Igniting Steward Leaders

"This article first appeared on Christianity Today's BuildingChurchLeaders.com."

Being a steward is not synonymous with stewardship. Most churches and leaders have stewardship campaigns, but they talk about stewardship as if it were merely an activity or a singular topic of study. This typically results in a short sermon series every other year, or, worse yet, a period of intense focus prior to the launch of a fundraising campaign that is then dropped until the next financial need arises. As a result, an April 2013 study from the Barna Group reveals, 95 percent of adults are not giving 10 percent of their income to their local church. In addition, consumer debt hitan all-time high of $3.2 trillion in 2014. These sobering statistics reveal the challenges that followers of Christ face as stewards; Dr. Wesley K. Willmer states in Revolution in Generosity that “most dont believe they ever could give 10 percent, and do not possess the practical knowledge on how to get there.” In other words: what we are teaching is not working.

In order to change church members’ mindsets and behavioral patterns, we must begin with the fact that a steward is a person, a manager of someone else’s resources—it’s personal. Most followers of Christ will acknowledge that they have this role, yet deep down they struggle with faithfully carrying it out. In Romans 12:1, the Lord calls us to a life of complete commitment to him by urging each of us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. The idea here is that we are “all in,” in all areas of our lives, so its important that we ask ourselves and our church body if any parts are not completely surrendered to, and under, the lordship of Jesus Christ. Too often the part that is not surrendered is the stewardship of the time, talents, and treasures entrusted to us by God. We see an example of this dichotomy in Luke 18:18–23, when a certain ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Though in the eyes of men he was a good person, his possessions owned him; for him, behavior modification was neither his salvation nor his solution. He needed a new heart. He needed to be God's steward, not simply to manage his belongings better.

When people fully embrace their role as stewards, become equipped, and begin to grow, literally every area of ministry is impacted. Do we need volunteers to serve? Do we want to see more people reaching out and sharing the gospel? Do we need more leaders? People wont step up consistently, as a way of life, until they understand and embrace their role as stewards. Do we want to see generous and cheerful givers? That, too, wont happen until our congregations embrace their roles as stewards and become equipped with the tools and practical resources to grow.

Igniting a Steward Culture

This process begins with acknowledging where we have fallen short. In 5 Reasons Why People Aren't Giving in Your Church, Casey Graham writes that “people feel like the church wants something from them, not for them.” Because of the lack of trust and transparency this has created in many churches, a steward culture must be intentionally pursued and fostered over time. The first step is to stop viewing stewardship as a way to get something from our congregants and start viewing it as each person’s journey to becoming a better steward. What other topic in Scripture has become more sacred and personal than how we use our money and resources? We often feel as though its our God-given right not to share where we are and how we need to grow in this area. Scripture encourages us to give quietly and with the right motivation, but it never says that we are not accountable for our giving. Leaders must lead by teaching and modeling what they want to see in others before expecting to receive it.  

As the many examples of public figures taken down by addictions and sinful behaviors show us, the worst thing we can do is live the Christian life in isolation and try to rely on our own conclusions about where we stand spiritually and where we need to grow. The Bible calls us to live in community, to confess our sins to one another, to encourage each other, and to hold each other accountable—that includes our role as stewards. Unfortunately, the Enemy has done a great job of suppressing this topic, and the steward culture war seems to have been all but lost. Ideally, a church will possess a culture where the role of steward is modeled, defined, and understood from a scriptural viewpoint and embraced as a life-long calling by every member. The growth of this culture can be fostered by encouraging regular, everyday discussions about being a steward and by requiring accountability.

What does it look like on a practical level?

It starts with us (Luke 6:40). If we as leaders have not studied the Scriptures well and are not personally modeling the role of steward, we will have difficulty casting the vision and challenging others to do the same. Jesus Christ set the ultimate example of stewardship and generosity, and he challenges us to conform to his image. Since so many of the parables of Christ teach about stewardship principles, they are a great starting place for study. With the goal to “spur one another on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24), leaders can share personal stories that demonstrate how they steward their time, talents, and treasures on a day-to-day basis to encourage and challenge others to do the same.

