Improve the financial health of the pastor and you will improve the financial health of the church.

Could this be true? Will improving a pastor’s personal finances result in an improvement of the church’s financial health? Usually we think of it the other way around. If the church is financially healthier, then the church can offer the pastor a better compensation package, which improves the pastor’s personal finances.

Yet, what we are finding among many of our COMPASS Initiative participants is that the reverse is true. As our pastors address their personal finances - as they budget, pay off debt, and begin to save for retirement - they develop a new appreciation of biblical financial stewardship principles. They experience God’s provisions as they follow His stewardship principles, and they experience a renewed passion for teaching and preaching biblical stewardship in the church.

Participants in the COMPASS Journey program talk with their lay accountability partners about what they are learning from the program and how it is influencing their own financial practices.  One pastor said, “Being transparent about finances with people other than family feels uncomfortable, but so liberating and bonding at the same time.” Another said, “We [myself and my accountability partners] have much more transparent conversations about not just personal funds, but church funds as well.”

If the pastor is married, his or her spouse is a vital participant in the program. Repeatedly, pastors give reports similar to this pastor’s, “[We] are on the same financial page and working together toward a common goal. This in itself has been worth the process.” Pastors are beginning to experience freedom: less marital strain related to finances, release from the chokehold of debt, and hope for their financial future.

Do not misconstrue what is being said. This is not a new “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel.” The ministers in the COMPASS programs are not becoming millionaires, but they are breaking free from the shackles of indebtedness and finding God’s peace and provision in living according to biblical financial principles. “I think it has really challenged us to handle money in ways that make us proud to talk it over with those around us,” said one participant.

By the end of the COMPASS Journey our participants feel more competent to teach and preach biblical financial stewardship, some for the first time. In fact, most of the COMPASS Journey participants have preached a stewardship sermon series as part of their journey. In response to one particular series, a church board decided to make a concerted effort to retire the church’s debt in order to free up the Lord’s resources for more ministry.

One pastor said that, “We’ve found that teaching good financial stewardship is increasing stewardship in others as well.” She notes, “We’ve learned to eat out of our pantry more effectively. We use less disposable resources. We eat out less often. All of the unexpected consequences have led us to more debt reduction, but also to being healthier, happier, and less stressed people.”

Will improving the financial well-being of a pastor always improve the financial well-being of the church? Probably not. However, we are seeing a trend, and it is a good one.

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The COMPASS Initiative is currently accepting applications for the COMPASS Journey and the COMPASS Quest programs which both have matching grants available for debt reduction and/or retirement savings. For more information go to www.COMPASSinitiative.org.