The Punk Kid Joins the Committee
I learned to choose my leaders wisely from one of my earliest mentors. I didn’t understand it at the time, but Steve chose his church leaders very carefully, with far more thought than anyone knew. I was in my mid-twenties, had long hair past my shoulders, wore ripped shorts all year long, worked as a roadie in the entertainment industry, and was a prideful know-it-all when it came to everything. Yet, Steve chose me to be on the church finance committee. I thought he was crazy! As did everyone else. But it was Steve’s choice and he stuck to his gut feeling.
The way our church was structured, the treasurer of the elder board also was the chairman of the finance committee. This committee was comprised of five people of his choice and this group oversaw the monthly financials of the church and made recommendations to the staff and elder board on all things financial. When he proposed I join his team, he got more than a few phone calls from dissenters.
I was puzzled as to why he would want me to help oversee a multi-million-dollar non-profit budget. At the time, I had not finished college, knew little about church finances, and had just started my own stage lighting business—learning mostly through mistakes and trial and error. To understand how business finances worked, I was watching YouTube videos at 3 a.m. I was certainly not the prime choice for making decisions on how the church’s money should be spent. But Steve was set in his decision and convinced I was the right person to join the team.
Steve understood something I did not. He knew he needed a balanced team of members who were committed to the success of the church and who brought different perspectives to the table. He knew I would bring two advantages that none of the other members had: youthful thinking and a fresh business-like mind.
His choice of finance committee members was based on what each member brought to the group that the others did not. Steve himself was an accountant and in his late forties. By the nature of his training, he focused on the dollars and cents, wanted all the charts to line up in a neat fashion, the revenue and expenses to match the budget, and every penny accounted for. He tended to not think about the ministry of the church while looking at the finances. His tendency was to focus on the money, not the purpose of the money.
Jim was a business owner and focused on the practical why and purpose of the money. At forty, he had a strong understanding of budgets and keeping expenses in check, but his greatest strength was reminding everyone else we were not here to save money and he didn’t care about lost pennies. We were here to manage money in the way that best enhanced the church’s mission. His focus was on the ministry and growth of the church. Jim would argue that ministry comes first and if we need to alter the budget mid-year, then that’s what we need to do.
Jack was a licensed investment advisor. He was in his mid-fifties, and although he understood the financial documents, rarely looked them over in detail. Rather, he asked questions about the future, the plans for next year, and he brought a sense of philosophical conversation that enhanced the group’s thinking of “Why?” He knew the financial documents in front of him were important, but he believed that tomorrow’s plans need to inform today’s decisions. As an investment advisor, his tendency was to focus on the future and he helped us put better budgets and plans together.
Rick worked in banking and had a strong understanding of financial law and banking principles. He was in his late sixties, and his strength was in asking questions of the business administrator on how processes were being handled. He wanted to know if we were following state law and our church bylaws. When we made significant purchases, he was sure to know if we needed to follow certain guidelines the church bylaws had laid out. Rick sought to keep the expenses tight and in line with the budget and believed ministry should not change what was planned in advance.
Then Steve added me to the group! I brought a youthful perspective, viewed things from a much younger understanding of what the church should and could be like. I represented the next generation of leaders. By the very fact that I knew nothing about church finances, combined with my bold attitude, I ended up asking questions nobody else wanted to ask. Simply asking “Why do we do that?” forced uncomfortable but necessary conversations in the group that required us all to rethink our process and decision-making. Because of my brash personality, many in the church did not like me, especially those in other areas of leadership. I didn’t care what people thought of me, so Steve used this to his advantage knowing I would not be afraid to ask the hard questions.
Over the course of two years, the finance committee redesigned everything about our finance budgets, our processes, how we managed the finances on a monthly basis and ultimately, we were able to push significant amounts of money back into direct ministry. All of this was based on having the right people on the team who were willing to work together by utilizing each person’s different strengths. Steve understood that managing the finances was not about getting a bunch of accountants in the room to look over numbers. It was about having a balance of personalities who brought different strengths to the group and were not afraid to discuss the hard questions others brought up.
A few years later, with shorter hair, a more tempered attitude, and a thriving business, I was chosen to be the treasurer of the elder board and I replaced Steve. But I kept his leadership principles in place. I chose other leaders to help me keep the most balanced view of church finances. I learned that allowing others to ask hard questions makes me a better person and ultimately serves the church in the best manner.
We all know the Bible speaks often of seeking the advice of wise counsel, but I am particularly fond of Proverbs 11:14 (ESV), “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors, there is safety.” As you strive to put together your finance committee (or whatever your church may call it) seek to find an abundance of wise counselors for your team. Be purposeful in finding others who think differently than you. Choose to put others on the committee that will ask you the hard questions and challenge your thinking. Ultimately, you, your decision-making, and hopefully the church, will be better for it. That punk kid you put on the committee may be your future treasurer and might write a book designed to help pastors with their church business.
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