Should a Pastor Look at Giving Records?

"I can only imagine the kind of business meeting we would have when I suggested that we consider allowing me to review all of our giving records." SBCVoices

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Jim's picture

Transparency on policy is appropriate:

  • Obviously someone sees them and knows. Normally this would be, what Baptists call, the Financial Secretary. My sister-in-law is the Financial Secretary at their Baptist Church. In my church the F/C is a paid, part-time position.
  • I suggest that church bylaws have a privacy section that addresses who has access to these records. 
  • If the pastor has access, and I'm OK with that, that should be specified. 

I often heard from pulpits (in the context of messages about giving), " ... I don't know how much you give ...". 

If my pastor wants to know how much or how (my philosophy of ...) I give, I would be fine with his asking me. 

For any pastor to publicly declare " ... I don't know how much you give ..." and to have access to that data would be unethical. 

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

For any pastor to publicly declare " ... I don't know how much you give ..." and to have access to that data would be unethical. 

Why is that unethical?

Fred Moritz's picture

When I was a pastor I never had access to giving records or to any financial information.  And I didn't want access.  I think a major key is that churches have a financial policy in place and that the finances be handled accountably and in accordance with that financial policy.  A pastor must preach what Scripture teaches about biblical giving.

Mr. Ed's picture

Some people would like the Pastor to know how much they give in order to impress him.  The only way you could impress the Pastor with your giving is if you also reveal how much you have to work with.  Like the widow who gave her two mites to Jesus made an  impression because He knew what she had.  Ananias and Sapphira are an example of folks who lie about their giving before men but can not lie before God.  

Joel Tetreau's picture

I'm in complete agreement with Fred Moritz on this. A pastor does right to preach what the Scriptures teach. There are ways to deal with this touchy topic and even deal with those not giving without the pastor knowing the exact details. For those of you who want some ideas on how to deal with this and at the same time honor this approach of the pastor not knowing who gives what.....zip me a private note and I'll share some ideas on how to deal with this. Straight Ahead! jt

 

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

DLCreed's picture

Pastor's who don't think you should have access to financial information....

1. Is there something in your character that makes you think that you'll treat people better or worse based on how they give? (If you can't be trusted with financial information, how can you be trusted with secrets shared in counseling, how to deal with other ethical conflicts, etc...?)  

2. Would you want someone who does not give to serve as an elder, deacon, Bible study leader or staff member?

3. Are there other areas of the Christian walk about which you WOULD be interested in knowing?  Church attendance, number of times they've been married/divorced, drinking, paying their bills, etc...?  Why is the one involving obeying the directive to tithe/give "off limits"?

4. By separating knowledge of giving as some sort of state secret, are we sending a message that pastors can't be trusted or that money is such a special and powerful tool that we should treat it differently than any other area of the Christian walk?

5. Could one be placing money on a pedestal (like an idol) by making ignorance of whether or not people are giving to the work of the Lord a requirement?

6. Do you trust others with that information (deacons, offering counters, bookkeepers, etc...) but you can't be trusted?

7. If someone or group of people are not giving anything to the Lord's work through the local church, should they not receive discipleship and instruction on why they should?

Just some questions to stir some conversation....

(Reposted from the survey where I accidentally posted this the first time.)

Jim's picture

OK you know the Jones family gives $ 5,000 per year to the church you are pastoring. Now what do you do?

Suppose the amount is $ 2,000 .... $ 10,000?

DLCreed's picture

Nothing.  I just tuck the information away in the back of my head.  When someone nominates Mr. Jones to serve as a Small Group Leader next fall and the question about "Is he financially supporting the church?"  (In addition to all the other questions regarding criteria) comes up, the answer is "yes" and we move on.

T Howard's picture

Jim wrote:

OK you know the Jones family gives $ 5,000 per year to the church you are pastoring. Now what do you do?

Suppose the amount is $ 2,000 .... $ 10,000?

I think the more important question is what do you do with a chronic complainer who mentions he/she has given lots of money to the church and doesn't like how you do x. You know they give a very small amount if anything to the church.

