By Jim Bryant
Personal finances, church finances, and stewardship are all important to the pastor. In the 1960s Time Magazine every year issued small cards with a slogan that expressed the mood of the times. One year they issued a card that read, “Money is not the most important thing in life.” On the back of the card they added, “but it is way out in front of whatever is in second place.” Most pastors do not want to talk about money, but if they do not, they do not preach and teach the whole counsel of God. There is a lot about money in the Bible.
The pastor’s attitude toward money will be reflected in his church’s attitude toward money. He needs to practice a biblical balance about money. If he talks about it too often, some people will think that money is all he is interested in. If he never talks about money, he robs his people of the opportunity to discover God’s financial plan.
W. A. Criswell, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, for nearly fifty years, gave young couples seeking marriage some good, biblically balanced advice about handling their money. It is good advice for pastors as well. He told them to give the first 10 percent of their money back to God. Then give yourself the next 10 percent. Put this in savings. If a pastor does these two things consistently, he will capture the biblical balance about handling money in his personal finances.
The pastor should be above reproach in his personal finances. One of the biblical qualifications of a pastor is that “he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap” (1 Tim. 3:7). One of the ways a pastor fulfills this responsibility is by paying his bills on time. Although we live in a credit economy, the wise pastor will not borrow money except for appreciating items, such as a house or land. The possible exception to this rule is the purchase of a car. Many pastors now pay cash for their new or used vehicles. How do they do that? By saving in advance to pay cash or by leasing. Leasing a car is a way of staying out of debt for a depreciating item.
Bob Eklund was a pastor for many years before entering denominational service to assist churches in the area of raising funds for building programs. After retiring from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, he organized Eklund Financial Ministries to broaden financial assistance to all denominations. He developed what he calls the “10-70-20 Plan.”
Here is the way it works. Determine your gross income. Then take out your tithe. Next take out your IRS taxes (plus state and city if any). The remainder is your 10-70-20 working income.
- Use 10 percent of the working income to set up two funds. (1) An emergency fund equal to three times your monthly income, (2) a cash-buying fund to avoid future problems with overextended debts.
- Use 70 percent of the working income to take care of family expenses. Both your house mortgage and car payment should come from this category.
- Use the 20 percent category for two things: (1) Eliminate all debts with the exception of your house and car. Use the 20 percent to pay off credit cards and other debts. Use any extra money you have each month to pay above the minimum payments. Don’t add to these debts. Work diligently at paying off each debt as quickly as possible. (2) After debts are paid off, stay with the 10-70-20 plan. The last 20 percent can be used in various ways. Consider the following suggestions: (1) mission projects and needs, (2) children’s education, (3) retirement savings, (4) pay off house, (5) pay cash for cars, (6) investments, (7) trips, gifts, etc.
The long-range goal is to become debt free in every area of family finances. Be sure, as you move through the process, that you are seeking God’s leadership in your finances.
If a church is too small to pay the pastor adequately, he should consider asking its members to allow him to become bivocational. Many pastors can become substitute schoolteachers to supplement their income if necessary. Paul did this with tentmaking more than once during his missionary journeys.
Adapted from The New Guidebook for Pastors (B&H Publishing Group, 2007)