Preaching invites vulnerability all on its own, but a sermon about money? Yikes. Stewardship sermons are tough. I know the excuses because they pop up in my own head all the time:
“People will leave if I talk about money too much.”
“If I just mention generosity and gifts, people will know I’m asking them to share their money.”
“Preachers shouldn’t have to talk about giving from the pulpit – folks should just get it!”
“If I talk about time and talent, people will get generous without being asked.”
But these are excuses, not reasons—and they’re not even accurate. Those excuses don’t live into the freedom we know, the freedom that comes from putting God first and celebrating God’s many gifts. Step one in year-round stewardship preaching: get over yourself.
Do the work to figure out why you’re so anxious talking about money when literally every other person, place, and entity does it all the time. Ask yourself why you wouldn’t name money as a valuable, God-given tool for ministry that does good work for the gospel. Go through the events in your life that keep you from modeling, describing, and pointing to strong financial stewardship. Reflect on every bad money sermon you’ve ever heard and trust you can do better than that. And then, my friends, you’ve gotta get over it.
Now that you’re over your money anxiety, here are some tangible steps towards preaching about stewardship all year long:
Have stewardship season every year
Commit to at least four sequential Sundays of stewardship preaching every single year. Make them coincide with your annual appeal season and request for statements of intent so you can plan your annual budget. (You are inviting people to make a prayerful financial commitment every year, aren’t you? Please say yes.)
Give the appeal an annual theme. Can’t make the lectionary match your theme? Get rid of the lectionary for those Sundays. The lectionary serves the community, not the other way around. Scripture is filled with stories of generosity and reminders to use money appropriately. Use them.
Don’t softball your giving talk. Make sure people know that you invite them to give their money (say money out loud, specifically and frequently) so God’s mission can be done in your context.
Always wear your giving glasses
Stewardship sermons aren’t just for stewardship season. Any time you approach a preaching text, ask yourself: How does this call us to be generous as God is generous? Maybe the text reminds you to thank worshipers for their generosity in a recent appeal, donation event, or service opportunity. Maybe the text commands us to put money in its place as a way we serve God, not as a god we serve. Maybe the text invites you to witness to God’s own generosity to you or the congregation. Always, always take that opportunity.
Stay clear on your “why”
Yes, people’s financial giving keeps the lights on. But is that really all you want for those who hear you preach? Doesn’t the gospel release us from guilt and greed? Don’t you hope others know the work of the Spirit in their lives, fully and completely, even in their finances? Isn’t it a joy to give freely as God gives? Then preach about it. Let financial giving be the act of faith it truly is, not just a math equation.
Watch your words
People don’t give to fund your plans or support your church. People give to participate in God’s mission made known in their context. People don’t give to have power, prestige, and influence in the church’s affairs. People give because God calls us together to be the church. People don’t give to keep the doors open and the roof intact. People give because all things belong to God and we get to use the gift of money to God’s glory. Do you see the difference? Your words invite people into a world where their finances reflect their faith and their money does God’s work in the world.
Our preaching shows people that the church offers a different way to think about money. Preaching responsibly and joyfully about money brings life into a topic often filled with guilt and shame. We remind others that God gives us all things, including money, to be used for the good of our neighbor and the growth of the gospel. And like so many acts of faith, people need to hear it preached again and again. You, preacher, get to bring the good news about money and faith. No more excuses. You’ve got this.