanced, someone brings up the suggestion for a disciple-making ministry. They are told it’s a good idea, but the church doesn’t have the money for it.
“The mission of this church is to balance the budget,” he said.
He recalled being at a worship service in which the finance chair had a special report at the beginning of service, reporting that after some difficult budget cuts the church had a balanced budget for the first time in years. People applauded.
“It was one of the saddest calls to worship I ever experienced,” Christopher said. “I wondered if they applauded when they baptized someone.”
He encourages church to have a missional or narrative budget. People need to keep the mission of making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world in front of people, not the need for a roof or repaving the parking lot. The budget of the church that should be presented as a narrative that conveys how the church is pursuing its mission and how the expenses support that mission.
The 3DsChristopher advised that every member of every significant decision making board at the church should embody the three Ds.
- Doer: They participate in worship and church activities.
- Donor: They give financially.
- Door Opener: They actively invite new people to be part of the church.
Christopher is a strong advocate of pastors knowing how much people in their congregation are giving. They have a right to, according to The Book of Discipline.
“So as pastor, it is your choice. If you choose not to know what people are giving you are committing clergy malpractice,” he said. “You could be using what you know to the benefit of the person and the church.”
He gave the example of a bank president who is making $200,000 a year, but only giving $1,200 a year to the church.
“Your thought of a pastor should be ‘I have some work to do to get them to know Jesus Christ’. Don’t be worried about getting them on a committee. Be worried that they aren’t walking with Jesus,” he said.
Knowing can also highlight problems within the church or with trust.
“When you ask someone why the aren’t giving more, you may find that they believe in tithing but don’t believe in or trust your church enough to think your church is going to make good use of it,” he said.
Compete for All Three PocketsChristopher said that all other non-profits consider the three pockets of money that their donors give money from, and churches should keep these three pockets in mind as well.
- Annual fund– “This is the collection plate that goes around each week, and people put a little bit in the plate. The problem is that in a majority of our churches giving doesn’t go beyond this.”
- Capital fund – “This is accumulated wealth from things like inheritance, stock, owned property and sold businesses. The money gets set aside for later. It’s the pocket that strong appeals are made for in capital campaigns. You don’t need to build a building every other year, but you need to have a dream everyday – have a vision they can fund if someone is ready to make a large gift.”
- Planned giving – “Everyone in your church is going to die. When that occurs there will be a pocket available to give from that wasn’t there before. If we can’t talk about death in church, where can we? My college talks to me more about giving at that point of life than my church does. That bothers me.”