Jim's picture

DLCreed wrote:

Nothing.  I just tuck the information away in the back of my head.  When someone nominates Mr. Jones to serve as a Small Group Leader next fall and the question about "Is he financially supporting the church?"  (In addition to all the other questions regarding criteria) comes up, the answer is "yes" and we move on.

Well if amount X is sinful and you know about it ... don't you have a Biblical responsibility to address it? And how might that unfold?

DLCreed's picture

I'm not sure what you are asking.  I can be pretty dense sometimes though.  My point is that if someone is not giving and aspires to leadership, a discipleship opportunity has arisen.  Perhaps they need some one-on-one discipleship, perhaps they should take a class like FPU or Crown, maybe they need a loving conversation to see if they are in bondage to debt or have never been instructed on grace-filled giving.  But do you want someone who never gives to be in a position of training others or holding others accountable?  It seems rather unwise.

How would you address someone who is addicted to tobacco, known to have a temper, isn't wise in his business relationships, etc...  I'd address someone who isn't giving in a similar fashion.

Jim's picture

  • You know Mr Jones is an engineer at IBM
  • You know something about his lifestyle because you know where he lives (and anymore with zillow it's EZ to know the value of another's home). You reasonably surmise that he and Mrs Jones are living in a $ 400,000 home.
  • He and Mrs Jones have several late model cars. 
  • Their son and daughter go to Duke (average tuition = $ 60,000 per year)
  • The family manage a trip to the Caribbean every year
  • You've been in their home and you observe they have the best furniture, and the latest in home entertainment systems
  • Their kitchen has recently been remodeled
  • You come to find out that he only gives $ 100 per week. You can probably guess he is making six figures at IBM
  • So what do you do with this knowledge that he is only giving $5k a year?

 

Jim's picture

Would it go like this? (You've set up a coffee appointment with Mr Bill Jones):

  • You: I've been reviewing our church's individual giving records and ...
  • Bill: WOW REALLY (thinking)
  • You: and see that last year you gave $ 5,000
  • You: and you've got to be making at least $ 100,000 per year ..

Now what?

Jim Welch's picture

This question will be answered when a pastor has determined what he believes the Bible teaches about giving.  For example:

IF, I believe that the Bible teaches store house tithing, I would be inclined to want to know what each member is giving.

IF, I believe that the Bible teaches grace giving, I would not be inclined to know what each member is giving.

I hold to grace giving.  I teach that each member of VBC should give as the Lord directs them to give.  I do not know how much any one gives.  I ask the church treasurer if someone nominated to be a deacon gives; but I do not know what they give.

I believe that God takes care of His ministry.  If I have to beg, brow beat, guilt trip people into giving, I would have a very low view of God.  If you know the ministry that I pastor, you know the testimony of a generous church family.

Personal story:  I have a family member who worked for a major airline.  He and his wife used to be active in a Baptist church.  They gave regularly to their church; but did not tithe.  The pastor and deacon came to their home and admonished them that they were not giving in proportion to their income.  (everyone knows what that airline paid).  What pastor and deacon did not know was that family member, married to a wonderful Filipino woman, were paying for her nieces and nephews college education.  Family members were graduating as educators, nurses, and doctors in the Philippines because of my family member's generosity and love.  Family member and wife no longer go to any church.

Yes, family member is sinning by not worshipping with a local assembly; but I do understand.

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Jim Welch (and Peet), Why would you trust a deacon or financial secretary with that information but not yourself? 

I would be interested to see you guys answer DLCreed's questions. I think his concerns are valid and worthy of addressing.

Mark_Smith's picture

Why is it better to be deliberately ignorant of whether someone gives money? Is ignoring sin ok?

 

 

Mark_Smith's picture

I am a state employee. There is a state website that lists my salary. The local paper publishes a list every October with last year's salary for every public employee.

What's the big deal again?

DLCreed's picture

Jim wrote:

Would it go like this? (You've set up a coffee appointment with Mr Bill Jones):

  • You: I've been reviewing our church's individual giving records and ...
  • Bill: WOW REALLY (thinking)
  • You: and see that last year you gave $ 5,000
  • You: and you've got to be making at least $ 100,000 per year ..

Now what?

You are avoiding the real question(s), but raising a strawman extreme case for argument.  This really has no bearing on whether or not a pastor can or should be trusted with whether or not a person gives and why money is in a special category all by itself.  I'd be interested in seeing some interaction with the actual 7 questions I posed.