Educate our constituents (Hosea 4:6). Randy Alcorn writes in The Treasure Principle about many churches and ministries having a “dont ask, dont tell” policy when it comes to discussing finances. Because many leaders view money as a taboo topic, they are not comfortable discussing, communicating, or encouraging accountability in this area of spiritual maturity. When is the last time you had an article in your church or ministry publication about the spiritual basis of stewardship? When we write appeals for support, do we view it as an opportunity to educate about the spiritual themes of our role as stewards and discipleship? In other words, do we educate or ask for money?

The table below outlines one approach for churches to educate their constituents.


Develop partners in ministry (Matthew 28:19). When we realize that our role as stewards is to help transform hearts to be like Christ, then it becomes clear that this is really about discipleship. A commitment to disciple others is not easy, nor is it ever limited in focus. Jesus spent roughly three years with his disciples and lovingly taught them about every aspect of life. He spoke regularly about their commitment to God and about how that commitment impacted every aspect of their lives, including the stewardship of their time, talents, and treasures. If we are not careful, a specific need, project, or ministry may become the sole focus of our ministry and cause us to neglect the spiritual lives of the lay leaders who make those projects happen. Sadly, we begin to view our relationships as a means to an end instead of a viable way to love and minister to them. Sometimes we convince ourselves that ministering in this way is not our gift, and we never attempt to learn and grow in stewardship. Usually it gets delegated or avoided, and we continue to fail to engage in this area of discipleship with others.

Develop partners in ministry requires intentional planning and a pathway or plan of discipleship. Below is an example of a discipleship pathway to disciple steward leaders. We must continue to realize that everyone is individual and unique and that it is God who transforms lives; however, its our role to offer a plan that provides direction for those under our care. The sample path visible here outlines a way for leaders to cast the vision of growth and progression in an area of spiritual growth that needs to be clarified and understood.

Love individuals with a love that binds (1 Corinthians 13:2). Authentic, loving relationships will break down barriers to igniting steward leaders. As leaders, our first priorities are to love God and to understand that everything belongs to him. It is because of Gods grace that we are called to ministry in the first place, and we can love and worship him by acknowledging and resting in the truth that there is no single need for which he cannot provide. The next priorities are our relationships with those we are discipling. People quickly figure out if we genuinely love and care for them, or if we only see them as dollar signs or what they can offer us. Developing loving relationships with others takes time and effort as we get to know about them, their families, their prayer needs, and how to be a part of their spiritual growth. Our spiritual conversations should include the topic of stewardship, and what it means to be a good steward. We should determine how we can help each other grow in this area, as well as how and when we will approach each other for accountability and growth. These authentic conversations will allow us to grow in respect and Christ-like love for one another.

The Journey of Stewardship (+ Bookmark)


The Stewardship Bookmark
Becoming a faithful steward does not happen overnight—it’s a journey. It’s a journey that every Christian is on (whether we admit it or not) and each one of us are at different points of that journey. Since our example is Christ, who gave all, it means that none of us have “arrived”, nor can we say that we are completely done growing. Each day we must ask God to untangle us from the web of
“stuff” that makes earth seem like home instead of the place Jesus prepared for us in His Kingdom.

But what does that journey look like? Where do we start? Since there are over 2,000 passages in the Bible that teach about stewardship one can get overwhelmed. However, there are foundational starting points in Scripture and the progressive steps of maturity that can help us along this journey.

Here are four stages to consider for your personal journey of stewardship:

Come and See – Exploring Stewardship

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8

Every journey has a beginning. We have an open invitation from God but each one of us must choose in our own free will to seek and explore His truth. Before we had a personal relationship with Christ, we had to explore His claims, truths, and purpose. This choice to explore is a part of what ignites a personal relationship with Christ.

In regards to stewardship, your start may be admitting that you don’t even want to explore. If that’s where you are, I can relate, but don’t stay there. Admit to God, your Father, that this is where you are and ask Him to give you His desire. He is faithful and will not disappoint.

Below are five questions and verses that guide us into exploring our role as stewards:

  • Whose money is it anyway? (Psalm 50:10-12)
  • Why does God care about giving? (Matthew 6:24)
  • Can God be trusted? (2 Cor. 9:8)
  • Can I be trusted? (Luke 16:10)
  • What is the Law of the Harvest? (2 Cor. 9:6-7)
Praise God that we have plenty of access to His Word and the freedom to read and study it! God is inviting us to explore His Word to learn His will for our lives as stewards of His resources.

