(E)pistle: Practical Ministry

“A church budget is a moral document.” 

Those were the opening words from the Rev. John Dwyer, CDSP’s vice president and COO—and the speaker at our first Spring Forum. 

These workshops, scheduled for three Wednesday afternoons, are intended to focus on some vital areas of seminary education that often need some extra attention. Dwyer’s presentation to both residential and hybrid students was focused on understanding parish finances. It will be followed later by sessions conducted by outside speakers on the topics of church planting and stewardship.

I am a big advocate for these forums, because I have seen in my time as bishop that often new clergy are not well equipped to handle the “practical” side of ministry. This includes the money-related topics of budgeting, fundraising, and planned giving. 

It has often been said that most fights among married couples are about money, and the same is true in church relationships: When there is a conflict between a priest and a congregation, it usually centers around money—or the lack of it! But many seminary graduates struggle to read a spreadsheet, formulate a budget, or conduct a stewardship campaign. 

I believe this new forum series will help us all remember that we have an incarnational faith. God is present in the details of parish life and administration, which include and depend on such skills as budget-making and financial planning. 

How we use our resources can be just as important an expression of our faith as the way we worship, the content of our preaching, or our involvement in the care of congregations. In most congregations, none of those other expressions would happen otherwise!

Indeed, a budget is a moral document, and a litmus test of our faith.