I want to tackle one of the most controversial areas of pastoral ministry, it can also be one of the most intimidating. The topic is a pastor’s relationship with a wealthy individual who either gives an above average amount or has the potential to do so. It can be very conflicting to know what people do and do not give. The fears of favoritism or allowing an individual to have too much influence are real. Unfortunately, the conversation of how a pastor relates to a key donor often stops there. Let me push it in a completely different direction because key givers need a shepherd.
Here are my thoughts. I hope they help.
- I believe every pastor needs to personally shepherd a dedicated group of people. The exact number of people that gain the pastor’s personal attention varies based on the size of the church. This is not showing favoritism any more than when a Preschool Minister takes responsibility for shepherding preschoolers and their families.
- Successful people can be very lonely. They fulfill a certain role in their workspace that does not always lead to deep friendships. Their responsibilities can also lead them to always be on the receiving end of needing to make critical decisions, stress, and difficult situations. Leaders also relate well and need other leaders. Business leaders definitely will see the pastor as a leader to be respected. Also, they would love to have at least one person in their life not expecting something from them, but building into them. You can be that unconditional fan!
- When we minister to different people we intuitively create filters to relate in the most appropriate way. For instance, when you care for homebound it is a completely different conversation then mentoring a college student. So do the same thing when you are shepherding a financially successful person. Put on the appropriate filter. Ask about their family, life, and work. Offer to pray for them. Let them know you see God at work in their life. Express thanks and appreciation for all they do. Your not playing favorites, you are being thoughtful and sensitive.
- Wealthy people have problems too. Money doesn’t insulate you from worry, fear, sickness, a failed marriage, or troubled kids. The Bible actually says the wealthy can have a harder time discovering Christ. Do you remember the camel and eye of the needle comment Jesus made? This should tell us that we must go after the wealthy with passion and purpose. It is hard for them. Do not allow this verse to call you away from the successful, but draw you to them more.
- Do not fundraise or talk about money. Spend 90% of your time listening. Then, provide them an update on how things are going at church. Make sure you have a clear vision so you can show them tangible progress. Business people measure success every day, so they will understand. I promise if the vision is clear and progress is being made, then they will ask you how they can invest more.
- Finally, ask them to teach you about business. I know you are a pastor, but you also run a business. Your team is counting on you for their jobs and your people are depending on you to make sure the church is thriving in the future. Feel free to ask them what business book they are reading or what business principle has meant the most to their success. We can always learn from the business world on how to run the business of the church better.
So my encouragement is to not feel paralyzed by the concerns of ministering to the wealthy. Jesus actually hung out with some of the most successful people himself, turned them into disciples, then unleashed them into the world.