This morning I spent two hours working on something really exciting.
Receipts. Requests for reimbursements. Check requests for different people/things. Getting these various requests approved. Figuring out mileage reimbursement and printing out a Google Map to account for the miles.
Actually, it wasn’t exciting at all. And for a guy who left his final math class in college and literally put his hand on the wall when he walked out and begged God to give him a C (I got it), it’s not my cup of tea.
But if you’re in ministry and you’re financially reckless, it could end up ruining you. Maybe not at first, and maybe not in a dramatic fashion, but it could happen eventually.
If you’re financially reckless and don’t keep track of receipts or consistently go over budget or break policies, the first thing that will happen will be that your church leadership will see that you’re immature and untrustworthy. If you can’t be trusted with simple things like coding a receipt or making sure you don’t spend twice as much on supplies than is budgeted, then how you can be trusted to lead a ministry?
The second thing that will happen will be the people who oversee the finances at your church will permanently red-flag you. You might be at a church that preaches and sings the Gospel of Grace until they’re blue in the face, but if they’re smart, their finances are overseen by strict, grace-less, rule-following, rule-setting, policy-wonky Keepers Of The Law (let’s call them K.O.T.L. for short). You don’t want to get on the K.O.T.L.’s bad side. It could make life very uncomfortable for you. If you respect their rules and do your part to honor their necessary standards for financial integrity, then they’ll be your friends. And you need friends.
The last thing that will happen if you’re financially reckless in ministry is that you’ll make a huge mistake some day, or you’ll make a series of small mistakes that equal a huge mistake, and because you’ve not been careful, you’ve gotten sloppy and you’ve all of the sudden given your detractors the ammunition they need to get you pushed aside. If you think this kind of thing isn’t possible in ministry, then you’re in for a surprise. It’s entirely possible, and it happens all the time. The ministry battle field is dotted with defeated youth pastors, worship leaders, senior pastors, and sound engineers who made one too many financial errors and it finally came back to bite them.
Keep your receipts. Stay in (or under) budget. Follow the policies. Email the finance people when you have a big expense coming up, or when you make a mistake (like the time I was accidentally logged in to my work iTunes account and I bought an Elmo app for my 4-year old). Play by the financial rules and you’ll get to stay on the field for a long time in relative peace.