 

DLCreed's picture

Jim Welch wrote:

This question will be answered when a pastor has determined what he believes the Bible teaches about giving.  For example:

IF, I believe that the Bible teaches store house tithing, I would be inclined to want to know what each member is giving.

IF, I believe that the Bible teaches grace giving, I would not be inclined to know what each member is giving.

I hold to grace giving.  I teach that each member of VBC should give as the Lord directs them to give.  I do not know how much any one gives.  I ask the church treasurer if someone nominated to be a deacon gives; but I do not know what they give.

I believe that God takes care of His ministry.  If I have to beg, brow beat, guilt trip people into giving, I would have a very low view of God.  If you know the ministry that I pastor, you know the testimony of a generous church family.

Personal story:  I have a family member who worked for a major airline.  He and his wife used to be active in a Baptist church.  They gave regularly to their church; but did not tithe.  The pastor and deacon came to their home and admonished them that they were not giving in proportion to their income.  (everyone knows what that airline paid).  What pastor and deacon did not know was that family member, married to a wonderful Filipino woman, were paying for her nieces and nephews college education.  Family members were graduating as educators, nurses, and doctors in the Philippines because of my family member's generosity and love.  Family member and wife no longer go to any church.

Yes, family member is sinning by not worshipping with a local assembly; but I do understand.

 

I think it is wonderful that this guy was generous with their money in helping a Filipino woman send her family members to go to college, but c'mon....let's not make that the equivalent of giving to the Lord's work through the local church.  I pay taxes that give people food stamps and education -- does that count as "tithing"?  I support multiple missionaries and projects after I tithe to my local church -- am I "over-giving"?  I know people in our church who can't afford to give their kids the money to go to college, so their kids are working their way through and using student loans -- is it wrong for their parents to give to the church instead of sending their kids to college?  Can I pay my own kids college bills out of my tithe?

To be crasser --- when this guy wants counseling, does he call a pastor?  When he sits on pews and chairs -- whom does he think made that possible?  What if everyone in the church gave their money to friends and family instead of through the church, would they just move on to a different church where they could sit on, listen to, receive instruction from people and facilities that they didn't spend one penny providing?

Bad example, IMO.

Grace giving starts with the tithe to the local church and then from there, they can be as generous to others as they feel led.

GregH's picture

DLCreed wrote:

Grace giving starts with the tithe to the local church and then from there, they can be as generous to others as they feel led.

Certainly you understand that many here would disagree with you on this, especially the idea that the tithe is mandatory in the NT. I guess how one feels about the tithe affects how he/she would answer your questions.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I guess what this comes down to for me is how pervasive (invasive) does a pastor's knowledge have to be to do his job?

 - Would it be reasonable for married couples to submit reports on their time with each other so that the pastor will know if they are violating the command to not "defraud" one another?

 - Should we need to submit a form each year with our actual income so that it can be compared with what comes in from us?  Or our work review so the pastor will know if we are being a good testimony at work?

 - Should we have bodycams to report all our interactions at home and with others to show that we are living a good Christian life?  Should all traffic tickets be reported to the church, since it was a violation of the law?

I could go on and on with this, and you may consider these questions extreme straw men, but I think that if a pastor *requires* exact details on everyone's finances, it's no different from asking for all the other details I just listed.  Also, although everyone in a church with a congregational government can see the Pastor's salary, I don't think I've ever seen *his* giving reported to everyone.  He certainly needs accountability as much as the next man.  And although it should be obvious, there are people in every church who either live well under their means to save money, or way above it.  This means that in many cases it will be impossible to judge from what comes in combined with appearances if a family is being generous or not.  A rich but modest-living person can easily appear generous without giving much, and a person with *very* modest income can be giving generously but still appear to not be helping the church since what they give will be way under what the richer person gave.  The widow's mite story was already mentioned, and unless you have perfect knowledge, you can't judge perfectly.  Does that mean we should always be required to report enough to satisfy any and every curiosity of church leadership?

