Finance Friday: Should a Pastor Know Who Gives?
Lately I have been having a bunch of conversations about whether a pastor should know who gives what in their church. Over the course of the last ten years my view on this has changed, and now I believe whole heartedly that each church needs to have at least one pastor who knows who is giving and who is not.
Whenever this topic comes up the typical response is a concern for “treating everyone the same” whether they tithe or not. I understand that you can wrap this idea in James chapter two and not want to play favorites but I truly believe that to do this will limit how well you are able to pastor your congregation.
At my last church I served as the executive pastor. My role dictated that I know the ins and outs of our church’s financial picture. Because of this requirement I thought long and hard about the pros and cons of knowing the specifics of where our finances came from. As I wrestled through the decision about how much I should know, there are three things that I kept coming back to.
As I wrestled through my long held belief that knowing who gave what would taint my ability to minister, I realized that my thinking had a flaw in it. During my time as a youth pastor, I had many givers. I had people who gave time, gave their home, their vehicles, and scholarships so that our students could go on a retreat. While this type of giving does not typically count as a tithe, they were giving to our ministry all the same. Did I minister to these people any differently than I did to those who were not actively giving to our ministry? Well, yes and no. Yes because I had a better understanding and a deeper relationship with these people. This relationship allowed me to minister in a way that was better suited for who they were as an individual. No, in that I was willing to develop this kind of relationship with anyone in our church.
The challenge that all pastors face on a daily basis is how to care well for people… regardless of how much they give, how much they volunteer, and how active they are in their congregation. No pastor who is truly pursuing Jesus is going to turn their back on someone in crisis or in the midst of a life-changing spiritual discovery because they don’t volunteer enough or drop a check in the plate.
Seeing Yellow Flags
Let’s face it, money is a huge factor in the lives of the families that we are ministering to. The current economic state has people tightening their belts and making different decisions about what to do with their finances. While some will argue that we need to know what people give so that we can be encouraging them to give to their “full capacity” I tend to think that is slightly wrongheaded. I think that we need to know what our people are giving so that we can tell if there is a family crisis. Follow along with me. If a person who has given $500 per month for the last three years suddenly stops or drastically reduces their giving something is going on in that family. Whether there was a loss of a job, medical emergency, or some other serious life change the pastoral staff of a church should know what is going on. In many cases, the only notice that we will get of family crisis is a change in giving habits. The other thing that a drop in giving indicates is that a person is preparing to leave the church, normally due to relational issues or unhappiness with what is going on. Either way, you as a pastor have a unique opportunity to care for your people through these situations… just don’t go calling them saying “I noticed you stopped giving us money… what is your issue?”
Giving as a Sign of Commitment
The last part of my wrestling through this helped me to develop a non-negotiable when it came to elders and church leadership. Every Senior Pastor needs to know whether his board is giving or not, in fact I believe that it needs to be a requirement for board members. The old saying of show me your check book and I will show you what is important to you holds a good bit of truth to it. The position of elder (or whatever you church’s polity calls it) is a significant role in the church, one that requires a good bit of commitment to the church body. If an elder does not feel the church important enough to support financially I would ask why they want to be an elder… or what your church believes an elder to be.
I don’t know that there is a right answer or wrong answer to this. As I advise churches I am adamant that the Senior Pastor know about the elder board, but generally recommend that at least one pastorally minded person know about everyone else. The company that I work for has developed reports to aid pastors in tracking month to month giving trends in order to care well for their congregation. I am interested in hearing your view on this… what does your church do?
How have YOU wrestled with this decision?
What is YOUR church’s policy?