Follow Me – Embracing Stewardship
“At once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:20

Once we learn God’s truth we must embrace it and put it into practice. There is a difference between a believer and a follower of Jesus. The journey of stewardship is a journey of discipleship and that difference requires making hard choices that honor God and obey His Word. Here are five more Scriptures that surface critical choices God has presented us in His Word:
  • I choose to recognize God’s blessings. (Psalm 40:5)
  • I choose to follow Christ’s example. (2 Cor. 8:9)
  • I choose to excel as a giver. (2 Cor. 8:7)
  • I choose to store treasure in Heaven. (Matt. 6:19-21)
  • I choose to be content. (Phil. 4:11-12)
Deny Yourself – Engaging Stewardship
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves…” Matthew 16:24

The word “deny” can be so frightening, yet it is the very key to our freedom. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus invites us to engage and live in a Kingdom economy instead of the economy of this world. In this world, “he who has the most toys wins”, yet God’s viewpoint is dramatically different. The original Greek word here is aparneoma, which means “to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests” 1. This presents a tremendous crossroads in our journey of stewardship. Jesus makes it clear though that “his disciples must deny themselves”. Here are five commitments you can make to deny yourself as God’s steward:
  • I commit to give to God first. (Prov. 3:9-10)
  • I commit to make a budget plan. (Prov. 21:5)
  • I commit to provide for my family. (1 Tim. 5:8)
  • I commit to give prayerfully. (Phil 4:6)
  • I commit to share with those in need. (1 Tim. 6:18-19)
Take up Your Cross – Equipping Stewardship
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

What does it mean to “take up your cross”? Many viewpoints have been offered but it’s important to understand the history and context of this verse when it was written. In Jesus’ day the cross meant one thing…death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you must die to be a faithful steward as physical death is used metaphorically not as the application. But, what I am saying is that Jesus calls us to die to ourselves spiritually for Him. Those who die spiritually to Jesus will find life but those who take their eternal life into their own hands will find death (separation from God).

Jesus asserts that death is imminent—we don’t choose to submit to physical death or not—we are all going to die. The question is how are we dying? Are we gaining possessions and ignoring God while alive on this earth or are we embracing “spiritual death” so that we might follow Jesus into eternal, spiritual life?

The final growth stage in stewardship is when we mature and are willing to give all for Jesus. When we do, it affects every aspect of our life, especially stewardship. As you seek to “take up your cross” here are five more Scriptures to guide you in your journey:
  • I seek intimacy with God in giving. (Matt. 6:1-4)
  • I seek to be trusted with true riches. (Matt. 25:21)
  • I seek ways to give sacrificially. (Luke 21:1-4)
  • I seek to encourage and equip others to be generous. (1 Tim. 6:18)
  • I seek to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (2 Cor. 9:6-7)
A Practical Take Away

You can obtain a copy of the Stewardship Bookmark which can serve as a helpful reminder of this growth process and highlights these key Scriptures. The front of the bookmark outlines this four-phased growth process with supporting Scriptures. The back of the bookmark highlights some of the most prevalent lies from Satan and the opposing Scriptures that guide to truth in your journey.

How about you? Where are you at in your journey?

1 – Denying Self

“Have you ever told God, “I’m all in”?

An analogy using Texas Hold’em
On page 39 of Chip Ingram’s book, Living on the Edge, he states, “One of the most popular new sports on televisions today is poker.  I never quite thought of it as a sport, but when ESPN, the Travel Channel, and almost everyone else airs poker games multiple nights a week, I think it’s safe to say there must be a lot of interest.  The game that has seems to have captured America in recent years is “Texas hold’em.”  The biggest moment in “Texas hold’em” comes when three little words are said, “I’m all in!”  The person who has gone “all in” will either leave as a big winner or will be removed from the game, as every single chip that he or she possesses is at the center of the table.”
This serves as a great word picture for our faith and walk in Christ.  Chip goes on to say, “Texas hold’em demonstrates better than anything I know of what it means to surrender your life to Christ.  The drama doesn’t really get started and the action doesn’t really begin until you say, “God, I’m all in!”  It’s when you take the chips of your family, your future, your money, your gifts, your dreams, and all your possessions and you push them to the middle of the table and you say, “Ok, Lord, you deal”, that your life gets really exciting.” 
What about you?  Are you all in?
Have you ever committed to God that you are “all in” or are there areas of your life still “off limits” to God.  Paul shares a powerful verse in Romans 12:1, stating, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” 
A godly steward recognizes that they must fully surrender everything to God.  To be a living sacrifice means we are active stewards of the time, talent and treasure God has temporarily loaned us on earth and that we trust Him to be faithful to His promise to never lack. 
Use the grid below to chart your progress on complete surrender to God:

