Further to previous posts about the financial stewardship in pastoral ministry (here and here), let me round up with a few guidelines for the relationship between pastors and their congregation’s finances. And if you have any more advice on this subject, please add them in the comments.

1. Avoid fundraising
The ideal is clearly that the pastor should have minimal involvement in his congregation’s financial administration (Acts 6:2). In smaller churches the pastor may have to get more involved than he would wish. However, even then, he should try to avoid becoming the chief fundraiser. If the pastor is always making appeals for money, it looks too much like the pastor just wants more money himself. Much better to get a deacon or an elder to speak about the financial needs of a congregation.

2. Do not handle money gifts
The pastor should avoid handling cash gifts to the congregation, especially large cash gifts. Ask people to send the money to a treasurer. Or ask them if someone else can come round and collect it. If it is practically impossible to arrange any of this, make sure that you get an independent person to count the money and give a receipt directly to the donor.

3. Do not co-sign for a church loan or put your name on church title deeds
This can cause nightmares if conflict ever threatens to divide your church.

4. Do not use church checking accounts or credit cards for personal purchases
Even if you intend to pay it back immediately, it confuses accounting procedures, and opens the door for suspicion and accusation.

5. Do not become personally obliged to donors

There may be people in your congregation who wish to bless you and your family with personal gifts. I’m not saying that you should never accept, but bear in mind that receiving such gifts can influence your judgment and result in favoritism. You have to be a wise judge of character (Is this the kind of person that will “call in a favor” down the line?). And you have to be sure that you have the moral character to treat this person no different from anyone else in the congregation (Will accepting this gift make me hesitant to discipline this person, should the need ever arise?).

6. Set up an annual financial review for all church salaries
Here’s a helpful article from Crown Financial Ministries on whether and how a pastor should ask for a raise. It should not be left to the pastor to ask for an increase (or decrease?) of salary. Early in a pastorate (or even before arriving), the pastor should set in place an annual review of all church salaries, honoraria, expense limits, etc. There should be an agreed formula for annual raises along the lines of the rate of inflation, or a percentage of the local average salary, plus a small increment for each year of service. And while the pastor may contribute a report to the elders/deacons/board about his finances, he should absent himself from the discussion and the decision about his salary.

In conclusion, consider how in Matthew 25:21 the Lord rewarded His servants that were faithful with money (the “few things”) with greater spiritual opportunity and responsibility (the “many things”). As Crown Financial Ministries puts it:

If pastors prove their honesty and integrity in temporal things—things that do not last, such as money—God then can trust them with the more important things, such as the spiritual well-being of people. However, if ministers prove to be lacking in financial integrity, it is unlikely that they will have a consistent or spiritually auspicious ministry. If God cannot trust them with the lesser things of money, how can He trust them with the greater things of spiritually influencing the direction of people’s eternal lives?