Many church leaders struggle with talking about money in their church or loathe the offering time. However, this fear can be alleviated by making a shift in their perspective about money. The topic of money is not about money per se. The Kingdom of God and helping people to live as disciples of Christ is the true aim of money. In the words of Peter Greer, “Money is a vehicle, not the ultimate objective.”
The reality for pastors is that money is important. It is needed when it comes to ministry and money is one of the biggest struggles and stresses of the people who sit in your church.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind for the next time you preach on money:
1. People genuinely are interested in what the Bible has to say on money. People come to your church to hear what the Bible has to say. They drove there, probably looked at your website, they drove past a sign that said church, so they are expecting for you to open the Bible and read it. I think people want to know what God thinks about a whole host of things, money included.
Because very few people have strong financial knowledge. There are so many takes on it, ideas on what you should do, how to get out of debt, where you should invest that it becomes overwhelming and then people stick their head in the sand. Telling them what the Bible has to say is incredibly helpful and refreshing to them because it says more than “you should give to the church.”
People genuinely are interested in what the Bible has to say on money. Click To Tweet
As well, most couples are fighting over money. Most people are laying in bed at night stressing over money. Talking about it hits them where they live and answers some of their most burning questions.
You spend the majority of your time, at one place.
It isn’t your house (although it might be if you’re retired or a stay at home mom, but even if that’s you, this article will still apply), or a hobby or at Starbucks (unless you work there).
It is at your job.
We spend the majority of our lives, sitting at a desk, in a cubicle, listening to a boss that is not as smart as you. Dreaming about when the weekend will come, the next vacation will arrive or a promotion.
1. Focus. What is the first thing you do when you wake up? If you’re like most Americans, you reach for your phone and check Facebook, Instagram or your email. Make no mistake, what you fill your heart and mind with first thing in the morning, determines much of what your day becomes. What if, instead of your phone you grabbed your bible and prayed? Your life and day will change if instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, you prayed and said, “God, use me today, guide me, help me honor you in everything.”
2. Integrity. Be honest and trustworthy on the job. Be on time. Give a full day’s work. So many people rob their employer by being lazy, doing fantasy football, facebook and march madness at work. Go to work and work. Be that guy. If you want to stand out at work, have integrity, it will be rare. Integrity and dependability are one reason people get promoted or not, whether or not they can come through on a promise or assignment.
3. Skill. Get good at what you do. God has given you n the gifts, talents, and abilities you have. Take continuing education when you can, read books on your skills, listen to podcasts and read blogs. We honor God when we use the gifts and talents he’s given to us to their maximum potential. The ability to grow in your skills and talents are another reason we do or don’t see promotions in our lives.
4. Beauty. If you’re part of creating things, create beautiful things. Beauty is in things that are pleasing to the eye, things that taste good, things that work well. CPA’s know this feeling when an excel spreadsheet adds up. That’s beauty. A beautiful meal, clothes. Create great stories, works of art, movies or buildings when you build something.
5. Winsome. Be winsome is how you relate to others. Your speech to others should be kind and loving, and your countenance at work should be one of winsomeness, not being a jerk to those around you.
6. Money. Work is where you make (and spend) money. It is all God’s, not yours. Tim Keller said, “The way to serve God at work is to make as much money as you can so that you can be as generous as you can.” Turn your earning into the overflow of generosity in how you steward God’s money. Don’t work to earn to have. Work to earn to have to give and to invest in Christ-exalting ventures.
7. Thanks. Always give thanks to God for life and health and work and Jesus. Be a thankful person at work. Don’t be among the complainers. You have a job; you have the boss that God has given to you. Think about that one for a moment.
We look at people in our field of work, we look at other parents, other athletes and wish we had what they had. We want someone else’s career, their platform, notoriety, success.
But do we?
Why is that such a big deal?
The longer I think about this and talk to leaders who are frustrated with their lack of perceived success, and it really boils down to a question of contentment in calling.
Everywhere you look, you will see people more successful than you.
I don’t know. Sometimes it is talent; sometimes it is because that leader worked harder, sometimes it has nothing to do with that.
What we often miss though is the work they put in that we don’t see.
We don’t see the sacrifices, heartache, pain, relational or emotional or physical loss.
When a pastor sees a megachurch pastor speak at a conference, all they see is that pastor speaking. They don’t know the sacrifice that pastor made to lead, hone their speaking ability, or even God’s hand. They don’t see the sacrifice that pastor’s family has made all along the way.
We don’t see the scars, the online bashing they went through.
So we sit, longing for their platform, wishing for God to work in our life the way He has seemed to work in their life.
But it doesn’t.
We go back to our church, the one God has called us to be the pastor. We look out at 50, 200, 500 people that God has called us to love and we long for thousands.
