As the Church Council President adjourned our congregation’s annual meeting, the high school teens swarmed me.
“How can it just end like that?”
“We still have questions about the budget!”
They quickly rattled them off, rapid firing one after another.
Upon seeing their engagement with our budget, I asked, “Would it be helpful to keep talking about this next week?”
“Yes!” they replied emphatically.
With that, I grabbed Jim, the congregation’s treasurer and asked if he’d be willing to join us the following Sunday to answer questions about our church’s budget. “Of course!” he replied. “How cool is it that our high school kids want to keep talking about the budget?!?”
A week later, Jim showed up in the Youth Room, rice crispy treats in hand. “My wife says budgets are boring and I needed to bring food.”
As our high school teens gathered, I introduced Jim and Craig, another one of our congregation’s council members to them. We then dug into the budget. For the next 45 minutes, our teens asked Jim & Craig various questions about the church’s budget:
What are pledges?
How does the budget get made?
Why does a pastor cost so much?
What’s a housing allowance?
Why, if pledges are down, did we pass a higher budget?
Why do we give so much money to the Synod (our denominational office)? What does the Synod do for us?
I heard from a previous council member that the budget doesn’t show us everything. Is the budget we’re being shown a form of fake news?
Jim & Craig answered each one, carefully and thoughtfully, dignifying each and every student’s question with an answer that showed they are valuable members of our congregation, not just in the future, but now.
As our time together drew to a close, Craig pointed out that we give 10 percent of our offerings each week back to the Synod. That led to an interesting conversation about tithing in which one of our adult leaders asked Jim, “What would happen if everyone at our church tithed?”
“Wow!” said Jim. “We’d have to imagine what to do with ALL the money!”
Certainly, this conversation was rich. It was meaningful. Some might even argue it was holy.
But it was more than that.
Through it, our high school teens got to know some of our church council members, the people who are entrusted to lead our congregation. The council members, in turn, got a close-up glimpse of our ministry and how much our teens care about our church.
Beyond that, our teens learned about the very real impact money (or lack thereof) has on our congregation’s mission, on its ability to impact our world.
Perhaps if we were more diligent about engaging people in these conversations as teens, churches wouldn’t be having the financial crises so many are currently in the midst of.
After all, teens who care about the church’s budget will soon become adults who care about their church’s budgets and who understand the value of supporting it, both prayerfully and financially.