13 things to do when your church is hurting financially

“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

A lot of things can happen when a church experiences a money crunch, most of them bad.

The finance committee can get upset, deacons can get angry, church members become scared, and staff members start honing their resumes and looking for a safe place to jump.  Nothing about this is good.

Can anything good come from a financial crisis? It depends on how you handle it. Read on.

Keep in mind that sometimes a financial crunch results from a too-aggressive program outstripping the resources. Perhaps the church has become too-invested in a project and the crisis sounds a wakeup call.

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20 practical tips for preachers about funerals

During seminary, my pastorate of 30 months experienced one death in the congregation. The husband of the deceased lady said, “Pastor, do you know where there is a cemetery around here?”  (We were in the bayou country southwest of New Orleans.) I told him, “I’ll find out.”

I called the pastor of the larger First Baptist Church of Luling, a few miles away.  Don Grafton said, “Joe, I’ve been here 11 years and haven’t had the first funeral.”

He had no idea how to find the nearest cemetery.

That is the exception, believe me. Six years later, when I became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Mississippi, if I remember correctly, we had seven funerals the first week or two.  It was like people had “saved up” their dying until the new pastor was on the field.

I’ve buried them of all ages and situations.  Once I did a double funeral for a 34-year-old man and his 64-year-old grandfather. Do the math real quick.  How is this possible?

The grandfather had died ten years earlier and no funeral had ever been held. They interred his ashes inside the grandson’s casket. (The 34-year-old had been killed with an axe and stored in the family’s freezer. Police arrested his wife’s lesbian lover. Both women are serving life terms in our state penitentiary.)

The hardest funerals are for precious little children.  Second most heart-breaking are for mothers who died giving birth.  Next are the young fathers who leave behind a stunned and grieving family.

Nothing about this is fun.  It all tears your heart out and shakes you to your core.

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The three days each week the pastor should turn off his computer

(This is for pastors on the subject of sermon preparation.)

The most vulnerable time for any sermon is in the couple of days prior to its delivery.

At those times, the pastor does not need to be getting criticism or additional input from helpers (like myself!) or further ideas from deep study.  This is when he needs to be putting the finishing touches on his message and getting it ready for delivery.

The first part of the week….

Early in the week–unless the pastor is such a rarity that almost none of this applies to him–he should have nailed down his subject and text for Sunday’s sermon. He should know the “one big idea” the Lord wants communicated. And he should have a general idea where he’s going with this sermon.

How did he get to this point?  By staying in the word day in and day out, and mapping out sermon ideas weeks in advance.  This way, he has known for at least a couple of weeks that next Sunday he would be preaching from this text on that subject.  This is not something he “thunk up” at the last minute. The message has been marinating over these days.

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The pastor’s biggest temptation

“Shepherd the flock of God among you…not for sordid gain, but with eagerness….” (I Peter 5:2).

“Will a man rob God?” (Malachi 3:8).   Of course, it happens all the time. For most, it happens when they keep for themselves God’s tithes and offerings. However, every year hundreds of pastors go to jail for embezzling God’s money from their churches.

How does this happen? How could a God-called pastor fleece God’s sheep?

Aside from the spiritual considerations, two large things keep me from stealing millions from my church: 1) I would not know how, or even where to begin, and 2) my church has structures in place to safeguard the Lord’s money. (My pastor will read this and think, “I can tell you another: We don’t have millions of dollars!” True enough. But that’s not the point. Smiley-face goes here.)

So how do people manage to pull off such grand thefts of God’s money?

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What one new pastor told his church

“(I ask) that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 17:21).

No one wants your church to be unified more than the Lord.

In fact, almost everything depends on unity.

On April 14, 2012, Pastor Charles McLain stood before his congregation, ready to lead his first monthly business session.

Before they got underway with reports and motions and votes, however, he had something to say which they needed to hear.  His little speech would affect the course of that church for years to come.