And we’re bitter.
Our people feel it. Our leaders sense it.
And if leaders are not honest, our heart grows cold.
This frustration leads many leaders to burn out, to quit, to move to another church, to seek a more significant ministry. Why?
Not because God called them (although sometimes he does), but because they want to be known as more than they are.
I think a reason many leaders burnout is because they have picked up a calling that is not theirs.
It could be an associate pastor trying to be a lead pastor. A lead pastor of a church of 200 trying to be a lead pastor of 2,000; or a leader who is very strong in shepherding gifts trying to manufacture visionary or administrative gifts.
Left unchecked, this will not only destroy the leader but usually their ministry and family as well.
But the church, local and big C church miss out on who this leader is. We miss out on their calling and gifts.
This is why Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11 are so important: I have learned to be content.
It is essential to see what Paul says.
He once was not content, and he had to learn it.
Being content is something you’ll need to learn as a leader.
The desire for growth and effectiveness are not wrong or sinful. Desire in and of itself is not a sinful thing. It can be, but the desire is often where we find our calling.
But being content is something you will need to learn as a leader. Without it, many leadership missteps will take place. Many heartaches and sleepless nights await you. And, you will miss out on what God has for you and wants to do through you.
Here are a few ideas to keep in mind to recover from the sprint of leadership and life:
1. Admit you’re in a busy season. There seem to be two ideas about busy seasons: relish them and talk about how busy you are. Feel overwhelmed by it and play the victim. Yes, there are other ideas, but these two seem to be the most common.
Being busy is okay.
Say, “we’re busy.” You planned it or at least didn’t prevent it.
It’s okay because it won’t always be this way, but it is right now.
You also need to be aware of when your busy seasons happen. If you’re like most people and most jobs, you have a time of year that will naturally be busier than another.
2. Engage fully in that season. It can be tempting to throw in the towel during the busy season, during the leadership sprint. You might need to, and you need to be honest about that.
If you can stick it out, engage fully, throw everything you have at what you’re doing.
3. Plan a break. The mistake most leaders and people in our culture make is not the busy times, but what happens after them.
Take a look at your calendar and determine that you will stop at the end of this sprint and stop. I think leaders need to put breaks, time off, hours, days off on their calendar as much as other appointments.
4. Be intentional about that break. It’s not enough to plan a break; you have to take it and be intentional about it. Failure to do this is why our culture jokes about needed a vacation after a vacation.
What things can you do that will recharge you? Refresh you? What activities should you do or not do?
These are essential practices to put into place.
Doing these will not only help you to maximize the sprints in your life but also make sure you don’t get overwhelmed by them.
The problem in leadership circles is that when we talk about stretching ourselves, we simply focus on the people who stretched themselves, climbed the mountain and planted their flag. We don’t focus on the people all along the way who quit, got eaten up and spit out, weren’t as successful or simply didn’t make it.
I don’t know if it is wishful thinking, thinking it won’t happen to us, but many of us talk ourselves into believing we’ll be the one who makes it.
I remember right after we planted our church, I was at a conference and the speaker said, “God’s will for your life might be that you plant a church and it fails.”
God’s will for your life might be that you plant a church and it fails. Click To Tweet
I thought, “He’s clearly talking to the guy next to me, because that won’t happen.”
But what if it did?
There have been seasons, dark ones, that God has brought us through.
What if the best thing for you is to fail?
That isn’t very encouraging, but our response to failure is often what propels us forward to the next thing.
The promise of stretching is not success, it’s learning. It’s self-insight. It’s the promise of gleaning the answers to some of the most important and vexing questions of our lives: What do we want? What can we do? Who can we be? What can we endure?
Two very hard seasons of ministry led us to Tucson to plant a church, and those two years and God’s faithfulness through them is what kept us going many hard days.
If you are a leader, this has enormous implications on your life.
Your experiences aren’t wasted experiences. Your moments of failures, especially when you were so sure, are meant for something.
I often want to protect people I lead from failure. I want to step in and tell a younger leader, “I don’t think that’s a good idea” or, “You won’t make it.” But not anymore. It’s important for them to walk that road and for me to be there to help as I can.
As a parent, you can’t protect your kids from hard experiences. You aren’t necessarily meant to.
Stretching yourself is part of the journey, part of the learning. Part of what eventually helps you make an impact.
The longer I’m in leadership, the more I’m learning that thinking and making decisions constitute the majority of your time. You are constantly putting out fires, making choices, deciding what your church will or won’t do, what will get money, what will get time and effort, and what won’t.
In talking with older pastors or pastors of larger churches, the pastors who can think well do better.
