How a leader relates to money is contagious. Whether you lead a small group or the entire church, how you handle money influences others and impacts your ministry.
Money is highly spiritual in nature. Scripture speaks about money hundreds of times and it is directly connected to the disposition of our heart. We cannot lead well without engaging finances on God’s terms.
Interestingly, we sometimes attach personality traits to money and people. Leaders say of themselves things such as:
- “I’m definitely frugal.”
- “I love giving.”
- “I’m really cautious about money.”
- “I’m strong at raising money for vision.”
- “I’m not good with money.”
- “I’m a high faith risk-taker with money.”
- “Generosity is a core value for me.”
How would you describe your personality as it relates to money? Do you relate to any of these or something different?
3 Mindsets for Leaders and Money
Allow me to present three (admittedly generalized and broad) categories I have seen leaders and in many cases their churches live in. Of course, there are varying degrees in each one.
Note: Please resist attaching any one of these to a particular group. Any of these can be in any leader or any church.
1) Scarcity mindset
The scarcity mindset inherently believes there aren’t enough financial resources to meet the needs, the ability to develop resources is unlikely and therefore rejects the idea of materialistic gain. And some believe that having little or less helps you be humble and Godly.
Possessions and material blessing are seen as a burden and often unnecessary.
Key tenants: Scarcity & Austerity
Churches with a scarcity mindset are protective of money, reluctant to take a risk, live within a framework of austerity, and though they would value helping those in need, the practice of austerity leaves them with little to nothing to give. They would typically not have confidence that resources can be cultivated or that God will provide.
2) Prosperity mindset
The prosperity mindset adopts the belief that material blessing and financial success is the will of God for those with great faith and who are generous toward the church. In some cases, the belief is that if you lack blessing, you lack faith.
Possessions and material blessing are seen as a promise from God.
Key Tenants: Faith & Blessing
Churches with a prosperity mindset often focus on a platform of health, wealth and happiness. If you are generous with the church God is generous with you. These churches believe big for God’s blessings and miracles, adopting positive thought and declarations as a pathway.
3) Stewardship mindset
The stewardship mindset believes that material blessings are given by God and we are the managers (or stewards) not owners, who are trusted to use them wisely. On a personal basis possessions are to be enjoyed and held loosely rather than coveted. The expectation is that gifts and talents are utilized to be industrious for Kingdom purposes.
Possessions and material blessing are seen as a gift from God.
Key Tenants: Responsibility & Generosity
Churches with a stewardship mindset pursue investing in Heaven’s agenda. Resources are used for purposes of God and His Kingdom. (Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21) Blessings are enjoyed but not seen as an entitlement.
I’m presenting the Stewardship Mindset, (stewardship theology) as the Biblical model. I list the other two because as leaders we can have tendencies to lean into parts of a scarcity or prosperity mindset, usually unintentionally.
It’s not difficult to see how any of us could slide in either direction.
It’s easy to see how compromised stewardship happens:
- Pressure in meeting budgets (discouragement)
- Faith to trust God for the resources (fear)
- Tension in financial decision-making (confusion)
Dealing with money is one of the most complex elements of leadership. From cultivating generosity to stressful decision-making and managing our own salaries in an honoring manner. Great wisdom is needed! Click & Tweet!
And keep in mind, the Enemy loves to attack leaders in this arena.
Materialism directly connected to consumerism is one of the ways the Enemy loves to trip us up and get us off track personally, which in turn can affect how we lead and steward the church’s resources.
The truth about consumerism driven materialism:
1) None of us fully escapes the influence of consumerism, it’s a temptation that is subtle, slow but inevitable.
Bigger, more, and better is the theme song.
For me, I think I’m most vulnerable when I allow material gain to be connected to progress and improvement. Progress and improvement are values I champion and sometimes they improve my material position. That’s a blessing, not an entitlement. But if the order gets flipped and I pursue material gain under the banner of progress and improvement, that’s when I’m headed in the wrong direction.
2) Avoid judgmentalism at all costs.
The Enemy is crafty. If you are not wrestling with materialism, he can temp you to judge others who are. Be aware and resist judging.
It is unlikely that any of us know the full financial narrative of the people we aren’t close to, nor other churches we aren’t inside on the team.
I learned a great principle from my friend and Founding Pastor of 12Stone Church, Kevin Myers, which simply stated is, “We all draw the line in different places.” For example, when it comes to the size of a home, the cost of a car, or the kind of vacations, people draw the line in different places for different reasons according to different resources.
The point is to pay attention to the lines we draw for ourselves by seeking God’s heart and wise counsel, and allow others to do the same for their own life.
My temptation is to set a line of what is enough in my life by listening to God and wise counsel, but then consider moving it. It’s not big and blatant, it’s slow and subtle. It’s not legalism, it’s just something to be aware of.
How about you? How are you doing in this arena?
3) Materialism is not about possession, it’s about obsession. Materialism is not determined by a number it’s a condition of the heart.
Owning things, desiring something special, or enjoying something that belongs to you is not the issue, being obsessed with them is. When we begin to think we deserve them, that’s where problems begin.
Materialism is not determined by how much or how little we have, it’s a matter of the heart and what we do with what we have. It’s about how loosely we hold what we have and if we bless others with it.
The churches we serve are the same. A church with a huge budget is no better or worse than a church with a modest budget, it’s about what is accomplished with the resources God gives each of us.
7 warning signs of personal consumerism driven by materialism:
(That can impact how you lead.)
- When we go from managing our money to being anxious over it.
- When envy and jealousy creep into the picture.
- When we lose appreciation for what God has already given us.
- When we lose the joy of cheerful giving.
- When we seek things more than God.
- When we think things will make us happy.
- When enough is never enough.
If these things find their way into our personal lives, they slowly slide into our leadership and stewardship of God’s resources.
4 helpful steps to avoid the trap of materialism:
- Establish wise boundaries – draw lines where enough is enough.
- Express gratitude to God for what you have – you’ll enjoy your life more.
- Practice generosity as a lifestyle – this pleases God.
- Ask God to increase your faith – He will answer that prayer.
Money is a powerful force that can be used for good or harm. It’s often a thin line between the two.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”