He wanted them to know how their business meetings were going to be conducted.

What follows is his written message just as he gave it (which he gave me, alongwith permission to share)….

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The pastor’s number one resource. It might surprise you.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

The greatest resource for anyone in the ministry–other than the obvious Resource of the Holy Spirit Himself, of course–is not the internet, not one’s seminary, and not the public library.  It’s not your denomination, and for those of us in the SBC, it’s not Lifeway Christian Resources.

Those are all good, and we recommend them highly. But they’re not the nearest and most reliable source of help for pastors.

It’s your brother.

The pastors in your area–shepherds of the Lord’s flocks just as you are–do the same work as you, struggle with the same issues, wrestle with the same temptations and enjoy the same rewards. You have more in common with the pastors in your town than with anyone else on the face of the earth.

And yet.

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Seven things the pastor cannot do from the pulpit

You can’t chew gum in the pulpit or bring your coffee in with you. You can’t preach in your pajamas or lead a worship service in your swimsuit.

But you knew that.

However, some pastors do things every bit as silly as this, and as counter-productive, we must say.

Now, in one sense, a pastor can do anything from the pulpit.  Once.

But we’re talking about things no right-thinking godly pastor should attempt to do from the Lord’s sacred place of leadership in His church.

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What the visiting preacher needs from the host pastor

(This is a companion to the article posted recently on “What the host pastor wants from the guest preacher.” As a retired pastor, I’m often on the receiving end of these invitations, so am well-acquainted with this subject.)

1) We need an invitation.  Can’t preach in your church without one! (Hey, we can’t afford to be too subtle for some in the audience!  Smiley-face goes here.)

2) We would like to know as much information as the host pastor thinks is necessary, but no more.

The main thing I want to know is whether I’m simply “filling the pulpit” for the absentee preacher or if my presence is part of a special emphasis.

3) Personally, I’d rather not know about the internal workings of the church.

As a rule, it is counter-productive to tell the visiting preacher the status of the church health or whether the pastor is “under the gun.” Let the Holy Spirit use the guest to preach the word and let the chips fall where they may. It’s fascinating how He chooses to address these very issues, but without the guest preacher having a clue as to what the situation was. This also provides some protection for the host pastor when upset members ask whether he ratted them out to the preacher.

4) If there are any negatives associated with the invitation, tell me.

Some tell me they can only pay a certain amount, often less than the mileage. If I can accept, I will.

When they ask what I charge, I assure them that this is a matter between them and the Lord. Most churches take care of travel expenses and an honorarium.

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What the host pastor wants from the guest preacher

You’re either retired (my situation) and accepting as many invites as possible, or you are a preacher in search of a pastorate or a denominational servant, or something else entirely. From time to time you get called upon to visit a church and preach a sermon or two. You want to do this right and make a positive contribution to the health of the church.  You want to bless the Lord, honor the host pastor, draw some people to Jesus, and if possible, avoid embarrassing your mother and dad.

Here are a few suggestions on how to do this.

1. Be prompt.

Don’t make the pastor worry you’re not going to show up.

2. Ask questions of anything you are unclear on.

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Why preachers are the way they are; thank God.

(Do not miss the personal testimony of a pastor friend at the end of this piece.)


In my case, by the time we laid my wonderful mama to rest, I was in my early 70s and she was nearly 96. She was so ready to go. If it’s possible to be ready to give one’s beloved mother back to Jesus, we were. And yes, we still miss her every day, and it’s been almost two years.

But there’s another reason for the lack of tears.  Starting early–my mid-20s–I began doing heart-breaking funerals, one after another, the kind that will tear your heart out and stomp that sucker. Do enough of these, and after a while you run out of tears.

It’s not that you do not care, do not love, or cannot feel. It’s just that you care and love and feel without tears.

Furthermore, by this time, the preacher has come to terms with the message of Christ and has settled once and for all that this is true, this is what I believe, and I commit my entire life to it.

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