Growing churches are often led by pastors who can make decisions better than others. Click To Tweet
1. Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life. And understanding them—or, often, deciphering them—is the key to understanding a problem and how it might be solved. A reason must be given for acting. Churches often fail at incentives. Pastors think people should do what they say in a sermon because it is in the Bible (and they should), but tell them why. Help everyone understand the incentive for doing it. This doesn’t mean giving them a health and wealth gospel, but there are blessings and benefits to following Jesus and taking God at his word.
2. Knowing what to measure and how to measure it can make a complicated world less so. Most decisions in a church are incorrect because they aren’t measuring the right thing or solving the actual problem. Make sure that you are measuring what needs to be measured. A helpful book on that is Innovating Discipleship: Four Paths to Real Discipleship Results by Will Mancini.
Leaders know what to measure and how to measure something. Click To Tweet
3. A growing body of research suggests that even the smartest people tend to seek out evidence that confirms what they already think, rather than new information that would give them a more robust view of reality. This is what the Heath brothers call the curse of knowledge, and many pastors and churches suffer from it. Often, to get the right answer or an answer that will help your church or life, you have to clear your mind of what you think is right. This can come from asking different questions, thinking about what someone else would do if they hadn’t started the ministry, program or church. New information is not always bad and can often lead to a better answer.
4. It has long been said that the three hardest words to say in the English language are I love you. We heartily disagree! For most people, it is much harder to say I don’t know. That’s a shame, for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to. Christians are terrible at saying, “I don’t know.” Leaders are just as bad at it. Yet, most of the time you don’t know. You don’t know what to say in a meeting, to a person you are counseling, or when you are sharing your faith. So say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” It’s okay to admit it. If you don’t know and then provide an answer, everyone will know that you don’t know and will lose respect for you.
5. Just because you’re great at something doesn’t mean you’re good at everything. The longer you are a leader, the more something you lead grows, the more people want your opinion on things, not just your area of expertise. Yet, you are an expert at something, not everything. I’m starting to learn the need to continue to specialize my knowledge and skills and stay focused on those areas where I add the most value and not get distracted.
Just because you’re great at something doesn’t mean you’re good at everything. Click To Tweet
6. Whatever problem you’re trying to solve, make sure you’re not just attacking the noisy part of the problem that happens to capture your attention. Find the root cause of a problem. Churches are filled with the squeaky wheel. The person who complains about everything or always says, “We need to have ___.” Or, “Why don’t we do ___?” “My last church did ___.” “My last pastor did ___.” This person is usually loud or has some influence, and so most churches acquiesce to them so they will be quiet. Yet, that doesn’t actually solve the problem. Starting a new ministry or program won’t always solve the problem. Why? Because the problem churches are solving is the squeaky wheel, not the need. For example, starting a men’s ministry will not solve the problem of men looking at porn. How do I know? Millions of men look at it and thousands of churches have men’s ministries.
In terms of making decisions and learning how to think through problems more fully, this is a great book. While not written by Christians, it was highly entertaining and incredibly insightful.
If you’re anything like me, you need to focus. There are times when you need to hunker down and get things done. Yet, your mind wanders. You daydream or think about what will happen later today or tomorrow. It could be a conversation, a meeting or a vacation you can’t wait to start.
Your lack of focus might come from no desire to do what you are doing, how hard something is or because you didn’t sleep well last night.
Many times the reason I am not able to focus well is because of the whirlwind around.
Focus comes from having “white space.” This is the place where you are able to shut down social media or email and think. To narrow down what matters the most right now.
I’ve heard John Maxwell say that leaders could stop doing 80% of what they’re doing and no one would notice. That feels high, but there is some merit to it.
Each day you must be able to say, “If I accomplish nothing else today, here’s what must get done.” That focus helps you to stay on track.
When you find your brain wandering, stand up, walk around, get some fresh air and then return to something.
Focus for Your Church or Organization
Focus doesn’t just matter for you personally, but it has enormous implications for your team and your church.
Many teams lack focus. They are stuck in a whirlwind of activity, simply doing the thing right in front of them. In a church, this is easy to do because worship services come around with such regularity (every seven days), so there is a deadline to that whirlwind.
For our team, just like in our family, we talk through what is most important for the next 2-6 months as a team. What are we all going to be working on and moving towards?
Why Focus Matters
Without focus, anything and everything is important.
This is where many churches and people get off track in their lives and ministries.
Focus says, this matters more than that.
That is hard to say, because it determines ahead of time what you will think about, work on, spend money on and give manpower to.
Whether you sit down and write this out or say it, you do this exercise each day.
The ones who accomplish things and see greater effectiveness are the ones who decide this instead of falling into it.
The days that I flop into bed with a feeling of “what did I really accomplish today” are the days I wasn’t focused and allowed my day to get away from me.
