Preachers Are Paid To Be Good
- Steve Diggs <i>No Debt, No Sweat!</i> Financial Seminar Ministry
- 2004 7 Jul
I love preachers. Sure, there are some bad apples out there. We've read the news accounts -- you may have even known some yourself. But all in all, this is the best group of guys on the planet. These are fellows, who for the most part, have chosen a life of service to others. They have made a conscience decision to live in smaller houses, drive older cars, and go on shorter vacations than their contemporaries -- all to accomplish a Goal that eludes most of our culture. The joke at the top of the page usually doesn't hold true. Most of these men aren't doing it for the money -- they're doing it for the Master!
That's why I always relish an opportunity to visit with a bunch of preacher-types. These guys are my heroes. I had such an opportunity yesterday while in another city doing the No Debt No Sweat! Seminar that I present in churches around the country. Apparently they were out of qualified speakers so the good brothers of the area asked me to speak at the preachers' luncheon. The food was okay -- but the fellowship was super.
Actually, my speech became more of a visit among friends. In the first few minutes we were like old chums -- sitting around the table talking. It wasn't long before one of the brothers got the courage to open up. He explained how the financial stresses of his life had led him to invest in a home business that simply didn't work out. One thing led to another, and over the lunch table he admitted to being $75,000 in debt and seeing no way out.
I wish I could say that was a first. But it wasn't. Actually, I'm becoming convinced that, next to single moms, our preachers struggle with debt problems more than any other group within the church.
There are several reasons why these guys are in a bucket load of financial pain:
1. They aren't being taught about money matters in school. I find it curious that while Jesus spoke more about money and materialism than anything else, our colleges and preacher training schools rarely discuss the issue of personal money management. Two things they rarely teach ministerial majors are how to handle their money -- or how to baptize someone without drowning him! Folks, something is wrong here!
2. Churches expect more from their preachers than from other members. Often church professionals feel pressure to dress at a certain level and drive vehicles they can't afford.
3. "He's a good old guy!" Consciously or unconsciously members tend to expect more from the guys who get paid for being good. (I guess that makes the rest of the church good for nothing.) So preachers end up hosting everyone who comes into town -- and frequently not being reimbursed for car expenses and meals. (I just did a seminar for a church where a minister and teacher was my host. His precocious 8-year old announced at dinner that, "Dad's got to pay for this with his own money!" Don't you just love kids!?!?)
4. No benefits. I suspect that this may be the single biggest problem for men who minister. Often the guys who preach to us about eternal assurance have no earthly insurance. Most churches are happy to let the preacher extol the Beautiful Bye and Bye -- but are woefully negligent when it comes to planning for the Nasty Now and Now. What other employer could maintain a professional workforce without supplying health insurance and some kind of a retirement plan?
At yesterday's luncheon, one dear brother (with quite a few miles on the chronological odometer) shared a heart touching story about how a thoughtful deacon had blessed his ministry. Decades ago, when this preacher had first come to the church, the good deacon championed his cause before the Elders insisting they establish a retirement fund. Today, the minister remembers it as one of the most important gifts he ever received.
5. Ministers shoot themselves in the foot. Now's the time to do a check up from the neck up! A lot of preachers need to admit what's obvious to their congregants: They aren't very self-disciplined when it comes to handling their money. They do dumb things! Many ministers would make a more credible case for Christ by simply learning how to stay out of money trouble. Today that's easier than ever before. There are lots of good books, seminars and websites that teach this stuff. It behooves every minister to get money smart. Why? For his family, for your members, for the credibility it will bring to Christ's name before an outside world-to say nothing for your own peace of mind.
"So, Diggs," you say, "you've hit us with the problem -- what's the solution?"
Frankly, I'm not sure what the ultimate solution is, but I am prepared to make the following observations for your consideration:
1. People don't get into financial trouble overnight -- and they usually can't fix all that's wrong overnight either. But by learning how money management gets done, and then by determining to make the tough decisions necessary, your future really can be brighter than your past.
2. Get help -- both financial and spiritual. Find someone who understands personal finance (maybe another good Christian) and ask him to lead you through the maze. Treat this for what it is: A spiritual battle. Satan loves to mess with preachers. If he can destroy your spiritual vigor or discredit your ministry -- he can destroy a whole church.
3. Shepherds and ministers need to be friends -- not adversaries. What about all that koinonia stuff we talk about? Isn't it high time to start leveling with one another? I still remember a godly man who has preached for 30 years who told me he was $30,000 in credit card debt and he said, "If my Elders knew about it, I'm afraid they'd fire me." No wonder we have a reputation for shooting our wounded!
Too often leaders are employers instead of brothers and mentors. Many leaders understand financial matters far better than most preachers. Shouldn't they take a proactive lead in teaching and educating their ministers before they get into trouble?
A complete solution to the problem? No. A start? I hope.
Steve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at www.stevediggs.com or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.
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