By Joelle Kopacz
"Money is the opposite of the weather. Nobody talks about it, but everybody does something about it." - Rebecca Johnson, novelist
Money is a touchy subject to talk about in daily life—and it’s also a difficult issue to discuss from the pulpit. Pastors may be afraid that if they preach about money they will offend others and attract criticism. (For more reasons pastors avoid preaching sermons about money, click here.) And pastors’ fears aren’t completely unwarranted. Although nearly three in four worshipers (72%) report that they worry about finances “a lot” or “sometimes,” half of worshipers think that money is an inappropriate topic of discussion in worship (22%) or are unsure about such discussions (31%).
The other half of worshipers think talking about money in worship is acceptable (48%). Who are these worshipers who are most receptive to Sunday morning discussions about finances?
Worshipers who give generously to the congregation are more likely to think money is an appropriate topic of discussion. Nearly three in five worshipers (57%) who give about 5% or more of their net income regularly to the congregation think it is okay to talk about money in worship. In contrast, one in three worshipers (37%) who regularly give less than 5% of their net income support discussions of money in church.
Conservative Protestants more often find it appropriate to discuss finances in church services. Two in three conservative Protestant worshipers (64%) are comfortable with conversations about money in church, compared to 47% of mainline Protestant worshipers and 39% of Catholic worshipers. Conservative Protestants are also more likely than Catholics and mainline Protestants to give 10% or more of their net income to the congregation (see an earlier blog post by Cynthia Woolever). Perhaps conservative Protestant worshipers are more comfortable in general relating their faith to their finances.
Connected worshipers support the church’s discussion of financial issues. Worshipers are more likely to think it’s appropriate to discuss financial issues in worship when they are involved in decision making within the congregation, feel a strong and growing sense of belonging to their congregation, and say that their congregation’s worship or activities greatly help them with everyday living. Worshipers whose lives are invested in their congregation seem more willing to hear what the church has to say about finances.
Addressing the topic of money in worship may feel risky or daunting, but it can be done with grace and theological integrity. If you are a pastor, here are some tips for discussing money with your congregation. To find out how churches are using programs, partnerships, and the pulpit to tackle the economic recession, read this article from Faith and Leadership.