July 23, 2014—As we try to manage both the flow of money into and out of our churches and our lives, and also our own relationship with that flow, there is a way forward. It isn’t always an easy way. But it is possible to have greater freedom in regard to money and in our relationships with each other about money, to have fewer sleepless nights and wrangling meetings.
We can begin by holding all that we have lightly, accepting the flow. We don’t clasp our hands tightly—whether around our “own” possessions and money, or the building and resources of the congregation or the wider church of which we are a part. Most of us need a lifetime to work on moving toward greater freedom in relation to money and things and the choices we make about them. But we can take a first step from where we are, and begin with what we have been given.
Viewing money through the lens of family systems thinking can help us with the endless conversations about money at church. A way of thinking about life that addresses relationships, as family systems theory does, is right on target for us in the church. Money itself is about relationships. If we didn’t need to relate to each other, we wouldn’t have money. One of the things money symbolizes, for better and for worse, is human connection.
Using this perspective, we can understand why those money conversations so often go wrong, and how to do better with them. We can see why and how money becomes an automatic focus for our anxiety and that of others. Those fights about money are not “about” money at all, but about position and power and history and relationships. How do we do better with it?
Here are seven questions to begin to consider your relationship to money:
1. How would you describe your relationship with money?
2. What is your current biggest challenge in regard to money?
3. What do you want for yourself in this relationship with money?
4. What is enough for you? For your church?
5. What are some ways money might be a blessing?
6. Is there something in regard to money you would like to let go of?
7. How does your faith affect your money?
(Passages adapted from Margaret J. Marcuson, Money and Your Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance)
Margaret Marcuson is also the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry. She is a speaker, writer, and mentor on church leadership, and works across denominations and around North America as consultant and coach on church leadership and money matters. She served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gardner, Massachusetts for thirteen years. She now lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit her blog here.
Marcuson co-taught the online course Money and Your Ministry with Israel Galindo, offered by the Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary, October 6–31, 2014.