Few (if any) clergy received even the tiniest amount real-life practical education about church finances while in seminary. I know I did not. The field education experience does not count, because we wanted to preach and participate, not go to meetings and decipher church finances. Quite an oversight, don’t you think? Here’s a chance at redemption: seven books every clergy person should read about money.
Because the concept of “stewardship” as a whole is far broader than only money and finances, I have called this list “books about church and money” because clergy need help on this very topic. These books truly will fill in the gaps in our church finance education, what we failed to receive in seminary. They will provide also us with a biblical and practical basis for us to lead in the matter of church finances with knowledge and integrity. May you and your ministry be blessed by reading, reflecting and applying the wisdom found in these writings.
Ask, Thank, Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation, by Charles R. Lane. This book, along with the Jamieson’s Ministry and Money, and Henri Nouwen’s little book (see next title), should be the three primary textbooks for the 101 class in Church Resource Development. Reading and mentally digesting this very straightforward book on congregational stewardship will most likely whet your appetite for learning more. It demystifies the process of an annual response stewardship program.
Clergy in charge of congregations have to be joyful about raising resources. Additionally, you must come to realize that no one in the church has the power to do it as well as you, the member of clergy in charge. Finding joy in this work will transform you, and the lives of those whom you teach and mentor, for nothing changes our hearts like becoming generous in giving—up to the tithe and beyond.
A Spirituality of Fundraising, by Henri Nouwen. This small book (only fifty pages of actual text) sets a firm theological basis for financial stewardship in ministry. Nouwen is brilliant in these pages, and like in all his books, he speaks from the heart. It is as if he is sitting with you, and sharing his journey. What a journey it is.
Pastors and priests, you will stand a little taller with shoulders more square when you finish this book—which can easily be read in one sitting. Read it more than once, and then mark it up where you will. This book will transform your reticence about asking for money and giving money. Enjoy!
Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship, by J. Clif Christopher. When I refer you to works by Clif Christopher, you can assume that I mean all of his works. This helps me keep my list to seven titles, or Clif Christopher would take four of them. Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate (and its sequels, Whose Offering Plate Is It? and Rich Church, Poor Church) is absolutely a must read for clergy and lay leaders.
Stewardship books by Christopher will turn a fearful and lazy governing board into a mission-minded and faith-filled board ready to give, and ask others to give to fulfill God’s mission in your church. People who balk at what Christopher proposes about leadership and giving may want to think twice, either about what they give, or about being in leadership to begin with. Excellent reading!
Making The Annual Pledge Drive Obsolete: How Churches Can Get Out of This Business Once and For All, by Timothy Dombek and Mike Durall. Since this is a book I wrote with co-author Mike Durall, we will let an independent reviewer tell you about it:
“Making the Annual Pledge Drive Obsolete is a slim volume, thick with helpful material, and could be used by congregations where there is a desire for serious change in the usual stewardship efforts. Good stewardship material is not for the faint of heart, and this volume offers no easy bromides, convenient shortcuts, or gimmicks. Rather, the authors address giving in a positive community-building manner…
“The opening chapter addresses several of the pitfalls of stewardship failure, including low expectations, fear of failure, and lack of vision. All too frequently, clergy and other leaders are timid about asking for generosity and fearful of rejection when they do ask. One chapter reviews what “being a member in good standing” implies and offers appropriate means to encourage this. Having a compelling vision and a way to communicate vision is essential to stewardship. Generous givers respond positively to vision more than to any other approach. The chapter on ‘The Parishioner as Consumer’ is especially insightful in addressing the topic of ineffective practices. Also addressed is the unhelpful practice of emphasizing averages in giving. ‘And, by the way, when did God call us to be average?’” reviewed by The Rt. Rev. Francis C. Gray, Retired Bishop, Diocese of Northern Indiana (From The Diocesan Blog Roll, EDNI website, June 2014)
Ministry and Money: A Practical Guide for Pastors, by Janet T. & Philip D Jamieson. This book is EXACTLY what its title says it is, and so much more. An especially good book for any member of the clergy who feels intimidated by money, and/or confused by financial reports and the budgeting process. The opening section on the Theology of Money alone makes this book invaluable. The section on Applying a Theology of Money makes it extremely practical. A not-to-be-missed book in your self-education on church finances and raising of resources.
Remember The Future: Financial Leadership and Asset Management for Congregations, by Rev. Gerald Keucher. This introduction to church asset management encourages congregational leaders to ‘remember the future’ when they are making decisions. It will teach you how to balance the needs of the present alongside of what’s best for the congregation’s future. Keucher offers the most sound principles available to church leaders, both clergy and lay, on managing buildings for income, creating and building endowments (especially!) and fundraising. Highly readable, and head-shaking practical. Ignore his advice at your peril!
The Millionaire in The Pew: A Manual on Deferred Gift-Raising for Clergy and Religious Leaders, by Russell Wilson. Beginning with the premise that fundraising is a very spiritual practice, The Millionaire in the Pew offers a new and unique approach to funding ministry and mission. In our pews sits untapped wealth that could be harvested.
Wilson believes clergy and religious leaders possess many of the qualities of highly successful professional fundraisers; if they can overcome their objection to dealing with money and fundraising, potentially they could raise millions of dollars for the Church. Filed with stories and practical insights, The Millionaire in the Pew might change your church finances eternally. Wouldn’t that be great?
There you have it. If you just read these books, not only would you possess a greater knowledge about church finances and handling money, but you would know all you need to know about raising resources for more ministry. None of these books have any technical jargon that loses the reader or escapes understanding. Written for practical use, these seven books, if read and implemented, will change your life and the financial life of your congregation.
So, what’s holding you back?
Read. Apply. Benefit richly. Give thanks to God regularly. You will not be disappointed. If you have questions, reach out to any of these authors—they will welcome and answer your questions.
May you be richly blessed on your journey into greater financial stewardship in your church or organization.
BONUS TITLE: If you preach regularly and now face the challenge of preaching directly on money, wealth, and possessions year-round (the only sane way to help our parishioners with this), then you need one other resource: The Stewardship Companion: Lectionary Resources for Preaching, by David Mosser. With this book, you will have a possible stewardship angle to preach a stewardship message for every Sunday of the three-year Revised Common Lectionary. Needless to say, this helps the preacher immensely. Totally worth the investment in this book. Enjoy!