What stalls church effectiveness and mission? Pastors and church leaders often point reflexively to a flaw in doctrine, a deficiency in gifting, or an absence of strong leadership. Of course, each of these can hinder the life and mission of a church, but often the answer is financial. Pastors and churches are often limited, if they do not fail, due to their ignorance of economics. Trained in theology and pastoral ministry, few church leaders understand the economics of churches, and fewer can navigate the increasingly complex financial issues facing a 21st-century pastor.
To help address this critical need, this past September, the Mosaix Institute of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center (WCBGC) convened leading academics, ministry practitioners and marketplace leaders for the first Church Economics Summit. Dedicated to equipping church and ministry leaders for greater gospel effectiveness, the Mosaix Institute gathered 24 leaders for a two-day event focused on understanding and addressing the need for economic literacy and leadership.
Led by Mark DeYmaz, director of Mosaix and co-author of The Coming Revolution in Church Economics (Baker Books), this gathering drew leaders from across denominations and networks to discuss the unique challenges of church economics. As discussions ranged from leveraging church assets to generating sustainable income, experts unpacked innovative strategies and identified key resource gaps needing to be addressed.
At the summit’s core, discussion focused on the need to help churches understand our social and economic point of transition. As the 20th-century model of depending on tithes to be financially stable begins to fade, churches need to develop multiple streams of income. This challenge is exacerbated by the lack of training pastors have in organizational economics. The twin challenges of fear and ignorance regarding finances can often stall church effectiveness. The seismic shift in church finances is likely to deepen this problem, demanding marketplace and ministry leaders with expertise, who need both nuance and wisdom in persuading churches of new financial opportunities.
Participants also noted the broader societal issues that are likely to deepen this challenge. The growing distrust of institutions complicates the ability of churches or pastors to trust. Also, growing income inequality across ethnic and generational lines can cause friction within church leadership or membership. And the cost of labor and services is rising. All of these factors contribute to a financial complexity that is beginning to overwhelm local pastors. These social issues are often outside our control, driven by cultural or political forces, and can deepen pastoral feelings of helplessness and confusion. As leaders look to help, resources need to acknowledge not only the changing economic structure of churches, but the roles these cultural and political factors can play in our churches.
For church leaders, the summit promises the initial step in helping equip churches for this new frontier. Reflecting on the summit, DeYmaz rooted the summit’s focus on church economics in the biblical meaning of stewardship (Matt. 25:14–28). Taking intentional steps to steward a church’s resources does not negate faith, but instead it reflects walking by faith and in wisdom. Through collaborations across industry and expertise, pastors can not only demonstrate the humility needed to overcome complex challenges, but also identify hidden opportunities for gospel ministry.
For more information on the Mosaix Institute go to WheatonBillyGraham.com/mosaix-multiethnic-church-institute/.