Why Do Pastors So Often Neglect Stewardship?

Why Do Pastors So Often Neglect Stewardship?

“That is the first sermon on giving I have heard in twelve years!” Those were the words of a deacon at a church where I was asked to preach. After twelve years of ministry, their pastor had just left to start a mission. Apparently, the last pastor, although greatly loved, never preached one sermon on stewardship in his entire tenure! No wonder the church’s giving was declining.

Why do pastors so often neglect stewardship? In my experience, there are several reasons for this. The following list impacts many pastors, keeping them from fully developing a culture of stewardship at their churches. See which you are prone to be guilty of.

Many do not feel adequately trained. Our Christian institutions of learning have done a disservice to our leaders by not training them in this crucial field. Nearly everything a minister learns about stewardship he learned outside of the classroom. If I do not feel properly trained in an area, I will not operate in that area. In my own theological training, I never once remember stewardship being discussed, much less offered as a class.

My experience is much the same. In college, I majored in religion. After college, I went to Southwestern Seminary and received a Master’s in Divinity. I started working on a Doctor of Ministry twice, only to drop out halfway through. All my degrees and further studies were in theology. While in college, I had to take other classes to round out my education. I remember nothing that really prepared me for handling money or finances.

Some pastors are not convinced it is biblically their role. We have been so conditioned by lay people that we ministers are not supposed to know anything about the church’s finances; we incorrectly assume that is biblical. You can search the Scriptures, but you will not find a verse that prohibits leaders from taking an active role in stewardship. Christian ministries whose leaders are active in stewardship raise more funds and, in the end, do more for the Kingdom.

Some do not see the necessity. Despite numerous studies that show the importance of the leader being involved in stewardship, many do not think it is necessary. As a result, their ministry struggles to achieve the dreams they have been given or, more likely, don’t have any vision for the future at all. I find that most pastors give lip service to the importance of stewardship, but it is far down their list of necessary tasks. We can always tell what we value and think is important by how much time we give to something.

It’s unpopular, and we like to be liked. No preacher wants to hear, “All you ever talk about at church is money.” I think the bottom line is that we like being liked and don’t want to do anything that will cause the above statement to be reinforced. So, we go out of our way, not to mention money. Could it be that people do not like us to talk about money because they have such a problem handling it correctly? Could it be that by not talking about money, we are giving them a pass on an area of disobedience in their lives?

It often makes the leader uncomfortable. Closely similar to the above point, I find that many don’t like to talk about stewardship because it makes them uncomfortable. They struggle to deal with difficult topics knowing it will rub some wrong. They find they cannot take a stand boldly, so they ignore the issue. It is just easier to teach about the love of God rather than some subject that many find hard to listen to.

There might be a host of other reasons why pastors do not talk about money or involve themselves in the stewardship of the church. Without a doubt, however, the facts are that pastors all too often ignore this important area.

One area where this shows up most is in the infrequency of sermons on giving. Studies have shown that the frequency of sermons or teaching on stewardship in churches is far less than people think. In 1993, Dean Hodge conducted a study of church giving among several major denominations. They found that the majority of churches reported emphasizing stewardship “only occasionally.” The authors of Passing the Plate quote a study by Robert Wuthnow that found only 32 percent of American church members reported that they had heard a sermon on the relationship between faith and personal finances in that previous year. Wuthnow concluded, “clergy often tiptoe around the topic of money as if they were taking a walk through a minefield.” 1

It is almost as if many pastors view money as an unnecessary evil. They know their ministries need to be financed. They know that they will be limited in what they can do without funding. However, because it is something they don’t feel comfortable in, they push it to the back burner, relegate it to someone else, or worse, ignore it completely.

Whatever the reasons might be for your lack of training or experience with money, it is imperative that pastors get connected to their role in stewardship. Without pastoral involvement, a church will not raise the funds they need to fuel ministry.

This is the driving force behind the Stewardship Journal, to give you the tools and resources you need to build a culture of generosity built on the biblical principles of stewardship.

  1. Christian Smith and Michael Emerson, Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money (New York, NY: Oxford Press) 83.

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