By Dennis Wiggs
Most young pastors do not earn a large salary. Many pastors in smaller churches find it challenging to keep their heads above the financial waters. Just to pay the bills and save a little for the future demands great skill. The young preacher and his family will need to exercise some principles of financial survival.
Paul the Apostle declared, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Learn early in the ministry to refrain from “keeping up with the ________________.”
Some of your church members will throw away more on pet projects than you earn. Also, be glad they can buy a new vehicle every year or two. Rejoice with them when they build a new home. Express thanksgiving when they get promotions that produce better salaries. But don’t get jealous!
The Lord called you to minister His Word, maybe live in a house the church owns, and possibly wonder at times how you are going to buy groceries. Grumbling or developing a sour spirit will not accomplish a thing. Watching God meet your daily needs will deepen your faith and strengthen you for future challenges. Tithe faithfully on every penny the Lord sends your way; exercise frugality, and trust the Lord to miraculously meet your every need.
The funds the Lord blesses you with will go farther if you exercise financial self-discipline. To stretch every dollar as far as it will extend should be your daily commitment.
- Don’t buy merchandise unless it is being sold at a reduced price. Shop the “end of season” sales.
- Pay off credit card purchases every month, or better yet, only use a debit card to make purchases. Refuse to be the slave of a piece of plastic.
- Be determined to drive a vehicle as many miles as possible. Keep it clean. Service it regularly. Pay off car debt quickly and begin to save for the next one.
- Be practical. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth. Turn off lights when you leave the room. Change and hang up your clothes when you come home from church. Don’t join book or music clubs. Shut the refrigerator door quickly. Control the thermostat carefully and sleep in a cool room. Plan trips carefully to eliminate extra miles. You will be amazed at how much money you save if you simply pay attention to your behavior.
- Get a grip on giving. While I think every pastor should be an example when it comes to giving, that does not mean he has to support the school fundraising efforts of every child in the congregation. Avoid falling into the trap of “making up” for your church’s lack of giving by adding your own money to the offering. Be faithful to tithe then establish a budget for “extra” giving and stick with it.
Don’t create bills. If you do, pay them off as quickly as possible. Set a goal to live debt free. Avoid making credit purchases other than your home and automobile, and be determined to pay off both of these ahead of schedule. Debt should not hinder a preacher from doing God’s will. Too many young pastors become so burdened with financial problems that they cannot function properly.
Plan ahead. Ask yourself, “How would my wife pay the bills in the event of my sickness, disability or death?” Much prayer and study must be exercised to determine how the young preacher would provide for his family if tragedy struck.
Consider your own body. As stewards, we are responsible to take care of the body. No one else will do it for you. Preventative maintenance can save money—lots of money. Get your teeth cleaned twice a year; keep blood pressure and blood sugar under control; exercise regularly; eat well-balanced meals; refuse to eat many sweets, drink plenty of water; sleep seven to eight hours each night. Just eliminating a visit to the doctor or hospital will save bundles.
How much debt do you want next year? How much do you want in savings in five years? Where do you want to be financially at age 65? The young pastor has far more opportunities for investing than the older preacher ever thought possible. Age 60 or 65 may seem a long way down the road, but it is much shorter than you imagine. Preparation must be made now, not later.
Trust the Lord. He knows your every need. However, remember that you are classified “self-employed.” Most churches are not in position—or they do not elect—to establish you on a firm, financial footing. You must do it yourself. Seek financial counsel. Get a plan. Stick to the plan the rest of your life. Be willing to make financial sacrifices. You’ll be glad you did.
About the Writer:Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.
Adapted from Contact magazine, December 1998.