Chinese Church Voices

Financial Management in Chinese Churches

An Interview

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.

In March China Christian Daily published an interview with a pastor from Dalian about the importance of properly managing church finances in Chinese churches. He highlights some of the difficulties that churches in China have in this area and some suggestions for improvement.

Pastor Talks about Financial Management of Chinese Churches

The income of churches comes primarily from donations by members who offer money to God with love and faith. The money should be used properly in order to supply the needs of God’s family and used in a way that glorifies God.  China Christian Daily recently interviewed Rev. Wu Bing from Dalian to talk about church financial management. The conversation covered various topics such as why financial problems exist in churches, what the Bible says about financial management, and how churches can establish budgetary systems to better manage their finances.

For churches in China, most authority resides with the senior pastors; they are the ones in charge, and serve as the administrative heads of the churches. Without adequate supervision systems in place, it is easy for them to make mistakes. Rev. Wu pointed out that there are currently no uniform regulations regarding church financial management in China. Because of their unique situation, churches can't simply copy the financial management experiences of social organizations nor adopt the financial management of foreign churches. Thus, Chinese churches have to explore a new system of financial management.

First of all it should be clear that church finances, which come from donations by the congregation, should never be used casually but only on ministries that serve God's family and glorify God's name. This is recognized by every church. But what principle should they follow? For example, suppose a preacher thinks that 10% of the income should be used for missions but the church council disagrees and thinks it's better to save the money to build churches. How can this conflict be resolved?

Churches are grounded in the Bible, which teaches the importance of financial management. Rev. Wu holds that there are at least three crucial principles in the Bible.

1. The common wealth of churches should not be used by the pastors. In the Old Testament the Levites did not have an inheritance; in the New Testament God supplied the needs of his servants.  What is clear is that preachers who serve God should not personally profit. The embezzlements by Rev. David Yonggi Cho (senior pastor and founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church) and Rev. Kong Hee (senior pastor and founder of City Harvest Church in Singapore) and their family members violate this core principle. Beyond supplying for the living expense of the pastors, the common wealth of churches should not be used on pastors but on the ministries of God. 

Wu suggests that churches should learn to make budgets under the guidance of both the preachers and the council because spending money as things come up is more likely to cause problems. "Churches may argue over the financial budget, but once the budget is decided, everyone should carry it out." 

2. In the New Testament the apostles received approval from the congregation regarding how to spend money. For example, Paul donated to help the churches in Jerusalem, and the congregation approved this donation. Pastors today should follow their example.

Here is an example of a wise pastor. The church was in need of renovations, but the costs were in the millions. The pastor divided the renovation project into several smaller projects, such as installing windows. The cost of each project was low, so the members were supportive. As the renovations progressed, they could appreciate the improvements and understood what the pastor was doing.

3. The Bible also indicates church members should understand pastors. Because the pastor is in charge of church ministries, the members should support him financially, but not place too many restrictions. Sometimes members don’t understand what the pastors want to do so the pastors have to raise funds privately. This is a nonstandard practice and can easily cause misunderstandings between the pastors and the council.

Wu says although the New Testament doesn't identify a perfect financial system, the church and the secular world have different management systems. This reminds him of a quote from Josh McDowell: “Discipline without relationship leads to anger.”  Or in this case, “relationships before systems.” If there is a relationship of mutual trust between pastors and members and pastors are unified and transparent, implementing the regulations will be easier. In the absence of relationships, things will go wrong even if the system is excellent. So we see that financial management relates closely to the relationship between pastors and the congregation.

At present, churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan do a better job of managing their finances. They make budgets and inform the congregation of the ministries and financial distributions and the expected amount of donations at the beginning of the year. They also publish the wages of preachers and the amount of received donations. In this way, the members know what to expect during the year.

Rev. Wu emphasized that it's necessary for budgets to be included in church financial management systems.

He also suggested that if the pastor is head of the church then he should be a leader, not a manager. The church should set up administrative staff that are appointed by the pastor and who are under the supervision of church members. It is best if pastors themselves are not directly involved in financial matters, but hand them over to the administrative staff.

专访】大连吴兵牧师谈教会财务管理:做忠心管家 教会当设立预算体系 (Gospel Times)
English translation:  Exclusive Interview: Pastor Talks About Financial Management in Chinese Churches (China Christian Daily)
Adapted and reposted with permission.

Image credit: China RMB, by Eric Pesik, via Flickr.
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