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Talking about money can be as hazardous as using a chain saw—and just as dangerous. Often people like to talk about money anywhere but in the church. You spend six weeks preaching about wise stewardship and most of the time, your congregation will either have the look of a deer in headlights or look like they’ve just overdosed on cold medicine.

Hurdling over the money barrier is necessary to a whole‑life ministry. You can talk about money. But what you say and how you say it will often make a difference in red or black numbers on the treasurer’s financial statement—and sometimes in the tenure of your ministry.

Giving is not just about receipts; it is about reactions to the mission of your church.

The first thing to consider is that talking about money isn’t just talking about money.  Giving is not just about receipts; it is about reactions to the mission of your church or organization. You must be clear about the fact that money is simply a tool for ministry. It is a vital part of your church’s mission. You will do a disservice to your people when you talk more about finances than mission.

Some of you are facing ministry challenges right now. You need more money, more volunteers—more people to step up with their time, talent, and treasure. What you need is a spirit of giving. That’s what happens when a congregation becomes a giving church.

Granted, money is one of the subjects every preacher tiptoes around. It seems there’s no way to win.  When you ignore it, people conclude that stewardship is unimportant. When you preach or teach about it, you hear the age‑old complaint: “All the church wants is my money!"

Here are some tips for talking about finances that leave people happy to give. 

Don’t be Afraid of It
Speaking about finances can be intimidating for a pastor. After all, we’re preachers, not pundits.  If we were financial wizards, we’d be on Wall Street, not in the pulpit.  But the Bible talks about money a lot. It was one of Jesus’ favorite subjects, and both Peter and Paul had words for believers on this topic. The man or woman of God has full authority to speak about finances from a biblical and spiritual perspective. You need not be a certified financial planner to teach stewardship. If we’re silent on this important subject, we validate the selfish use of money that pervades our culture. Teach tithing!

Connect It to Ministry
God wants more than our money (it’s really His anyway). He wants our whole life. Help your people see that giving money is only one‑third of the stewardship equation. Time and talent make up the rest.  Checkbook charity is not biblical. Every Christian needs to exercise his or her spiritual gift(s) along with donating money. Teach a balanced view of stewardship.

Teach Opportunity over Obligation
Some Christians think of giving to God’s work as an obligation—something we’re stuck with. How sad! Contributing to its mission is one of the greatest privileges of being in the church.  Saint Augustine said, “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure. Where your treasure is, there is your heart. Where your heart is, there is your happiness.”

Giving toward the church’s worldwide ministry can be a great motivator. Your stewardship message may include something like this: “God is moving on the mission field. The overseas church is adding thousands of new believers each day. We’re a vital part of that when we support missionaries!”

There are tremendous needs in your community. Typing the opportunity of giving to a local need may also be a great motivator. Ask, “How many unchurched families living within five miles of our church? How many children? Think of the possibilities! What might God do if we would be willing to give our time, talent, and treasure to meet the needs of people in our local community?”

You must emphasize that tithing is an opportunity to see God work, never an obligation.

The pastor’s voice should not be the only one heard on the subject of money.

Let Others Speak
The pastor’s voice should not be the only one heard on the subject of money. In fact, the more people who are involved in the teaching, the more effective it will be.

Invite individuals or families who tithe to share their testimonies. You’ll be amazed to hear how God has blesses them through this simple act of faith—and so will your people! Real stories will inspire real people to trust God by tithing.

Invite a Christian accountant or financial planner to speak about stewardship. Working in the business world gives such a person a unique perspective. He or she will draw a sharp contrast between the greedy attitude of the world and the contented attitude of the Christian regarding money. This “professional opinion” will add weight to your teaching.

Model Your Teaching
A word of caution:  Don’t teach tithing if you don’t tithe. You must be prepared to practice what you preach on this issue. Money and sex are the two areas where the world most hates hypocrisy. Model your financial teaching in your own life. You may want to be the very first person to put a check or tithing envelope in the offering plate during the worship service.

Show the congregation that church finances are handled according to biblical principles.  Pay your denominational assessment in full and on time. Place Kingdom needs before congregational comfort. And treat the church’s income like what it is: God’s money on loan to God’s people for doing His work. 

Did you pay off the mortgage? Have a party!

Celebrate Success
Did you pay off the mortgage?  Have a party!  Did you reach your annual goal for missions giving?  Let people know! When your church reaches a financial milestone, no matter how small, call attention to it. You will reinforce the truth of your teaching. Handling money God’s way really works.

Play the Faith Card
The use of money is a spiritual indicator. Make sure your people understand that.  Hoarding money shows that we don’t trust God. Wasting money shows that we don’t respect Him. Greed, covetousness, materialism, miserliness, stinginess—these are behaviors that offer a window into the soul.

Connecting successful projects to faithful giving is an important lesson in stewardship.  “This new building (or carpet, or van, or remodeling project) is an example of your faithfulness in giving your time, talent, and treasure to the Lord.  God helped us do this because you were obedient in giving.”

Help your people make the connection between the heart and the bank statement. Jesus did. 

STAN TOLER serves as the 39th general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene


Reprint from “Stan Toler’s Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry,” published by Wesleyan Publishing House.