Why Pastors Neglect Stewardship

Why Pastors Neglect Stewardship

I sometimes marvel that raising funds to fuel ministry gets so little attention from most pastors in America. 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. I will not operate there if I do not feel properly trained in an area. In my theological training, I never once remember stewardship being discussed, much less offered as a class.

The book Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money gives extensive documentation on the lack of training by clergy. They say, “Clergy discomfort with talking about and training for handling money is a well-established fact. One national survey of clergy, for instance, showed 77 percent of U.S. clergy are extremely satisfied with their seminary training on theological and liturgical issues, but a mere 7 percent are similarly satisfied with their seminary training on financial duties.” To compound this problem is the lack of continuing education pastors commit to after their formal training. Again, the authors of Passing the Plate, quote a study of pastors that found, “when asked about their level or interest in taking continuing education courses on various subjects, courses on finances ranked the lowest in clergy interests among all continuing education possibilities.” 1.

I find that last quote amazing. As pastors, we admit we have not been trained effectively in this key area, yet there is little interest in correcting this lack of training. There are multiple books, seminars, and firms to help pastors educate themselves in this area. The sad reality is that too few are taking advantage of this. Why? The next two reasons for neglect, I feel, answer this question.

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

Another quote from Passing the Plate highlights this view. The authors quote Loren Mead, a clergyman and church management consultant. He states, “Some pastors make a virtue of being “above” all that concern for filthy lucre…Under the rubric that money is “secular” and that the pastor’s work has to do with the “sacred,” clergy have written a brief that permits them to avoid leadership in the financial management and leadership of the congregation. They have accepted a functioning job description that excludes any concern for what I contend is one of the dominant spiritual issues every parishioner has: how to deal with material resources. This means that clergy not only give little leadership to the financial life of a congregation but also set up a climate that sets little value on the functions of financial management carried out by others…It means pastoral abdication of one of the most troubling dimensions of living in our society.”2

Have you abdicated your role as the leader of your church in this area? If so, you will never be able to see your giving increase. Nor will you ever be able to help your congregation get a grip on how they handle their finances in our money-crazed world.

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. I might tell my wife I love her, but she will doubt my love if I never spend time with her. Similarly, you can say you see the necessity of being involved in stewardship, but if it never gets your time or attention, you are only fooling yourself.

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 they will rub some wrong. They find that they cannot, with boldness, take a stand, so they ignore the issue altogether. 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 church’s stewardship. Without a doubt, however, the facts are that pastors all too often ignore this important area. One area where this shows up most is 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. Dean Hodge, in 1993, conducted a study of church giving among several major denominations. They found that most 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.”3

I contend that the pastor is the key to raising funds in a church. In their book, Go Big, Bill Easum and Bil Cornelius write, “Don’t delegate raising money to someone else. Others can help, but the lead pastor is the primary fund-raiser.”4 They conclude their chapter on giving by saying, “Never shy away from asking for money because you are asking for the greatest mission in the world – God’s mission to save creation. You should never be embarrassed. The one who should be embarrassed is the one who refuses to give! As a leader, if you allow finances to hold your church back from reaching your community, then you just allowed finances to become your God.”5

Pastor, your vision is too important not to be fully funded. So, don’t neglect stewardship!

1. Smith, C. and Emerson, M. Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money (New York, NY: Oxford Press) 72.
2. Ibid., p. 74.
3. Ibid., p. 83.
4. Easum, B. and Cornelius, B. (2006). Go Big (Nashville, TN: Abington Press) 107.
5. Ibid., p. 116.

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