“Well,” Pam said thinking a moment and chuckling, “I was just getting off of (congregation) council after having been president for a while, and our treasurer was desiring a change, so I stepped into the role and have been there ever since.” That was back in 2012 and now, in 2023, Pam Rhynes still finds herself answering God’s call to serve at Advent Lutheran Church in Charlotte.
A member at Advent since 1992, Pam doesn’t have a professional financial background. “I worked for IBM,” she said matter-of-factly, but she’s quick to say that you don’t need an extensive financial background to do the work of a treasurer in the congregation. “People were telling me that they wanted to be updated and talked to about the finances of the congregation,” she noted, “and I can communicate well.”
In fact, communication, collaboration, and a desire to be involved are the key ingredients to being an effective treasurer in Pam’s estimation. A basic understanding of financial tools is helpful, of course. “I don’t pay the bills of the congregation, but I understand Quickbooks,” she notes, but being a partner with the person who does pay the bills and working with council on the reports is really more important than any deep professional knowledge.
The ability to communicate with the congregation takes precedence over any other skill in Pam’s mind when it comes to this role in the life of the congregation. “The congregation needs to know that there are people behind the numbers on the ledger,” she said, “and they need to know the stories behind their gifts.”
Toward this story-telling end, Pam started a regular congregational report that is widely read by those in the pews. Though it started as a numbers-heavy document, reporting the basic accounting information that you might expect to see on a treasurer’s report, it has evolved to include snippets and stories of the ministry that is accomplished with those gifts. Storytelling has become essential to her work as a treasurer, leaning into that communication role she has come to see is so valuable for her ministry.
One of the regular practices that started during the pandemic that has helped and encouraged Pam in this work is the quarterly treasurers’ meetings hosted by the synod’s director of finance and administration, Michael DeNise.
“I felt like a fish in the middle of the ocean,” Pam said honestly regarding how it feels to be in this work, especially during those difficult pandemic years. But since the quarterly meetings, Pam has found a support network and gained tips, tricks, and insights not only into her role as treasurer but into the life of a congregation in general.
“Did you know that the constitution of the congregation needs to be updated regularly?” she asked me in response to a question about the most interesting thing she’s learned from the meetings. “I don’t think ours had been in years,” she said. It’s small pieces of overlooked but important information that help Pam continue to answer her call to serve the congregation. The quarterly Zoom meeting is as much about collegiality and community, now, as it is about the nuts and bolts of ministry.
For Pam, though, the most fulfilling part of the work remains the outward communication that she’s able to offer the congregation, connecting them to the good work that happens through the shared gifts they offer for the sake of the Gospel. “You get an insider peek into the life of the church,” she says, and she’s keen to offer that insider glimpse to others so that they, too, feel as connected to the life-changing ministry as she feels.
“It takes a lot of time,” she said, noting that the work can be challenging. “You have to be invested in it.” But it is ultimately a rewarding call that is so biblically grounded. From those first communities that followed the resurrection, the gifts of the people were pooled and deployed for the sake of the Gospel. The quarterly treasurers’ meetings are one of the ways the NC Synod is supporting this ancient-but-new model of ministry and those who answer that call to communicate, collaborate, and have a desire to steward the gifts that God uses to change lives in Christ’s name.
Pam stands in that long line of people entrusted to that good work, and the church is better for it.
The next NC Synod Treasurers’ Zoom Call is scheduled for Thursday evening, May 4, 2023, at 7 p.m. Treasurers should contact Michael DeNise to ensure they are on his list to receive the Zoom link invitation.