Increasing your capacity as a godly steward
I had a mentor share a powerful analogy as it relates to one’s spiritual capacity using a barrel.  A traditional barrel is made up many vertical wooden staves that are bound either by metal or wood.  A barrel can only hold as much liquid as its lowest stave.  The liquid will drain out from the top of the lower stave and eventually level off, regardless of the height of the other staves. 
Let’s use this analogy and relate it to our capacity as a steward.  As a steward, your life (the barrel) consists of three primary staves:    time, talent and treasure.  As you charted your progress above, which stave did you rate the lowest as fully surrendered to God?  In a similar way as the barrel, your capacity as a godly steward is limited by your lowest stave.  A Scriptural example of this is found in Luke 16:10 NLT, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities.”  If we are good stewards of our finances, then we should also strive to be good stewards of our time and talents.  Nowhere in the Bible does it justify a person who is faithful in one area of stewardship but not the others.  Scripture provides ample examples of followers who were good stewards of their time, talent AND treasure, so we must seek to grow and surrender each one completely to God.  Much like the barrel and its staves, as we grow in one particular area of stewardship, it will strengthen our capacity in others. 
Taking a step toward surrender
Take a note of which area you noted as lowest on the percentage scale.  Was it time, talent or treasure?  Before discussing practical ways to improve, the most important aspect is the condition of your heart.  Can you honestly say you are ready to surrender this area to God?  If not, I would recommend a focused season of prayer, studying stewardship Scriptures and reading one of my favorite books, The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorn.  If you answered “yes”, there are there are a couple of ways to approach growth in surrender from a practical perspective. 
One way is to focus on what you are doing well and do it more.  Take time to note or write down three ways you are witnessing a life of surrender as it relates to that specific area of stewardship:

1.  ________________________________________________________________________
2.  ________________________________________________________________________
3.  ________________________________________________________________________

Then write down how you can increase your level of commitment. 
__________________________________________________________________________
Write these down in your personal journal or on the inside cover of your Bible.  Pray regularly for God help you continue to be faithful and to continue to grow.

Another approach is focusing on those things that are hindering surrender in that particular area of your life.  Take time to write the top three:
1.  ________________________________________________________________________
2.  ________________________________________________________________________
3.  ________________________________________________________________________

In a similar way write these down and then make a part of your quiet time praying for God to change you.  Like David, pray Psalm 139:23 to God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” It starts with agreeing with God’s perspective and then being open and willing to change.  He is faithful to show up because He is the Living God.
In closing, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16).

The Uncertainty of Tomorrow

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ – Luke 12:20 NIV

At 80 years of age my grandmother still ran a business and was able to care for herself. Without any known health issues, she went to sleep one night and never woke again. It was tragic. Whether we go in our sleep, or not as graciously, we all face the reality of the grave.

Facing Death

Consider for a moment how Jesus faced the grave. Hebrews 12:2 urges us to fix our eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” God had promised to raise Him on the third day. Death could not hold Him and His faith never wavered in this promise. His relationship with His Father was so strong He could face the grave with great courage.

We all face death, but will we face it with the same courage? Romans 6:5 NIV states, For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” What’s so uncertain about that?

In Psalm 90, King David wrote, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years; Or if due to strength, eighty years; Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.”

Store Treasure in Heaven!

What lesson can we learn? Jesus provides that answer in verse twenty-one, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Jesus then goes on to direct the Disciples not to worry about the basic provisions of life, but to “store up treasures in Heaven” and to “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.” Living day-by-day, moment-by-moment with the reality that we will be in the presence of the Lord at any moment is both a matter of faith and obedience.

