Nearly 20 Holston Conference pastors went to Texas this month to learn about financial stewardship and returned with new perspectives on their ministries. The seminar was led exclusively for Holston clergy by Michael Reeves at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano.
“I think what came out of the seminar was that we must lead the church in every way, and good financial and stewardship leadership is crucial,” said the Rev. Michelle Buckles, pastor at Cherokee UMC, Johnson City District.
The Rev. Wil Cantrell said he learned that tithing is not an administrative issue, but a spiritual one. Cantrell is associate pastor of Middlebrook Pike UMC of Knoxville District.
The Rev. Reeves – author of “Faith and Money and Extraodinary Money” and co-author of “Creative Giving” – was a speaker at Ministers Convocation 2008 in February.
He made such a positive impact on convocation participants, the conference stewardship office decided to select a group of clergy for an intensive seminar at St. Andrew UMC. District superintendents and other conference leaders nominated pastors to attend. Eighteen went to Texas, led by the Rev. Bill Kilday, Holston director of stewardship and church relations.
Besides Reeves, who serves as the senior associate pastor and director of strategic resources, other St. Andrew staff also made presentations.
Kilday said he appreciated the holistic view toward ministry shared by Reeves and staff. “Faith and money are ultimately related, and spiritual health and financial health go hand in hand,” he said. “Giving is very much a part of being a disciple and making a disciple.”
Buckles realized that a barometer to one’s spiritual health is what he or she is doing financially. She also learned that clergy should connect budget to people in order to get the congregation to support financial goals.
“The more you can get people excited about the church, the more they are willing to help make mission and ministry programs a reality,” she said. “Our goal is not to fund a budget. The goal is to fund a mission and ministry.”
Cantrell also came away understanding that stewardship is simply a part of the big picture of ministry.
“I learned that not only is the way we handle our money a spiritual issue, but a pastor’s ability to understand money … is a spiritual issue,” he said. Even when pastors understand that giving is important, they sometimes view it as an administrative task that someone else can handle, he said.
Cantrell shared these other tips from the Texas seminar: Pastors should have ongoing conversations with and seek advice from the church’s top givers. They should also address money and giving in positive ways and avoid publishing figures showing the budget is in a shortfall.
In some ways, the seminar reinforced his prior beliefs about giving, Cantrell said.
“I honestly believe God has given every church what it needs to accomplish our mission, if we are fully willing to align our resources with our mission,” he said.
The Texas speakers also offered good advice for smaller churches, said the Rev. Bobby Black, pastor at Washington Hills UMC in Chattanooga District.
“You realize that you can scale it down to your situation,” Black said. “It gave possibilities to what we want to do.”
His church is interested in community outreach, he said, so he was glad to hear that people are more likely to support ministries that are viable and applicable to a community.
“Ministry to the poor is a means of grace,” he said. “God blesses us because we can address the role of the church in a way that pleases Jesus.”
Other participants in the seminar included Aldana Allen, James Bennington, John Brewster, Charles Ensminger, Troy Forrester, David Graybeal, Don Hanshew, Bradley Hyde, Nathan Malone, Amy Probst, Darryll Rasnake, Will Shewey, Walter Weikel, Carol Wilson, and David Woody.