As any seminary graduate can tell you, three years of seminary certainly don’t prepare you for everything that you’ll encounter in ministry. You often hear new pastors say they could write a book about “all the things they never taught me in seminary.” Normally these involve things like how to fix the air-conditioning, how to manage the intensity and busy-ness of various liturgical seasons and how to get wax off of carpet.
However, the number one thing that seminary does not prepare you for is how to deal with finances.
This is something I’ve been clearly aware of before in ministry, but was made even more aware of this evening as I sat through a meeting where the report from the Finance Committee took up a majority of the meeting. Granted, we are in the process of bulding a new Fellowship Hall, but I stopped counting the financial/accounting words and phrases that I just do not understand. Perhaps once I have to buy a house, take out a loan or deal with larger sums of money, then I’ll become familiar with these terms, amortization tables, spreadsheets and more numbers than I care to deal with.
Learning how to deal with a church budget (let alone simply a youth ministry budget) is something that was never touched on at all in seminary (during my four years at both Princeton & Columbia Theological Seminaries). But the thing is…I don’t really care…
I know that it’s important for me as a youth minister to be responsible and held accountable to the money entrusted to the youth ministry at the church I work at. I know it’s important for me to be responsible with money at home. And those are both things I’m not good at – haven’t had much experience with – and I’m learning.
But in those types of conversations during church meetings, I just find myself checking out.
I was thinking about this tonight because sometimes I think I would love to be a solo pastor. I don’t know that I have all the necessary gifts for such a call, but it’s something I think of from time to time. However, I just do NOT have the gifts of being able to deal with all of the financial issues, nor the knowledge of those kinds of things. And frankly, I don’t want to be in the know.
Maybe that makes me financially irresponsible. Maybe that makes me immature…I don’t know. But I don’t feel that it’s my calling to deal with the finances, nor to really have a strong grasp on it. There are people in the church – and definitely in my current church – who just “get” that kind of stuff, and volunteer their time and effort to work on such things. When we expect our pastors to have in-depth knowledge about such things, aren’t we simply feeding into this conception of the Pastor as CEO? Pastor as businessperson?
I have some great friends who are in the ministry who really do “get” this stuff – and I think that’s a great benefit to them and to their churches. But…that’s just not me. And I’m not feeling any strong desire to work on that aspect of my ministry any time soon.
What do you all think? Am I way off base here?
Update: Thanks to Kyle Nolan for this link to a clip of Walter Brueggemann addressing some of these very issues.