There is tremendous insight here as we consider how we give. To be rich towards God, one must first know Him and love Him. Then, as we grow in our knowledge of Him through His Word, our lives will continue to be transformed and marked with generosity.

Are you storing treasure in Heaven, or on earth? What are your thoughts on this topic? How can someone store more treasure in Heaven?


What Does it Mean to Become a Ten-Talent Steward?

Matthew 25:16 - “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.”
John Beckett, a successful businessman from the Midwest, faced a huge challenge. He and a few other businessmen were postured to purchase land in the Midwest that was projected to be one of the most strategic development investments. Yet, God used the vision of Dr. Bill Bright and the testimony of an elderly woman who gave sacrificially to propel him in a completely different direction.  John and his wife obeyed God’s call to give all they had set aside for a struggling Christian college in New York instead of going through with the land purchase.
Today, both John and his wife can see how their decision has helped hundreds of young students be trained for Christian leadership. They are modern examples of ten talent stewards. Rather the real estate, this investment will multiply through the lives of these students and have an incomprehensible impact for the Kingdom.
To do this, we must approach each day with the same sense of urgency of the slave in Matthew 25 that returned the ten talents for the five. He went to work right away! His approach was to trade or exchange that which was of lesser value for something of greater value. This would require “releasing” what he was initially given to invest in that which was of greater value in the eyes of his master.
Giving resources entrusted to us for the advancement of God’s kingdom and glory is foundational to this principle. In Luke 16:9, Jesus says, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Again, He says in Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” The concept here is to trade earthly treasures for eternal treasures that last. How wonderful it will be to meet the faces of those reached for Christ, or those that grew closer to the Lord as a result of our investment and generosity towards His work.
God has entrusted a measure of time, talent and treasure to each one of us. We must consider how can they be traded and invested into eternal matters that will advance God’s kingdom and bring Him glory.

How about you?  Have you considered where you can trade earthly treasures for eternal purposes?  If so, share what God has revealed.  Or, do you have a personal story where you’ve seen God bless your generosity and multiply it?  Share and encourage other readers.


It All Belongs to God

Psalm 50: 10-12 – “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains.”

For you and me it was an old worn out tool, but to a little boy it was a treasure…and it was “mine”! Little Aaron was playing with daddy’s tool belt left on the floor after a long day of work. Quickly he noticed the most fascinating multifunction screwdriver and took off to accomplish some minor repairs around the house. It was just an old tool, but to Aaron it was a new treasure and he had no intentions of returning it back to his father.

More than likely if you have children in your life this story sounds all too familiar to you. Have you ever sat and thought about the fact that we don’t have to teach our children how to take what is not theirs? Unfortunately, it comes naturally as a result of our fallen nature. How often do we respond like Aaron did to our Heavenly Father?

In fact, it was a case of misplaced ownership that led to the fall of man. The Lord gave clear instructions to His first children on earth, Adam and Eve, in reference to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by stating “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.” Yet they gave into the temptation from the enemy and ate the forbidden fruit. Ultimately, it was a futile attempt to gain something that was rightfully not theirs in the first place and their actions created severe consequences for the entire human race.

James 4:14, states that our lives are, “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” In 2 Peter 3:8, we see that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” Our lives are short in the sight of an eternal God.

In a similar way that Aaron was entrusted for a brief time with his father’s screwdriver, so we are entrusted with a portion of God’s resources: our time, family, home, car, financial resources, gifts, abilities and everything else. They’re His and when we give to support His work, we are only returning what was rightfully His in the first place.

Malachi 3:8-9 provides a firm warning for us to consider when we are not faithful with what is rightfully God’s. It states, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, “How have we robbed You? In tithes and offerings.” “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!”

When we embrace the truth that everything belongs to God it causes us to realize that we must hold on loosely to all that God has provided us and seek His face for wisdom so that we are faithful stewards for the short time we have on earth.

Personal Application – Seeking Input

I think it’s important that disciples begin to discuss what it means to be a steward again. Notice, I didn’t say “stewardship”, but steward. A steward communicates that this is a personal responsibility and not just another topic to discuss without personal growth and application. Giving and generosity have become taboo topics in many churches and most pastors are not providing solid biblical teaching and discipleship in this area. I don’t know about you, but when I’m struggling with something, part of my growth process is sharing with other disciples for wisdom and being teachable. If we never talk about this, how can we expect to grow?

