More so than other non-profit organizations, churches rely on trust. Trust is why people are willing to give up their most precious resources, time, and money, to pursue a shared purpose. When the congregation trusts its leadership, they feel safe and confident in their decisions. When trust is lost, people start to pull away, disconnect, and eventually leave. Building trust in the church’s finances is a crucial piece of the overall picture of trust for a church. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, “Earning trust through financial transparency and accountability goes beyond what the law requires,” it should be a part of the church’s desire to remain above reproach. Here are three ways to build trust with the congregation, staff, and community through the church budget.
Top 3 Ways to Build Trust
- Reliability – When you get in your car and turn the key (or push the start button), you expect it to turn on. When you push on the gas pedal, the car should go, and when you hit the brake, the car needs to stop. If that happens repeatedly, you begin to trust that your car is reliable, and you can depend on it operating as intended. The same is true when it comes to the church budget. When you share the budget with the congregation, which I highly recommend you do, you will have set expectations for the church. For example, informing the church that the upcoming budget contains an increase of 5% to the supported missionaries, then include a 5% increase to the missionaries. Do what you say you are going to do. Of course, things happen to prevent new initiatives or projects from happening as planned, but that should be the exception, not the rule. After all, if your car did not start 4 out of 10 times, you would not consider it reliable.
- Transparency – Imagine going to the doctor with chest pains. They run a few tests, have a concerned look, and then tell you to go home. The doctor does not explain, provide a remedy, or even ask for a follow-up visit. Would that induce anxiety in you? When faced with the unknown, I typically start with worst-case scenarios and spiral downward after that. However, presenting the truth allows people to deal with it – whatever it is. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” In context, this is about hypocrisy. Hypocrites are more concerned about appearance than truth. When it comes to the church budget, be honest and transparent about what is in the budget. If the budget requires a reduction due to a downturn in giving, say it. Talk openly about the budget cuts and the consequences of the decrease. If there is an increase in the budget, praise God and share the impact of the gain. Withholding information, good or bad, leads to anxiety and ultimately distrust.
- Vulnerability – Transparency leads to vulnerability. Being honest and open about topics like declining attendance and giving can put church leaders in the position of susceptibility. Leaders that acknowledge the issues, and their role in contributing to the issues, can quickly build, or rebuild, trust.
Will Rogers said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” The same is true when building financial trust with your church. It starts with the simple act of doing what you say you are going to do with the money allocated via the church budget. Next, it means not presenting a false picture of the church’s financial situation. Finally, it allows church leaders to be vulnerable, to admit failures and celebrate successes. Church leaders that demonstrate reliability, transparency, and vulnerability discover trust is an inevitable outcome.short url: