Heart Financial Planning: A Summer Check-In For Pastors
Written By Brad Leeper, Generis Principal
Almost every pastor I talk to gives to the church. But, the majority seem to give from duty, obligation, almost joylessly. I can almost hear some of their inner thoughts:
The box is checked. I’ve done what I’ve supposed to do. Next.
Summer is the perfect opportunity to take a breath, schedule a private prayer session, and invite God to speak with you as it relates to your generosity.
Hey, I get it. Since last summer, your private world and mine have been strained and drained of much personal joy. The last thing you probably want to do is take a good long look at where your heart has strayed in the area of generosity.
However, when we consider that the only words attributed to Jesus in the Bible that are outside of the gospels are, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” we owe it to ourselves and our Father to pull away from the world. It’s time that we take some hours alone with God so that He can replenish the internal wear and tear our hearts have gone through with a vigorous joy.
Of all the personal summer reflections in which you and I could invest, why should financial generosity be at the top of your list?
Allow this encounter with God to reflect on that grace in your life. Return to that moment when your private world swung from unrealized grace to that flash of surprise by joy by accepting Christ.
Replay the moment, even if it comes surrounded by pain. See the instant replay in your mind and remain there long enough, and then even longer, to have your heart and mind infused with that memory of receiving God’s grace. Allow that memory to move into the moment. Anchor that grace moment into your present awareness. Linger there.
Restore the deep appreciation of grace when it’s applied to your shortcomings and sins.
It’s a grand moment. It might be the private highlight of your summer.
Experience a reboot of the joy of giving.
Giving becomes rote especially if that giving has devolved to a type of check-the-box mentality. When we are financially generous, we acknowledge the priority of grace in our private world. Freely we have received becomes freely we give. There is zero thought of receiving anything in return.
Yet, our joyful giving as a grace overflow means we break the cycle of poverty, we see smiles on the faces of those who have nothing to smile about, we resource a mission that has eternal significance. We get to restore something that the locust has eaten. We get to bring heaven to earth, even if for a moment.
Consider your next three financial gifts as an extended private session with God. As you give (or as your financial gift is scheduled) enjoy a private moment with God to express deep appreciation for the grace He’s given to you. Ask God to extend that same grace as only He can.
In your imagination, follow the money to the application of that blessing in someone else’s life. See the cleft mouth surgically repaired. Imagine the gospel of grace entering a context where that grace is good news and perhaps the first news of grace. See the young girl off the streets. See the impact in the community that surrounds your church. Cherish the moment as you picture the enormous outcome of your investment.
Every financial gift is an enormous investment in God’s economy. He takes every bit and multiplies it as only He can. Think through your financial gift to the end application. Allow the joy to be the highlight of your day.
Take inventory of your current personal treasures.
Allow this encounter with God to cement this truth in your heart: God is indeed your personal treasure. In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The phrase reveals brilliant insight into a personal inventory of where our priorities are.
Since money is basically how we keep score in our culture, where our money goes reveals our priorities and exposes the real “pearls” of our private world. If we have a hard time with financial generosity, usually the reason is a “functional savior” rather than the authentic Savior.
This is true in my world.
My functional savior around money is having as much of it as possible in the bank. We all see the wisdom in living life from a position of strength in financial reserves. But for me, money in the bank means a comfort that probably bumps Jesus into a secondary position.
I sense internally an unhealthy spiritual shift in my trust of God.
Anything that places Jesus in a secondary heart position cheats me. It erodes grace. It means the grip on my money tightens instead of loosens. No history book has yet to record any possession, memory, or experience that can leap-frog God’s grace in our lives.
Having a private encounter with God allows you to break into the vault of your heart to find what functional savior has snuck in to cheat you. You, like all of us, have a constant stream of options vying for our hearts. Find them. Ruthlessly eradicate them.
Invite your family into the journey.
If you’re married, when was the last time the two of you shared the grace of God in your marriage? Can you recall the last time you and your spouse embraced a financial giving moment and relished that photo-worthy moment of heaven on Earth? Once you’ve enjoyed your own private encounter with God as it relates to your financial generosity, invite your spouse to join you.
For me, this is difficult. My spouse and I approach money and possessions differently. One saves, the other spends. One more naturally gives generously, the other, not so much.
It’s even hard to admit here that I am the saver, less naturally generous.
Allow this encounter with God to remind you of the joy of your grace as a couple. Value that heaven-on-earth moment created by your giving as much as you value your summer vacation.
Next, bring your kids into the conversation.
Allow your children at all ages and stages to know you live out of an abundance of grace. Let them see the accounting and the act of giving in a way that accurately reflects the grace of God in your life.
Your vocation in ministry and title are a mirage to them unless they see your private world lived out of grace. I often hear adult children of those in ministry validate parents because of the private world they witnessed, not the public display of ministry everyone saw.
Give your kids the gift of seeing you live out your public and private world consistently through your giving and joy.
Lead those in your spiritual care in the grace of giving.
The reason for the summer encounter with God as it relates to your generosity is secondary. our effectiveness as a pastor flows from the health of your heart walking in the Spirit daily and authentically.
A leader cannot ask anyone to do something they themselves are not doing. This Leadership 101 principle is true of your giving.
Although most pastors rarely model their personal giving to the church, your people have a sense of where you are. They might not actually know unless the treasurer tells on you, but a congregation can sense when their leader lives out their public world from their healthy private world.
When we cheat God’s grace in our lives with a functional savior grip on our money, somehow it shows. It may take time, but it leaks out.
Skip the massive energy burn it takes to align your public and private world in generosity. Allow this summer generosity encounter with God to free you in leading the congregation.
Ask yourself these two questions:
- Can I completely share my giving priorities to anyone, anywhere and be completely at ease?
- Can I ask the congregation to model my generosity and they take me up on that because of the validation of my private world before their eyes?
Pastors who can say yes to these two questions are some of the best leaders I observe, and I see many private worlds of pastors.
When you align faith and finances in your private world in a healthy way, somehow, it translates into effective ministry. I do not know the exact correlation of how it works, but with over 20+ years of observation, I attest to the reality.
In your private world, you do good. You are rich in good deeds. You are willing to share.
Your generosity becomes contagious.
A person who is generous is amazing. A radically generous congregation upsets the whole world, bringing a lot of heaven down to Earth.
The person stores up eternal treasure. A congregation brings eternal significance to a world very much in need of eternity.
Every summer your mobile device gets filled with photos that are crazy-fun, memorable and important. Summer can be so life-giving.
Perhaps the best summer moment for you as a pastor is a private encounter with God as it relates to your generosity.