It never occurred to me starting out in this church business that a day might come when the community in which I serve might struggle financially to make ends meet.

And, it seems unlikely that in the parish in which almost all of my ordained ministry has been conducted, we are going to be faced with the awkward prospect of being unable to pay our bills before some day I start collecting my pension. But, I am starting to feel that serious financial insecurity may be the future for some of my younger colleagues. The economic realities of paying for church are increasingly challenging.

Salaries have gone up in an attempt to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Services that used to be provided by a ready team of available volunteers, must often now be delivered by paid employees. Utility bills  gobble up ever-growing reserves of cash. Rapidly advancing technology is more and more expensive. The cost of sharing in the work of the wider church, continues to expand. And, of course, added to increased costs, the donor base in many communities is, at best flat, and at worst, in serious decline.

The Anglican Church of Canada reports that in 2018 operating revenues fell $420,000 short of the $11 million budget. “By far the largest source of revenue, diocesan contributions were $464,000 under the $8.3 million originally budgeted for the year – or more than %5 less than anticipated.” (Anglican Journal May 2019, p.9) Since Diocesan donations to the National Church are dependent upon parish donations to the Diocese, it can only be assumed that parish giving to Dioceses is in decline which most likely reflects a drop in financial support for parishes.

All of this means growing pressure on paid professionals in parishes to increase our giving-units and get more offerings out of those who are already, often, giving sacrificially. It is an unenviable position.  This is not the job I signed up for.

My approach to finances has always been somewhat cavalier. The money comes in and the money goes out. In both my private and church life, as long as a bit more is coming in than going out, I have been content. So far this slightly naive approach has not let me down. In the absence of any unexpected catastrophe, I am financially comfortable enough in my personal life and the church in which I serve is well resourced for some years.

What would I do if suddenly our parish financial bottom line was seriously threatened? Would I suddenly start preaching motivational stewardship sermons urging the spiritual practice of giving? Would I rush into an aggressive recruiting scheme to expand our donor base? Would I jump into an elaborate financial campaign? Would I promote our building as a rental facility to increase a reliable revenue stream? Would I attempt to diversify our sources of income by producing some marketable commodity to fund our programs? Would I put my energy into rummage sales, garage sales, bazaars, teas, bake sales, or plant sales in an attempt to keep our monetary heads above water?

Any of these approaches might be the right way forward in the face of financial uncertainty. But, I wonder what advice Jesus might provide a financially strapped church?