Talking Money in Church

Money and SpiritualityMy very first social hour at Foothills, the one where my family and I were introduced to the community in May of 2012, I declared my unabashed love for stewardship and finance related ministry to a small group of folks I had just met, and all of them thought I was joking. (…all of them but one – Erin Price, who then revealed herself as the Chair of the Stewardship Committee!) As I told them then, and is still true, I am completely serious.

Money may not always be the most comfortable or easy topic, but I love talking about the questions that come up for people when you dig into their core understandings and assumptions around finances. Not unlike religious messages, it is fascinating to hear about people’s earliest messages or lessons about money, and to see the ways these messages have been a gift or an obstacle to them as they’ve tried to create a life of meaning and goodness. And inevitably – also like religious messages – I find that people either received tools they decided to reject outright, or that they found profoundly lacking, and so they are in great need of new and better tools that align with who they want to be and what they want to do with their “one wild and precious life.”

I am not an economist – though I am a regular listener to the Freakonomics podcast. My engagement with money is focused on its role in our religious and spiritual lives. Where we spend money – and where we dream of spending money when and if we have it – tells us what we value, what we care about, what we are literally willing to invest in. How much money we have and what our commitments are for that money determines much of our lives – translating sometimes into greater freedom and other times into less.

A workshop I once attended on socio-economic class asserted that whether you have a lot, or not enough, money is almost always a source of shame, for almost all of us. Ultimately, I assert that if our congregation isn’t talking and learning about moneyand its role in our lives, in the congregation, and in the larger world – often and regularly – then there’s no way we are fully connecting with our real life struggles and our deepest held dreams. Which is why…I love stewardship!

Over the month of March, you may be hearing about money more often than usual in our congregational life, as it is the time for our annual pledge drive. I invite you to receive these messages as opportunities to grow in our shared ministry around money and finances. Notice your feelings, and try to trace back the messages that shape these responses. Use this time as an opportunity to think about the ideas of faithful earning, spending, and giving. In this way, this pledge season – and all of our stewardship work together – can be more than simply another fundraising experience. It can be an important and meaningful way we live out our mission – transforming ourselves, and transforming the world.

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About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley serves as the Senior Minister of the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, CO. She's relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation and poetry, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy and often-great-depth of popular (and less popular) television and music. She and her partner of 17 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (10) and Josef (8).
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