Should Churches Borrow Money? [Christian Financial Alliance]

The Christian Financial Alliance  was created to help readers.  The idea is this:  Create a panel of biblical finance gurus.  People who take seriously the call to teach the Bible accurately with grace and truth.  Once a month, we post a question with a response from our panel to provide you with well-rounded, sound, biblical advice.  For more on the Christian Financial Alliance (or to join our team) click here.

“What is your stance on the issue of churches borrowing money?”

Christian Financial AllianceShould someone not get a mortgage to buy a house?  The Bible tells us we should avoid debt, but never tells us debt is a sin.  God provided his Biblical principles to keep us out of trouble.  So, it may be okay to purchase a home with a mortgage, but we should avoid as much debt as possible when doing so and make sure the debt doesn’t impact our ability to give and save adequately.  I believe the same holds true for churches.  Churches shouldn’t over extend so much that they have trouble paying operating costs and carrying out God’s ministry.  Churches, like you and I, need to make sure they are good stewards of God’s resources.  -

“Every time the Bible mentions debt, it warns about the dangers of it. So while debt isn’t prohibited, its use is cautioned. For this reason, I think both Christians as well as churches should avoid debt in all but very specific circumstances and when they do, have a clear and reasonable plan to pay it off quickly.”-

“I think churches should spend time to make sure that borrowing money is a smart financial decision. In a perfect world, my response would be to say that churches should not borrow money, but the truth of the situation is that there are times when a church body needs to get into a bigger building or different space sooner rather than later in order to avoid hindering organic growth and development. If that means taking out a loan after careful consideration, then I think it’s okay.” –

“While I would say there is nothing ‘wrong’ with churches borrowing money, I would go as far as to say that I can’t find anything ‘right’ about it either.  Debt is never used to fund God’s work in God’s word.  Consulting the whole counsel of scripture would not give us permission to call church debt ‘evil’ or ‘sin’, but at the same time we couldn’t call it ‘biblical’ either.  Church leadership must lead wisely in this all too commonly accepted practice.  In all of the books I have read about the Bible and money, churches, and Christian organizations, I have never once read about a church or ministry committed to being debt-free that later regretted it.  Yet, I have often read of churches buried, burnt out, over-leveraged, and undergenerous.” –

“It totally depends on the economy.  Right now, with such low interest rates, it actually makes sense for a church to borrow to do renovations or whatever.  As long as you are borrowing wisely, there is nothing wrong with a church doing it.” –

“I believe that churches should try to avoid borrowing if they can, while understanding that it isn’t always possible.  If we look to the Bible I can’t really find any instances where debt is talked about in a positive light. It is usually discouraged because being in debt means that you – or the church – will then have obligations outside the church and not to God.  “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”  Proverbs 22:7  At the same time I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that debt is talked about specifically as being sin.  It is mentioned often that we should save, and plan ahead for future goals, and I think that churches should do that when thinking about their spending.  While the Bible doesn’t have a lot of positive things to say about debt, it does say that the wicked don’t repay.  “The wicked borrows and does not repay, But the righteous shows mercy and gives.” Psalm 37:21  The other part of the verse above that should be noted is that the righteous show mercy and give.  I think that’s part of the mission of the church, and having a large amount of church debt can get in the way of our mission to spread the good news to all, show mercy and give.  In that case debt can be an extremely bad thing, and a hindrance.” -

“As long as a church has reviewed their finances appropriately and has a plan to pay off the note without neglecting their ministerial outreach, I think it’s just fine for churches to borrow money.  The church should, of course, try to raise support through capital campaigns in order to borrow as little as possible.” –

“What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander; what’s unhealthy in your personal finances is also unhealthy for your church finances. Borrowing money always puts us in a position of slavery. When a church borrows money, the bondage of debt can hold them back from pursuing the things that God wants them to do with their money. Churches should be beacons of freedom for a lost world. Going into corporate debt doesn’t jive with that.” –

For more on the Christian Financial Alliance (or to join our team) click here.

About Rob Kuban

Rob Kuban, author of Dollars and Doctrine, writes with the aim of bringing God’s people back to God’s word. His writing is rich with scripture and insight, maintains a solid balance between depth and daily living, and helps Christians live at the intersection of faith and finance. Follow Rob's Blog and order his book.

  • William_Drop_Dead_Money

    Here’s a different question: is it OK for a church to rent it facility? If the answer is yes, then its easier to look at the question of borrowing for a building. The payment’s the same, and you put yourself on the hook for it just as you do with a lease. The term may be shorter, but that’s pretty much it.

    Purchasing brings the benefit that eventually you can make your payment/rent zero, which if course is the ideal.

    The more important issue is the importance of money. I was on the board of a church that went kaput because it couldn’t keep up with the mortgage. My personal opinion (nothing more than that) is that the focus of the leadership was more on the payment than for which the church was there in the first place. Furthermore, when income went up, the extra didn’t go toward getting ahead on the debt, or toward supporting other ministries. It went only to putting volunteers on staff. When income dropped, those people were taken off the payroll. In between, nothing really changed.

    Churches face very similar financial decisions to those of ordinary households, and I believe the same disciplines should apply: spend less than you bring in, include giving out of that local body as part of the normal expenses, and work toward getting (and staying) out of debt.

    With the proper attitude toward money (it’s merely one more resource) a church can incur debt with no problem. Without the proper attitude, it will go under even without debt.

    Debt per se is not the issue: the general responsibility in working with money is the issue.

    • Jason Price

      Uh, William, I think you need to look into joining the CFA. Very will put. Your comments match my feelings on this exactly, although, stated much better. Also, the story you shared is my fear for many churches. As you stated, the church loses sight of what they are there for to begin with.