Nothing is more sensitive than one’s money, and nothing is more daunting than talking to people about parting with money. Yet Jesus spoke more about money than He did about heaven, hell and prayer combined. Jesus knew that what people did with their money was a good indication of their priorities and commitments. He said, “Where your treasure is there your heart is also.”
Pastors are called to address the subject of money; after all, the church can’t function for long without financial resources. With shrinking congregations and skyrocketing costs, the need for funding is paramount to keep ministries going. Yet preaching about money must be performed with great sensitivity and care. One person may applaud the message (usually someone who has the gift of generosity and believes everyone should give more than the 10 percent tithe.) Others may be offended and never return to hear another message about money or any other subject (the stingy ones who are missing out on blessings and adventure).
Here are some observations regarding preaching about money.
Most Believers Want to Give
In some cases, it’s not that people don’t want to give to support the church; it’s that they can’t afford to give. Most believers have a desire to give, but many can’t due to poor planning, excessive debt, improper spending habits and other financial pitfalls. These people need to be released from their bondage. They need a money makeover. They need to understand and practice sound financial principles so they can be in a position to give.
Therefore, I almost always preach on giving in the context of money management. I share biblical principles:
• God owns it all.
• We are stewards of His resources.
• Everything will be returned to Him.
• We can’t take it with us.
• The first 10 percent is His.
• We need to have a financial plan.
• Live below your means.
• Save and invest for long-term needs.
I seek to train and to equip people to prioritize and plan so they can be positioned to give generously. The Bible is replete with examples and guidelines. A preacher never will run out of material to present these basic money management truths.
Preach Stewardship Series
I almost always preach about money in a series. If I only preach one annual stewardship sermon, more than half of my congregation will miss that message due to their attendance patterns. To reach everyone, a series is needed. I schedule the series either in January, when people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions and starting something new; or April, when people are thinking about taxes and having thoughts such as, “I should have given more to the church.”
I try never to preach a series about money during a budget promotion because it may come across as manipulation. I want people to give as a part of the discipleship process of growth and maturity. I don’t want one to feel as if he or she is merely paying the church’s bills. If I preach and teach about faith and financial life at a time when I am not asking people to give, people won’t say, “He’s always asking for money.” In addition, I mention the vision of financial stewardship and faithful generosity throughout the year by various sermons.
Preach Vision, Not Dollars
I want to encourage people to support the church because of its kingdom vision. People give to causes that are bigger than themselves. What better platform than the life-changing message and ministry of the church?
This is why every church needs a periodic capital campaign. These intensive fund-raising initiatives provide the church an opportunity to focus on vision, long-term needs and every member coming together to accomplish something big for God’s kingdom. During capital campaigns, personal and family stewardship is emphasized. People share stories of God’s faithfulness. Everyone is encouraged to be a part of the campaign.
Stress Stewardship as Part of the Disciple-Making Process
Our church lists “Giving generously of our God-given resources of time, talents and money regularly” as one of the 10 characteristics of a disciple. Jesus knew that one’s use of money would indicate his or her heart’s passion. The same is true today. The old saying is true: If you want to know someone’s priorities, check his or her calendar and checkbook.
A growing Christian is a giving Christian. A stingy Christian has failed to grasp God’s call upon his or her life and Christ’s lordship.
A Pastor Can’t Preach on Tithing if He Is Not Practicing Tithing
That may be the reason some pastors fail to preach and teach biblical stewardship. A pastor must set the example for others to follow. When we tithe, we can preach with authenticity and integrity. For me and my wife, we always have tithed, often giving more than 10 percent. Because of our faithfulness, God has blessed us.
I often incorporate personal stories of God’s blessings because of our faithful giving. While I don’t advocate the give-to-get philosophy, I want people to hear from my life experience that God rewards those who faithfully give. I also tell about times when giving was a struggle, but we gave out of obedience. During those times, God was teaching us very valuable lessons about faithfulness and commitment. These stories identify us with the congregation and communicate the struggles of putting faith into practice.
Encourage People to Start Their Giving Journeys
I recognize that some will struggle to give 10 percent or more at the outset of this journey due to the hardships of poor financial management, but they can start somewhere. I encourage people to begin by giving 1, 2 or 3 percent with the plan to increase the percentage until they reach the tithe. Often, I challenge our church with a 90-Day Tithe Challenge. Here, I encourage church members that even if they aren’t giving 10 percent to try it for three months. At the end of the quarter, they can resume their giving practices or if (and usually He has) God has blessed them, they will want to continue tithing.
Incorporate Humor When Talking About Giving
Money, as do all sensitive topics, causes people to become anxious and close their hearts to the teaching. I try to have a good sense of humor about money, telling about some of my financial mistakes. I want people to laugh, to lighten up, to feel at ease as I broach this all-important, serious topic. I have collected humorous cartoons and stories about money and giving. I use these in sermons as appropriate. I’ve found that if I can get people laughing, it often opens their hearts to receive truth.
Indeed, money is a sensitive subject, but nothing can change a person or a church as people who are faithful in giving. God will bless them and the church. God’s kingdom will expand. So preach boldly and unapologetically about money.