Giving to the Church: Who Should Know?

In your church, who knows who gives, and who knows how much they give? This is a question that has come up on a number of the teleconferences this year. My June guest, Charles LaFond, expressed very strongly his view that the minister needs to know. And I understand that in Episcopal churches that is standard practice. In my own Baptist tradition there’s often a practice that the pastor does not know.

One of the problems when the pastor doesn’t know is that key leaders, including board members, may be giving nothing or next to nothing. Or members who are making a lot of trouble may be giving nothing. And no one knows except the financial secretary. When the pastor doesn’t know, there’s a triangle between him or her, the member, and the record-keeper, with the pastor on the outside. In something as important as financial stewardship, I’m coming to think that’s not a good thing.

I know that some churches have high anxiety about this issue. The church I served for 13 years was one of them. I have to confess I never fought this battle. But I did finally make my own pledge public: I figured I could tell my own secret. That alone gave me more freedom in preaching and teaching about stewardship.

At a recent presentation I gave on churches and money, I asked people to submit questions they had on the topic. One person wrote down a comment: “For a long time I thought I shouldn’t know what people gave. I have now come to understand I can be a better pastor if I know someone is hurting, and I am more confident in myself that I won’t play favorites with bigger givers. I also see giving as discipleship and I’m called to help people grow in this area too. I’m not there, but I am growing.” Well said.

What do you think?

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