The Top 10 Mistakes I’ve Made with Money in Ministry – Part 2

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Last week, Ryan Baer shared half of his Top 10 mistakes related to money and ministry. Well, we’ve had a full weeklong “dramatic pause” before delivering the second half. Finally, the completion of his list is below. I’m grateful for Ryan’s wise leadership, and his willingness to share how he’s learned from his mistakes. It’s a helpful reminder that our call is not to avoid failures, but to learn from them.

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Director, Center for Stewardship Leaders


The Top 10 Mistakes I’ve Made with Money in Ministry – Part 2

Rev. Ryan Baer

Last week, we looked at five of the top ten mistakes I’ve made with money in ministry. Here are the next five.

5 – Not developing a legacy-giving program. According to the experts, America is undergoing the largest transfer of wealth in history as the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers leave their accumulated assets behind upon their deaths. Churches simply must start encouraging and providing ways for people to remember their church in their estate plan.

4 – Not insisting that the church offer resources to people for personal financial management. I have discovered that most of the people I serve understand the biblical and theological aspects of generosity. Most of them want to give generously and extravagantly, but far too many are trapped by credit cards, student loans, car notes, and other financial burdens. Churches have an opportunity to make a profound impact on their congregations and their communities by offering “plug-n-play” courses like Financial Peace University.

3 – Not making demonstrated financial commitment a prerequisite for service on governing councils of the church. Those who have been called into leadership in the church have been entrusted with great responsibility, including making financial decisions that have the potential to have a profound impact on people’s lives. As a Texas proverb says, “The chicken occasionally contributes to the bacon and eggs, but the hog is committed.” Church leadership boards need more hogs and fewer chickens!

2 – Not practicing what I was preaching. Whether it’s in business, the military, athletics, or ministry, people aren’t willing to go where their leaders aren’t willing to lead. Early on in my ministry, my wife and I weren’t disciplined about tithing and giving. Thanks to some excellent teaching, God has opened our hearts in this vital area of discipleship, and I am able to lead, teach, and preach about tithing and giving with integrity and a clear conscience.

1 – Not understanding the primary reasons that people give. People give to non-profits for three primary reasons: belief in the mission, trust in the leadership, and demonstrated accountability and transparency. Notice what’s not included in that list? People don’t give primarily because the non-profit is experiencing a budget deficit, and “if everyone digs just a little deeper, maybe we’ll make it to December.” People don’t give primarily because it’s a tax write-off. People don’t give because the pastor is an inspiring preacher. They give because they believe in the mission, they trust the leaders, and there is a record of accountability and transparency.

By no means do I consider myself an expert in stewardship or fundraising; I am simply a pastor who has learned a few of these lessons the hard way. However, with each passing year, I am more convinced that stewardship leadership really comes down to one word: integrity.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a wealthy landowner who puts his slaves in charge of an enormous amount of money, and then he goes away on a long journey. When he returns, there is an audit. The slaves who have managed the master’s money with integrity are publicly praised and entrusted with more to manage, whereas the slave who buried the master’s money and refused to manage it at all is rebuked and cast into the outer darkness. May you and I, simple servants that we are, manage the extravagant resources of our Master with integrity each and every day.

About the Author

Rev. Ryan Baer is Pastor and Head of Staff of the Ridglea Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas.

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