Pulling back the vale on what people give has always been a line I wondered about. I had heard the mixed reviews. I had heard the pros and cons.
Pros: (to name a few) knowing what people give and keeping watch on it can give you insights that you may never know; it tells the minister where the heart of his congregants is; enables the minister to make good decisions about leadership in the church
Cons: (to name a few) knowing what people give doesn’t allow you to do good ministry; it skews your view of people; you will cater to those who give more
I have wrestled with this topic, and in the Reynolds Program in Church Leadership we discussed this topic a little. During our talk with Jim Harnish, pastor in Tampa Florida and author, he encouraged us to pull back that vale and find out.
He didn’t say, get a list of top givers in alphabetical order. He didn’t say, make a list of the most consistent givers. He told us that he receives quarterly statements with names and amounts. He said this with one piece of advice though, “Only look if you can spiritually handle it.” I think that is the key. If you can spirituality handle the information then it is vital to your leadership ability. Jim went on to say that he found leaders he didn’t know existed in his church by knowing the money. He also saw when times got tough for people in his congregation. For him, it was a vital part of his leadership for this congregation, that he doesn’t profess openly or publicly but is also not a secret. (It’s not a secret because he sends a signed letter from him to all the pledgers of in the congregation, thus he must know what they promise to give for that year.)
So what do you think? For the sake of transparency, I’ll profess I too have taken the leap, I’ve pulled back the vale. Here is what I have learned about myself and my congregation.
1. There are a lot of very generous people in my congregation who take giving to God seriously.
2. There are others who don’t give a dime.
3. Times are truly tough in our area and giving is down, people are hurting
4. I don’t feel like I treat anyone differently, I still have compassion for my congregants and I still love them, even the ones who don’t give.
5. I realized how I can lead them better. I understand that they need education on what giving is and how to do it. There are people out there who understand why God needs to come first and there are others who don’t. This equals a great place for witness and growth.
6. I know who my leaders are and who has the proper hearts. Those are the ones I will need to rely on to take us to the next level.
I know there are some of you out there that disagree and that is fine. But I don’t know many other non-profits who’s CEO or directors don’t know the donor list. We as ministers are called to lead our flock and stewardship and giving is all part of that. We shouldn’t be shy to step up to the plate and be willing to deal with that responsibility.
The funniest thing Jim Harnish said was, “It’s funny. Your big givers, your tithers, are never the ones that complain when you talk about money. It’s the ones that don’t give that do that.” I think that is the most surprising thing and the place I’ve tried to keep myself in check. I wasn’t surprised on who gave the most, I was surprised and disappointed with the people who don’t give at all. Jim is right, they are the ones that tend to be the complainers. I have to keep myself in check though because I am still called to love and minister to them. And I pray for them every day.