Just like the majority of individuals, many churches are heavily burdened with an unnecessary load of debt. While I cannot claim churches that use debt to finance their activities are wrong for doing so or that God won’t bless them simply because they chose to borrow money (that’s not my call to make), I can confidently say I have never found a verse in scripture where God used debt to bless His people. For me, this applies to both individuals and churches. Instead, I can find LOTS of references where God tells us debt is bad (Romans 13:8, Proverbs 17:18, Proverbs 22:7, etc.). So, as plainly as I can put it, I do not believe churches should have debt. I believe churches should behave with their money just like people should, which means living below their means, saving for emergencies, and being prepared to say “no” periodically. Instead of teaching scriptural principles that will lead to debt free living, churches seem to cloud the issue further in a couple of ways.
On one side, many churches are just downright stingy. They may have millions (literally) in the bank and yet don’t have any REAL outreach programs. This makes me angry! Many churches I find that have debt are also very generous. Just like in your personal life, I believe churches need to ensure there is a balance. Help those in your congregation and community who are in need, but do so in such a way that you don’t put the church in the position of having to be enslaved to debt to do so.
Then there are the churches that promote debt to their congregation by encouraging them to give their tithe/offering by credit card. I love the convenience of online giving and used to give to my church that way, but I have no idea why any church would consider promoting giving with your credit card. Sadly, this has become a popular trend, especially in larger churches. While it may be a convenience to givers, it costs the church 2-3% in fees to receive the money (that’s a huge chunk for a non-profit’s budget) plus it encourages you to use a card when so many struggle with behaving with their money.
Hate me for saying this, but it is no wonder the people in most congregations struggle with debt. The church can’t seem to figure out where it stands either.