Amazingly, as you read through the gospels you see the incredible focus that Jesus had. He was fully present wherever he went. Whether he was teaching, healing, resting, praying or spending time with his disciples, he was focused on what he was doing. When you think about what he did, you also get a sense of the things he didn’t do. He made the choices we have to make each and everyday: what will get our time, energy and attention.
It might be a job, a church plant, a team, a diet or workout plan, a book, a degree program or even a difficult marriage.
Because we’re human, and when things get difficult, many of us want to pack up and go home.
But what if on the other side of that difficulty is what we have longed for all along?
I think many times when we quit, we miss out on what God has for us.
Why do we quit?
It is hard.
Ross Perot said:
Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.
I think what often sets people apart is their ability to persevere in something when it is difficult.
If you watch great athletes, the ones who win the gold medal, hold up the trophy or score the winning point, you will often see someone who was willing to live through pain, hardship, and difficulty. What you don’t see is the workout at 4am, the eating plan they put themselves through, the saying “no” to a night out with friends to get 10 hours of sleep. You don’t see the 1,000 jump shots they took each day, the miles they swam or ran, or the weights they lifted beyond what even they thought they could do.
When you see a couple in their 50s laughing together and genuinely enjoying each other’s presence, what you don’t see are the sleepless nights because they wouldn’t go to bed angry but instead worked through that argument. The tension of dealing with past hurt and past baggage and bringing it all to light so they could move forward. The hours spent holding hands and praying together about facing the road ahead. You don’t see the hundreds and thousands of compliments and little annoyances they decided to overlook instead of making a big deal about it.
What is on the other side of that difficulty or hardship? Very likely the breakthrough you’ve been waiting for.
Most leaders are tempted to quit moments before their critical breakthrough. – Carey Nieuwhof Click To Tweet
But how do you know? How do you know if you should quit or keep moving, especially in a job like leadership?
Here are some things that I ask myself or encourage others to ask themselves:
Am I getting enough sleep? Often, but not always, the reason we are in a difficult season or want to quit is related to our sleep. When we are tired, we make poor eating choices, cut things out of our life that could be beneficial, have a short fuse with people and have a fogginess when it comes to our choices and thinking. This is why we often make better decisions in the morning instead of later in the afternoon.
Do I have enough outlets for stress? Leaders need outlets for stress – things that recharge them and help them keep going. Those outlets, when used correctly, will often help you stay the course. Things like sleeping, sabbath, eating well, working out, community. All of these are incredibly important to staying the course.
What led up to this season or desire to quit? A desire to quit often comes when we don’t know what else to do, but looking backward can be a helpful thing. Was there a leadership choice, a hire, a new launch that led to this season? Sometimes, we want to quit because we are running from something and a new opportunity or throwing in the towel is easier. Whenever a pastor calls me and says he’s thinking about leaving his church, the first question I ask him is, “What about your church is difficult right now?” Often, we are running from difficulty.
What does my community look like? It is easier to throw in the towel when we’re alone. Most sin happens in isolation. Community has a way of shining the light into places it needs to be. Many leaders leave a place because of isolation and loneliness.
What is my relationship with God like? Lastly, what is your relationship with God like? Too many pastors fall into, “God told me to leave” because it is hard to argue with. God may have called you to leave, but He may be telling you to endure as well. I can tell you that one is easier.
Only you know if you should quit something. You know what led to that season and choice, but you don’t know what’s on the other side of it. There have been many times in my over 10 years in Tucson that leaving would’ve been the easier choice, but each time I’ve stopped to ask myself these questions and others, I’m glad I kept walking in what God called me.
Leadership is difficult. It can be hard to be a leader. Tiring, exhausting and exhilarating, all at the same time.
People often debate what makes a leader, what they do, and what you should look for in a leader.
There is one reality of leadership that I think often gets overlooked, and that is the role that a spouse plays for a leader.
Often the only time a conversation comes up about a pastor’s wife is when considering whether to hire a pastor (I think this is too narrow for leadership, as it only looks at a man as a leader). The question is often asked, “What should a pastor’s wife do in a church?”
The reality of leadership in a church is that your spouse is an extension of you, in good and bad ways.
If you and your spouse are at a meeting but you don’t get to talk with everyone, whoever has talked with your spouse feels connected and heard by you.
While the spouse of every leader is wired and gifted differently, one of the most important things a leader’s spouse brings is their presence.
This presence can be felt through actually being there, conversations, visibility, prayer or giving ideas and leadership to certain tasks or activities.
All of those things will come out of a spouse’s level of capability, life stage of kids, desire and passion, as well as capacity to do certain things.
These are important questions to ask and come back to on a regular basis.
Because of how relational leadership is, particularly in a church, this becomes all the more important.
This also, when done right, creates a lot of energy for the church and the leader and their spouse as they are working out of their unique wiring and bringing value to each other and the church.