Trust and Transparency

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

When we think about money matters in our congregations, trust and transparency are often a part of our stewardship that could use some attention. Marie Cross in her book, The Price of Faith talks about the power of money in our society. It is a means of exchange for work done and for the necessities of life. It has value, and we trust that our money will hold its value over time so that our earning, spending, and saving will in some way provide for tomorrow and for the rest of our life.

As Christians, value and worth are not to be decided by monetary measures but by faith in God’s purpose for our world and the ultimate goodness of creation. As we live in the world and depend on money for life and livelihood and the ministries we are called to do, we need to put money into the context of faith. The decisions we make in how we
use money must connect with the convictions and statements of faith we make. Our budgets should reflect expressions of our faith.

What or whom we trust not only affects daily living but also determines what we expect of the future. We begin to imagine the world as it might be. It is also the case that what we hope for the future impacts the way we live in the present. If “God’s economy,” in which everyone is worthy and everyone has enough, is what we imagine for the future,
then we will find ways to bring that world about if only in small ways. The future as God has promised, therefore, is not something for which we idly wait, rather, what we work toward now. We can trust in God to fulfill the promises that were made for us.

Along with this understanding of trust as we consider our congregation’s finances is a willingness to talk about money. Instead of addressing this topic in the church, we allow money to hold our ministries hostage. Money can easily take on an unhealthy measure of power. However, by talking about money and speaking clearly about its control on
our lives, we can begin to put things back into perspective. Kristine Miller and Scott McKenzie suggest that having conversations centered on money and our relationships with money can be healthy in our congregations. Begin by encouraging your session to discuss a series of questions regarding their attitudes and responses to money. At first,
you may experience long pauses and uncomfortable silences but eventually the ice will break and you will be amazed at the conversation that emerges.

Often these questions will open up incredibly honest and heartfelt sharing by people who feel trapped by debt and guilt over their low-level giving. Anger, tears, and laughter help bond people together over the common challenges they face in regard to money and diffuse money’s power and control over them.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Growing up, did you feel wealthy or poor? What was your family’s attitude toward money? Did you worry about money?
  • Do you feel money has power? Why? Why not?
  • Do you believe your relationship with God is influenced by how much stuff you have?
  • Has your self-esteem changed as your income has changed? How much does your income determine how you feel about yourself?
  • Do you know others for whom money or income determines their sense of self worth? How much does your personal self-worth depend on your income? How much does your personal self-worth depend on how much you give away?
  • When and how were you introduced to the idea of giving to the church? Who taught you about it, and what did they say? What did you think about it?
  • When was the first time you were asked (or expected) to make a charitable gift? How much did you give? What is your first memory of deciding to make a charitable gift, spontaneously and voluntarily? What inspired you to make the gift?
  • How do you feel about your current level of charitable giving? How does it reflect your personal priorities?

By inviting more honest, open, and transparent conversations about money, your congregation will diffuse the power that money can have, and it will enable you to grow spiritually in a closer relationship to God.

Deborah Rexrode
Associate for Stewardship

*Excerpts from The Price of Faith: Exploring Our Choices about Money and Wealth by
Marie T. Cross and Bounty: Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church by Kristine
Miller and Scott McKenzie.

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