We have all heard stories of pastors stealing money from the offering plate. While these extreme examples are jaw-dropping, it is my experience that pastors abuse church funds all the time in more subtle ways.
Five Ways Pastors Abuse Church Funds
(The purpose of this list is self diagnosis. If you are a ministry leader I encourage you to reflect on your own practices and adjust as the Holy Spirit leads.)
1.Taking a friend to lunch and calling it a ministry lunch.
Ministry is relational, so we will naturally build friendships with people in our congregations and ministries. However, when we hang out with our friends and call it ministry (without pushing a kingdom agenda forward), perhaps we are crossing the line and taking advantage of the grey area. To me, it would honor Christ to error on the side of caution when deciding whether to do a meal on the church’s time/dollar.
2. Going to a restaurant where wouldn’t spend your own money.
Some pastors I know are big spenders with the church’s money but stingy with their own. This is problematic. While there are appropriate times to celebrate on the church’s budget, there is no excuse to expense a lunch at Ruth Chris’s steakhouse when it wouldn’t fit your personal budget. If you wouldn’t (or couldn’t) spend your own money to eat at a certain restaurant, avoid it for ministry meals.
3. Buying a book using church money and then not reading it.
Some pastors are quick to purchase books because they look good on their office shelves. I suggest you make it a matter of integrity to read each book you purchase on the church’s budget. Additionally, I suggest if you have a habit of reading books without a strategy to translate your learning into improved ministry, you are still abusing your church’s trust and budget. You could apply the same rule to conferences.
4. Show up a little late and leave a little early.
We ask many of our volunteers to work at least 40 hours a week at their job and then invest 5-10 hours a week serving in the church. Many of these people literally work 5 days a week and then serve a night or two every week plus Sunday morning. In my opinion, it is unthinkable that we would work fewer hours than our volunteers give to their jobs. I am not talking about office hours necessarily, but a full time pastor should have at least forty hours every week invested in making progress, pushing agendas and thinking ahead.
5. Spending half the day on social media and calling it work.
Enough said. Don’t do it – it’s stealing.