Here are a few questions for readers to get the conversation started:
  1. How often does your pastor preach or teach on generosity? Do you feel equipped in this area of your life?
  2. What has specifically helped you to transfer from an attitude of an owner to that of a steward?
  3. Is there something in your life that you have not completely given over to God? Share anonymously what that is and allow other readers to pray with you.
If you would like specific solid free biblical resources on this topic, visit one of these website below:

http://www.revolutioningenerosity.com/resources.html
http://www.epm.org/resources/category/money-and-giving/

How Much to Pay a Pastor for a Wedding

Many readers who plan to get married in the future can think right away of the pastor they would want to do their wedding. Even if you don’t, nearly every state requires a member of the clergy to officiate a legally recognized wedding. Since this is the case and because budgeting is such a key component of planning a successful wedding, how much do you pay a pastor to officiate? What are other key factors to keep in mind when you contact your pastor?
What is the typical compensation range for a pastor who does your wedding?
Total compensation can vary based on the amount of time and effort you receive from your pastor so there’s a sliding scale below for reference. For example, some pastors require as many as four to six premarital counseling sessions prior to that special day. If you are receiving that counseling from another source, then it will obviously require less time, although the officiating pastor will want input from those sessions. Regardless, most pastors won’t simply “show up” for that special day without some preparation involved:

$? – A generous gift
$300 - A wedding with advance preparation and premarital counseling
$150 - A wedding with some advance preparation but no premarital counseling
$100 – A small wedding with little preparation

I can speak from personal experience of the value of premarital counseling. God used that time to confirm many things about our decision but also revealed areas we needed to be better equipped and prepared for as a couple. One pastor that has conducted numerous weddings states, “Couples come to the pastor thinking that they know everything when they are ignorant of what they don’t know. I will attach a “Questions for Better Communication” sheet that I use to send couples out on a date to simply talk about those questions that they haven’t asked each other yet. I have yet to have a couple come back that says, ‘We have already talked about all of these before.’”
How much notice is recommended?
Every pastor I spoke with stated, “The sooner the better”, but all indicated that the ideal amount of lead time to officiate a wedding is six to nine months. Most pastors have a very busy schedule and anything less will make it difficult to work into their ministry plans for the year. Also, a six to nine month notice provides the necessary time to schedule and complete any premarital counseling. Notices two to three months or less will most like find the pastor’s schedule already filled.
What questions should I be prepared to answer when I make that call to the pastor?
As I surveyed pastors, four common questions surfaced and these include:
·         When do you want to get married (date and time)?
·         Where do you want to get married?
·         Do you have someone doing premarital counseling with you? If not, are you willing to go through that together?
·         When can we meet together to do some initial talking and planning?

What are other important considerations a pastor will take into consideration?
·         Plan early and often – Most pastors will want the couple to think through what they want and not look to the pastor as a sort of pseudo-wedding coordinator.

·         Similar spiritual convictions – Pastors will want to determine if both the husband and wife recognize that the basis of authority for their marriage is the Scriptures. In addition, the will dig deeper to determine if both view this relationship in partnership with each other. For example, are future plans, mutual plans? Are both sensitive to each others needs and desires, and how they will do life together, etc.?

·         Be honest and forthright – The officiating pastor will need this to know where they stand and to serve you effectively. Important questions need to be addressed, such as are you marrying in opposition to your parents' will? Are you pregnant and trying to hurry things along? Have you been married before? Some of this will come out in your premarital discussions but you should not allow for any surprises. Get the whole story out there and allow the pastor to make an informed decision about participating with you in your blessed day.

·         Follow-through – Determine up front if you are willing to follow through with the recommendations of the Pastor, such as timing, issues that arise in premarital counseling and other observations that may surface from an outside person looking at your relationship.

·         Enjoy the journey - It is far too easy for couples to get caught up in trying to please numerous people, manage budgets, etc., and miss out on the joy that can be experienced leading up to the big day. Purpose up front to not become overwhelmed and to enjoy each moment together.

·         If you’re married, share your experience with readers. What did you pay and what other considerations would you offer readers?