ECF’s Finance Resource Guide – Coming Soon!

How we handle money in our congregations speaks louder about our mission than any mission statement…

The Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) is privileged to have received a grant from the Lilly Endowment National Initiative to Address the Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. The purpose of this multi-denominational effort is alleviating some of the key financial pressures that inhibit pastoral leadership, and improving financial literacy and management skills. In addition to resources targeted to specific clergy needs, ECF’s Lilly Endowment National Initiative offers resources to the wider Church. These resources focus on the challenges facing both Episcopal clergy and laity, especially relating to financial literacy, money management, and parish finance and administration. Over the past three years, ECF has released several webinars, articles and printed resources on economic challenges, parish finance and administration, along with culturally-relevant resources for Spanish-speaking and bilingual congregations. Accessible primarily through ECF Vital Practices, webinars have included “Fearless Finances – A Practical Approach to Parish Budgets” and “Money: What’s it to you?”, while Vital Practices articles have dealt with “Financial Visioning in Seven Steps” and “Testing Mammon: Financial Discipleship” among others.

Providing a much-needed resource

While these resources and tools have been well-received, ECF learnt from conversations with leaders across the Church, that there was a need for financial handbook that provides greater depth around sound financial management practices and principles, and which also shares year-round, theologically driven stewardship practices.

To answer that need, in the spring of 2019, ECF will release the first edition of the Finance Resource Guide (FRG). At its core, the FRG sparks conversation, providing the cornerstone finance text that church leaders are looking for to become strategic and smart custodians of their parish’s financial assets. The FRG joins ECF’s other essential publications - the Vestry Resource Guide and Funding Future Ministry.

Combining practical finance with scripture

Grounded in scripture, the FRG inspires readers to face their discomfort about money and engage the question of why money is important in our congregations: It keeps the lights on, it pays our clergy, and most importantly, it makes the mission of our congregations possible through programs, outreach and advocacy. Going deeper, the FRG pushes readers to consider both the harder conversation – why we as people of faith need to talk about money – and how the answers are critical to the health of a community of faith. Readers are given tools to discuss the oft-conflicting ideas about money from scripture (evidence of God’s blessing, “the love of money is the root of all evil,” “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven,” etc.) making the FRG a powerful integration of the Gospel and financial expertise.

Moving from conversation into action can often be a stalling point for vestries, so the FRG also offers several innovative tools to foster conversation and move a group past conversation and into action. Each chapter finishes with several “conversation starters” to help vestries, committees and parish leaders begin those difficult conversations and break down the barriers we all have towards money – both personally and congregationally. Conversation starter questions include:

  • What would Jesus vote for in your budget? (In your personal budget? In your congregation’s budget?)
  • Is your spending aligned with your mission and vision?
  • What “old thing” might God be inviting you to lay down, in order to do a new thing?

Each chapter also includes a “Financial Faith in Action” section, offering concrete actionable steps that can include the whole congregation. These action steps are practical and easy to implement for congregations both big and small. Following each chapter, readers will find a “first person” story that provides real insights into how these ideas have been incorporated into living faith communities. Readers can see how fellow Episcopalians have brought the often-intimidating topic of finances out of the realm of the impossible and into their realm of practical reality.

With the FRG, readers will learn more about financial management roles, guidelines for how healthy congregations typically allocate spending, transformational budgeting, financial reporting, property management, and more. Within our efforts, our goal remains humble: Trying to bring about real change to one pastoral leader and one congregation at a time. We acknowledge that seemingly secular issues like finances and money can be understood as sacred, and that making that connection is holy work. The Finance Resource Guide will be released in early 2019 and available through Forward Movement.

Adriane Bilous serves as Project Coordinator for ECF's Lilly Endowment Initiative "From Economic Challenges to Transformational Opportunities." She works to support all programmatic aspects of ECF’s three-year grant from the Lilly Endowment Initiative, including management of resources for new project initiatives, mitigation of new project issues to ensure successful project completion, and post-project evaluation.