Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Church and Budgets

I have been at being a pastor for some time now; when I say that I feel old. And yet, I do have some experience at this church “business”. I have served many different churches: rural, suburban, urban; small, large, in-between. And, they all have their gifts and their problems. The church is, after all, made up of people just like me. As I heard someone say years ago, if I went to a perfect church, it would no longer be perfect. Every church that I have served, and I would say it’s true of others as well, has had anxiety about money. Maybe that’s because every person I know has some anxiety about money. Some people are really good at managing and handling money. They work hard. They save. They give. They do everything right when it comes to money. And, they are very impatient when others don’t seem to understand the importance of this. With these friends, it is a matter of integrity and honesty. You manage what you make and you are a good steward of the gifts that you have. Others, who are also friends, don’t do so well with money management. They, too, work hard and do their best, but circumstances have made it difficult to give and save as much as they would like to. They always seem to be behind. They get it done but not without some wrangling. The third group is in the middle. They appreciate and live by principles on both sides of money. Now, in our culture anxiety about money may have to do with the notion that the amount of money that you have in our culture means how important you are. But, more than that, I think that most of us are anxious about it because there never seems to be enough of it. In my experience, the churches who have enough money are not growing or changing or doing anything enough. Our job is not to make the church in to a bank. In fact, if we end up with money in the bank at the end of the year, it’s probably not a Christian thing. I know that we have to have some money left over to begin the year. But, what if we didn’t? Would we truly live on faith then? Where would the money come from? Or, would we have to close down. A couple of churches that I served built much-needed buildings and therefore went into debt. I knew that when we started living in the new space and the mortgage started coming due every month that the anxiety level would increase. Boy did it! No one can fully anticipate what is going to happen and how much it’s going to cost to take care of it all. Older churches are faced with the increasing costs of maintaining buildings that have often gone without repair over the years. Staff costs increasingly more. And, you can’t do church, not these days, without adequate facilities and adequate staff. Both are resources that are invaluable- priceless. So a group of diverse people, some of whom know each other well, many of whom do not know each other, join together because they are followers of Jesus Christ. And, they put together every year a budget/goal for mission and ministry and set out to give the money and resources to make it happen. We have just come through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Many were displaced, lost their jobs, or had to move to find another job. All were scared and are still scared that one day they will wake up and not have a job. We felt and feel that anxiety in church. But still, every year, in faith, we trust God and each other and we set another goal. We live within what is given, but we keep our goal high. If we lower our goals we lower our vision. It’s miraculous, when you consider it, that we are able to do the kind of church that we do and that we are able to continue, by God’s Grace, to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We are accountable for what we receive and give; but we are bound to the will of God in Jesus Christ for us. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Comments on Lectionary - Sept. 1

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