The Church & Money: It’s OK to Talk About Money

The Church & Money: It’s OK to Talk About Money

August 21, 2017 by

Ever have one of those moments when you learn something that’s so completely contrary to one of your firmly held opinions that you find yourself opening and then closing your mouth, over and over again, all goldfish-like?

I had one of those moments fairly recently, and I wonder if it’ll do the same thing to you. You ready? Here goes:

These days, “They’re just after my money” is no longer one of the the major reasons people avoid church.

In the 1980s, money was most definitely a detractor for people—in part because of some deplorable behavior by a handful of preachers with high visibility (and gobs of mascara, you may recall). Back then, Rick Warren found “the topic of money was one of the four primary complaints that unchurched people had about churches,” as Tony Morgan explains.

Let’s stop avoiding money and just start explaining it.

But here’s the reality: Although there are still some people criticizing the church’s connection to money, that’s just not among our most significant public relations problems. (For those who are curious, you’ll find our six biggies here.)

So, why does the church continue to hedge when it comes to money? I guess it’s residual fear: We’re still afraid of putting people off—particularly new folks.

Of course, being aware of stuff in the church that might put people off is a good, good thing. But in our attempts to show we’re not just about money, we sort of act like we’re not at all about money. And the truth is, we have to be at least a little about money. Right?

Guests and the Offering Moment

Churches that collect an offering during their worship gatherings seem to take one of two approaches:

  1. Say nothing about money, other than “ushers please come forward.” By practically ignoring the offering moment entirely, we miss an opportunity to inspire generosity in our regular attendees, and we leave guests in the dark about what’s happening. “Why are they passing bags? Why are people putting money in them? Where does the money go? Why do they need it? Am I supposed to pay to be here?” (That last question isn’t made-up, you guys. I’ve had multiple people ask me how much it costs to attend a worship service.)
  2. Trip over themselves to excuse new folks from participating: “This part of our service is for those who call First Church their home. If you’re a guest, your presence is your gift today.” Although well-intentioned, this sort of language can be confusing to regular attendees who aren’t yet members. “Am I still a guest? Should I not give?” More importantly, there’s a theological issue here. If we truly believe God honors financial generosity, why would we discourage anyone from participating in the offering?

So, What’s the Answer?

As with most things in church communication, when it comes to the the topic of money there are few “wrongs” and lots of different versions of “right.” The good news is we can stop trying to dodge the money bullet because it’s not being fired as often. So, rather than trying to avoid talking about money at all—in an attempt to avoid scaring away our guests—let’s explain about money—in an attempt to draw them in.

For instance, here’s how you might talk about the offering:

This is the time in our worship gathering when folks practice generosity. If you’re kind of new around here, you may have some questions about why people give money to church and what it’s used for. We’d be happy to talk with you about that in depth, but for now, just know that the money people give to our church supports our ministry here in this building and in our local community. In fact, last week we were able to help a single dad get some car repairs done because folks here choose to share their resources. Please know you’re welcome to join in.

Of course, talking about money isn’t limited to the offering moment during a worship gathering. In fact, there are real opportunities to help with financial education throughout the week. Lots of people are saddled with credit card debt and don’t have savings to carry them through emergencies. Your church can talk about money without being awkward and actually help people (what a concept):

  • Free your pastor to preach about money. And not just tithing or “give us your money,” but how we’re supposed to think about money as kingdom people.
  • Offer classes on money management. Help people understand the danger of debt and the value of savings.
  • Talk about generosity. We should be generous people, with our money, with our time, with our lives (and not just to the church).

For those of us who’ve been in church world a long, long time, money may still be an uncomfortable topic. But new folks don’t carry that kind of baggage—at least not at the top of the list. So, let’s stop avoiding it and just start explaining it.

More:

This month on Courageous Storytellers, we have all sorts of resources designed to help you be bold in your conversations about money. Memberships are just $29 per month. Try it out today!

Post By:

Kelley Hartnett


Kelley Hartnett spent a decade working in established churches and helping to launch new ones. Currently, she’s focused on writing, volunteering for organizations that care for vulnerable populations and making progress on her journey toward minimalism. Kelley is also the membership director for our Courageous Storytellers Membership Site.
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