I would agree that it should not be about whether or not a pastor can be trusted with the financial information, since it would seem obvious if he can already be trusted with confidential counseling matters.  In our church the financial secretary will know the information, and if the pastor wants to know if someone is a giving member  (i.e. not just $5 a week or something like that) for purposes of leadership, he can get a yes or no answer to that question.  The pastor certainly knows all details of the budget, but he never signs any checks either.  That is always done with the knowledge of the church secretary, financial secretary, and one of the deacons signing (or two if the amount is more than $500).  This was intentional, and requested by the pastor when the church documents were put together, so that the people would see that there was openness at every phase of the ministry, and that the pastor couldn't raid the church accounts, so he could never be accused of misuse of church funds.  I'd call this a system of checks and balances, rather than mistrust of the pastor.

So again, I'd agree we should be able to trust the pastor with knowledge of everyone's giving.  The question for me is, is that knowledge really required for the pastor to do his job well, and if so, why is that more necessary than the other details of people's lives I asked about above?  Isn't home life just as important in the life of a deacon as what they give (maybe more so since it's actually mentioned in the list of qualifications)?

Dave Barnhart

Larry Nelson's picture

 

At my former church, I was the financial secretary/treasurer for my last few years there.  During that timeframe I was the only one who knew how much individuals gave.

The sole (single, only) time the pastor asked me about someone's giving involved what I saw as a conflict of interest on his part.  Let me explain.  He was not only the pastor, but also the landlord, for a couple who had been at the church for a relatively brief period.  He (I gathered) had been initially charging them very minimal rent.  After a few months, when he wanted to increase their rent, they said they simply couldn't afford it.  (Could they?  I don't know; I do know they were both employed.)

So the pastor came to me to ask how much they were giving to the church.  He more-or-less told me that if they were giving a sufficient amount to the church (whatever figure he felt that to be) that he'd forget about raising their rent.  To me (especially since the question of how much anyone else in the church was giving had never been asked) that seemed like a conflict of interest.  He wasn't asking purely as their pastor /shepherd (for some reason ostensibly pertaining to their spiritual welfare), but as their perturbed landlord.  I wasn't comfortable answering the question under the circumstances, and told him so.  I suggested he ask them directly.  (Which didn't go over well...)      

Jim Welch's picture

Larry and DL, I do trust myself with the financial information of the Body here at VBC.  I don't look at the giving records not because I don't trust myself.  I don't look at the financial records because I trust our people.  I know that might sound pious; but I do believe that each person in the Body gives as God enable them to do so, by His grace.  I have found that our people reflect their stewardship to God by their loving, generous, sacrificial, and regular giving; and I commend them for their act of worship often.  

Could I examine each person's giving record?  Absolutely! 

 

DLCreed's picture

GregH wrote:

 

DLCreed wrote:

 

Grace giving starts with the tithe to the local church and then from there, they can be as generous to others as they feel led.

 

 

Certainly you understand that many here would disagree with you on this, especially the idea that the tithe is mandatory in the NT. I guess how one feels about the tithe affects how he/she would answer your questions.

So are there those who would defend giving NOTHING at all to the local church?  I'm just wondering how churches function with this kind of philosophy?  Please show me one example in the New Testament where under grace, the expectation was actually lowered from what was taught/expected in the OT under the law.  Grace has to do with motivation and attitude, not with "doing/being" less than under the law.  As long as Americans have enough money to have cable, eat out multiple times per week, drive cars, visit the land of the Mutant Rodent in Orlando and live in 2,500 square foot plus homes, I'm going to have a hard time listening to the rationalization that the "tithe" is too much under grace and not a privilege to joyfully give in the midst of all of our Western abundance.

 

GregH's picture

DLCreed wrote:

So are there those who would defend giving NOTHING at all to the local church?

Probably, but I doubt anyone here is arguing that point.

 

DLCreed wrote:

Please show me one example in the New Testament where under grace, the expectation was actually lowered from what was taught/expected in the OT under the law.  

Since you believe the tithe is 10%, you yourself must believe the expectation is lowered since the law called for 3 separate tithes, not just one. If we were to stick with the law as a minimum, we would be tithing 23.3% to 30%.

