When I first met my husband he was a full time College/Career pastor making $400 a month. By the time we’d gotten engaged he was making $600 a month. Just before we got married he got a raise and was making $800 a month. Thus was my introduction to life as a pastor’s wife.
Fast forward 10 years. We’d just planted a new church without any financial support from a denominational or church planting organization. In order to pay our rent and utilities for our house, make a tiny car payment, and put food on the table my husband worked three part-time jobs. The church was barely bringing in enough each month to cover the rent and utilities on our church space so taking a salary was out of the question. I worked at a local Christian school in order for our three children to get a good education, have family medical insurance, and to contribute to our financial needs.
As the church grew so did my husband’s responsibilities. He finally was able to take a small salary and quit two of his part-time jobs. He still moonlighted as an IT guy for several local businesses for pay and for barter. When enough tithes came in, and our church bills were paid, my husband got a paycheck. Many, many weeks he took no salary or a reduced salary. This was the pattern of our lives for several years.
Our experience in ministry during those lean years is not unique. We hear from many pastors of small-to-medium sized churches facing the same struggles today. When money doesn’t come in bills are juggled, staff isn’t paid, and life in ministry is tough. Very tough.
When my husband was hired at a mega-church we discovered that financial struggles didn’t end, in fact, they were magnified. Giant churches have giant programs with large staffs to meet the needs of the thousands of attendees. One of my husband’s duties as a pastor on the Executive Team was to make sure the departments under his area of responsibility stayed within their respective budgets. When tithes were down and times got lean he had to make the hard decisions and cut staff and programs. All were unpopular decisions made necessary by financial shortfalls.
Why do I share this with you? Because we can care for our pastor(s) by supporting our churches financially. When money (read that tithes and offerings) come in our churches can carry on the daily duties of serving us, our families, our communities, and the world. The size of the congregation doesn’t matter. The church depends on its people to cover all of the expenses of rent or mortgage payments, the utility bills to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and salaries for the pastoral team and support staff. That’s reality!
Supporting our churches financially isn’t just about paying all the bills though; it is to bless us as well. When we support our churches we are supporting all of the ways that they reach into the community. It isn’t easy to physically minister to the soul needs of a 3-year-old, a homeless vet, a recovering alcoholic, and a refugee on the other side of the world, but through our financial support our church is doing all of those things on our behalf and more! We become part of the larger community of the family of God.
Also, just so you know, worries over finances, budgets, layoffs and hiring freezes are a difficult reality for most pastors and churches and are a large contributing factor towards stress and, sadly, burnout. “Just trust the Lord, He will provide.” some might say. Okaaaaaaay. However, the Lord, for some crazy reason, likes to work through His people to accomplish His will on the earth. One of those ways is through financially giving to the work of the church. In other words, we are to take some of God’s money and give it to the church, to other organizations where the Lord leads, and keep some for ourselves, because it pleases God! But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say about giving:
Let everyone give as his heart tells him, neither grudgingly nor under compulsion, for God loves the man who gives cheerfully. After all, God can give you everything that you need, so that you may always have sufficient both for yourselves and for giving away to other people. As the scripture says: “He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever.” 2 Corinthians 9:7-9
I think that pretty much sums it up, don’t you?