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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

20 March 2006

Pastors and Their Churches’ Finances

Q: Is it proper to have the pastor’s name on the checking account? Should the pastor handle the financial business of the church?

Offering PlateA: Much depends upon the congregation and also whether you mean the pastor as cosigner or if he is the one who would write the checks for the church. This latter might work in a few places, especially with unaffiliated congregations where the pastor owns the building and uses the offerings for his own support. I know of some places where the pastor not only owns the building but also appears to “own” the congregation and the offering plates.

Mostly, however, even if it’s not an invitation to trouble, handling a congregation’s finances still takes a pastor away from his primary tasks of preaching the Word, administering the Sacraments, teaching, visiting the sick, praying, and studying. You can see that I’ve omitted a number of peripheral tasks that pastors either take upon themselves or have thrust on them by congregations: Meetings, committees, and the like are not central — nor is the daily financial operation of the church.

Instead, I’ve listed the heart of the pastoral ministry. Doing these things well and according to God’s Word, being a good husband and father, being active and involved in community, and tending to his own needs of body and mind will should take most of his time. For further reference, consider that the Apostles dedicated seven men to tend to fiscal matters so they could be about the tasks of their own offices instead of needing to “serve tables (Acts 6:2)”.

Since the ministry is not about control but about service, I can’t see many situations that would require the pastor to handle a congregation’s money. I’m quite happy letting others manage the financial affairs of the congregation(s) I serve and imagine that most pastors feel similarly.

There are a few instances where certain accounts may require multiple signatures. In some of these, the pastor might be a good person to use as a cosigner. It could also be that a pastor is responsible for certain special areas, such as youth work, and might need to draw on funds. Still, it’s good to have a system of accountability so not only wrong but also the appearance of wrong is avoided.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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