By Charles Lane
“How is money talked about here?” When I consult with a congregation, I like to begin with a series of one-on-one interviews. In these interviews, after a little get acquainted conversation, I often turn to this question. I find the answers very instructive.
Responses to “How is money talked about here?” usually fall into three categories. Some people say, “It isn’t talked about.” Others will say, “It is only talked about when the church is asking for money.” The third response is, “It is talked about as a part of discipleship. The connection between our use of money and our faith in Jesus is stressed.”
In some congregations, I’ll get all three answers. Usually, one of the three emerges as the clear winner. I also always ask the same question of the pastor or pastors. The pastors almost always give the third answer—the discipleship answer. This is the case even in congregations where the vast majority of members give one of the first two answers.
If you are a pastor or stewardship leader in your congregation, I encourage you to consider doing two things around this “How is money talked about” question. First, spend some time exploring how people in your congregation answer the question. Ask the pastor(s). Ask the council. Ask a significant number of members who represent the full diversity of the congregation. Make sure the pastor isn’t doing the asking. What do you learn? Is there a disconnect between how the pastor and leaders answer and how the “people in the pew” answer?
Once you have a general understanding of people’s answers, dig deeper. What are you doing that causes people to claim money is only talked about when the church is asking for it? How are people finding your money talk to be helpful in their faith journey? Explore these questions to learn more about what you are doing that is helpful and what you could be doing better. The first step is an assessment.
The second step I recommend is an action step that will help people connect their life with money and their Christian faith. I encourage you to form short-term discussion groups to learn together about faith and finances and to discuss the topic so participants learn from one another.
There are some helpful resources available to help guide discussions about faith and finances. I rather immodestly suggest a resource for these groups. Reflections on Faith and Finances is a new resource based on my 2006 book, Ask, Thank, Tell. I reworked three chapters so they are more suitable for reading and discussion by groups in a congregational setting. Each chapter includes questions the group can use after the chapter has been read. Several congregations have used Reflections on Faith and Finances, and the response has been very positive. Congregational leaders were surprised at how many people were eager to learn and talk about faith and money. It costs $5.00 and can be ordered at www.embracingstewardship.com. For additional readings, try Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity, by Adam Hamilton. This book is an invitation to rediscover what the Bible has to say about money and our relationship to it.
Of course, we are in the middle of a pandemic, which makes small group gatherings all but impossible. Maybe you want to consider small group discussions using Zoom, or some other online platform. Maybe you want to have a group of leaders review the resource now so when the long-awaited day of re-gathering arrives, you are ready.
When I consult with a congregation where many folks respond to the “How is money talked about” question by claiming the congregation is helping them integrate faith and finances, I know I’m in for a treat. Any effort you can expend to move the needle in that direction in your congregation will be well worth the time and energy.
About the Author
Charles Lane is the former director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary and currently serves as pastor at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove, MN.
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