Essential Financial Competencies for Ministry Leaders

(Originally published as an article within ECCU’s former e-publication, Ministry Banking Today.)

You know how to lead. And nurture, instruct, and counsel. But how confident are you when it comes to the business side of your ministry? And how much does it really matter?

We asked three executive pastors, each with different backgrounds and credentials, to answer the question, “What are the essential financial competencies for executive pastors today?” Whether you’re a pastor at a church or an executive leader at another ministry, these responses may help you find the balance between business and ministry.


Paul Utnage, Executive Pastor
Montgomery Community Church
Cincinnati, Ohio

The words “from my perspective” are critical in my answer to this question. In reality, there is no overarching summary that applies to all executive pastors. Every pastor has different strengths, and each person is in a unique situation that requires a different emphasis. Therefore, few executive pastors will approach financial competencies in the same way.

Having said that, here are some general competencies required for executive pastors, regardless of the situation. Executive pastors should:

  • Know how to read a financial report on their own, without a lot of help from associates.
  • Hold reporting associates accountable to healthy boundaries with the church's money.
  • Share some values for financial stability, strategic focus, and risky faith with key leaders.
  • Know how to lead a budget process in general, although they may delegate various parts of it to others with greater competency.
  • Know the basic elements that are involved in financial purchases, leases, etc., although they may delegate the work to others.
  • Understand the issues in a debt discussion for the church, including both short- and long-term consequences.
  • Know the church's process for handling benevolence ministries.

Few of these things require a formal education in institutional finances (unless the executive pastor is directly responsible for the hands-on financial management of the church). Yet an executive pastor’s eyes should not glaze over when someone brings out a financial report or budget process. They should light up with an inner fire for moving the church forward, even moving financially forward.


John Collins, Administrative Pastor
Harvest Ministries
Riverside, California

For me, financial competency means having a competent professional as our business manager working under my pastoral direction.

I am a pastor first, executive second. As our church grows, leadership is expanded—and we choose men with the qualities required to lead and shepherd God’s people. We feel we can always augment what we need in business acumen with competent, trained professionals who work under a pastor.


Jim Clark, Associate Pastor of Business and Stewardship
First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton
Fullerton, California

I think it is important to surround yourself with wise counsel from those with a background in finance and accounting. An executive pastor is probably already versed in asking and listening—it should be no different when seeking financial counsel. Keep asking until you understand and can share the information back in layman’s terms.

We also use simplified financial reports and dashboards to make complex information understandable to both staff and boards, allowing them to get the information they need to make sound decisions.


For additional resources on this topic, these executive pastors recommend: Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn, Business Through the Eyes of Faith by Chewning, Eby and Roels, Crown Financial Ministries®, Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, Kingdom Advisors, and XPastor.


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