Preparation for ministry takes many forms in the church today. Our pastors come from district training centers, college and university degree programs, seminary, and other graduate programs.
We desire and believe it is necessary that we have authentically “educated” pastors— women and men who have participated in a vigorous effort to study the Scriptures, to comprehend our theological beliefs, and to have a working knowledge of the necessities of pastoral care.
In all of the avenues of preparation for ministry, we seek to deepen the spiritual life of the candidates, helping them become genuine disciples of Jesus Christ: shaped by Him, filled with His Spirit, living transparently holy lives, and leading people into a transforming encounter with Christ.
We want to lead people into the Church of Jesus Christ. We want them to become actively engaged in the fellowship of the gospel, worshipping, serving, and evangelizing those they encounter in their everyday living.
Creating a healthy congregational life is one of the primary objectives of every pastor. Believers are not intended to live in isolation from everyone else. We are called to become a part of the Church, the body of Christ. As Paul said to the Corinthians, we are “members of one another” (1 Corinthians 12:12–27; Philippians 2:1–4).
One of the duties of those who are ordained is “to order the life of the congregation.” That does not mean that the ordained minister is the “boss” of the people. It means that the minister, especially the pastor, is charged with the responsibility to see to the orderly functioning of the local church (1 Corinthians 14:33).
One part of that responsibility, among all the others, is to see to the proper management of the finances of the local church. Every congregation depends on its people to financially support the church to the best of their ability. However, that is not an easy thing to do.
No course in theology includes training in the ability to read a nancial spreadsheet. Yet, at some level, every pastor must become competent enough in that arena of responsibility to function adequately.
The pastor has a responsibility to see that the church is being a good steward of the resources entrusted to the congregation through the faithful giving of the people of the church (including the faithful giving of tithes and o erings by the pastor). It is necessary to oversee a budget and develop a plan for the proper allocation of resources to meet the nancial obligations of the congregation and to develop a plan for ministry utilizing those resources.
Many pastors come to the assignment with little or no experience in leading a complex organization like the church. The majority of the leaders and workers in a congregation are volunteers, elected by the congregation to various leadership responsibilities. Some of them may well be adept at nancial management and can be a great resource to help the pastor monitor the nancial health of the congregation.
In many cases, the pastor must learn financial principles, including how to read spreadsheets, in order to assist church leaders in developing and following a budget. A pastor is expected to lead the congregation in developing a strong sense of what it means to be a steward—to hold in trust the resources provided the church by its people.
There are a variety of resources available to assist pastors in developing these skills. Capable business leaders who are part of the local church are often more than willing to assist. No pastor should be too proud to ask for this assistance. If a pastor is willing, there are often local community colleges that offer courses in accounting. There are church accounting software programs that are available as well.
The Center for Pastoral Leadership is a resource available for pastors for continuing education, ministry enrichment, and a variety of webinars, conferences, and other events. One of the recent resources is an audiovisual program for pastors and local lay leaders called, “Let’s Talk about Church Finances,” which is a conversation between Dr. Bill Kirkemo and me addressing this vital aspect of pastoral leadership. There are two videos. One is designed for the pastor, giving some basic but helpful information about leading the church in addressing stewardship and finances in the local church and in the pastor’s personal life. The second video is designed for use with the local church board. It addresses basic ideas for how the church board should manage the nancial resources of the church for the benefit of the mission of God.
This resource provides a way pastors can nd help in developing a basic understanding of church nance. It is offered to the church with the prayer that this responsibility will be managed with care, integrity, and transparency. Preparation for ministry is complex. It is obvious that no degree or diploma will ever mark the end of our study. Lifelong learning is not just a duty; it is an absolute necessity in our ever-changing world and in the varied and complex work of the ministry.
Our theology of holiness is not separate from the issue of reading financial spreadsheets. In whatever the area of ministry we are working, we are called to exhibit the highest degree of integrity. In the fulfillment of our call to this work, we continue to sharpen our skills, expand our capabilities, and lead our people with grace and grit. We call that stewardship!