DLCreed wrote:

Grace has to do with motivation and attitude, not with "doing/being" less than under the law.  As long as Americans have enough money to have cable, eat out multiple times per week, drive cars, visit the land of the Mutant Rodent in Orlando and live in 2,500 square foot plus homes, I'm going to have a hard time listening to the rationalization that the "tithe" is too much under grace and not a privilege to joyfully give in the midst of all of our Western abundance.

Not all people in the US live the way you describe.

Jim Welch's picture

Grace giving does not start with 0.  It starts with 100%.  II Cor. 8:5, "...first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.  

How does this work out at VBC?  No debt, a building project paid for before we start, yearly increases in missions, no charges for ministry, every child/teen went to camp free of charge for the past two summers, etc.  I am amazed at how generous God's people are when they give out of a heart of love for God!

Jay's picture

I'm not a 'pastor' or in full time ministry, but I'll take a stab at these and hope it moves the conversation forward...

Pastor's who don't think you should have access to financial information....

1. Is there something in your character that makes you think that you'll treat people better or worse based on how they give? (If you can't be trusted with financial information, how can you be trusted with secrets shared in counseling, how to deal with other ethical conflicts, etc...?)  

For me, this is a matter of prudence.  If I knew what families gave what, I would (I believe) subtly alter the way I addressed issues with that family.  I might be more inclined, for example, to give them a break if I felt the need to confront them on a sin issue, or I might come down harder as a result of knowing that they could do more to support the church.  It's not a law that I'd prescribe, but a matter of conscience and an attempt to avoid treating others with partiality (cf James 2)

2. Would you want someone who does not give to serve as an elder, deacon, Bible study leader or staff member?

What a person gives to the Lord is their business and not mine.  Jesus commanded that when we give, we do it in such a way that our left hand doesn't know what our right hand is doing.

3. Are there other areas of the Christian walk about which you WOULD be interested in knowing?  Church attendance, number of times they've been married/divorced, drinking, paying their bills, etc...?  Why is the one involving obeying the directive to tithe/give "off limits"?

Attendance is a completely different issue because that's publicly verifiable - you see them or you don't - and seeing if they are attending is a part of caring for their souls.  The other stuff is pertinent only as it pertains to my relationship to them.  I assume that they are paying their bills and married until proven otherwise.

4. By separating knowledge of giving as some sort of state secret, are we sending a message that pastors can't be trusted or that money is such a special and powerful tool that we should treat it differently than any other area of the Christian walk?

The latter.  I don't know about the rest of you, but my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and there have been times where I know that I have handled people differently because I knew something that shaded my perspective.  I wouldn't want that knowledge in a shepherding context.   If you think you can handle that knowledge, I would still disagree and tell you that I think it would be foolish and dangerous.  YMMV.

5. Could one be placing money on a pedestal (like an idol) by making ignorance of whether or not people are giving to the work of the Lord a requirement?

I'm not sure why money is such a hot button topic or a requirement for 'serving'.  If someone in your church can't afford to give much but they are a deacon and giving back through teaching or evangelism, are you going to tell them they can't serve until they give at a certain threshold? 

6. Do you trust others with that information (deacons, offering counters, bookkeepers, etc...) but you can't be trusted?

We operate a double blind system - one counts the money that is received in a numbered envelopes, another records the numbers and amounts in the ledger.  Very simple.

7. If someone or group of people are not giving anything to the Lord's work through the local church, should they not receive discipleship and instruction on why they should?

I would never feel comfortable approaching any of my sheep with the intent of getting them to give me.  We have freely received, and therefore we freely give.  Do you attach a price to any of your teaching or evangelism efforts?  Why would you?  Is there a scriptural precedent for that?

Just some questions to stir some conversation....

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Craig's picture

[quote=DLCreed]

 

GregH wrote:

 

 

DLCreed wrote:

 

Grace giving starts with the tithe to the local church and then from there, they can be as generous to others as they feel led.

 

 

Certainly you understand that many here would disagree with you on this, especially the idea that the tithe is mandatory in the NT. I guess how one feels about the tithe affects how he/she would answer your questions.

 

 

So are there those who would defend giving NOTHING at all to the local church?  I'm just wondering how churches function with this kind of philosophy?  Please show me one example in the New Testament where under grace, the expectation was actually lowered from what was taught/expected in the OT under the law.  Grace has to do with motivation and attitude, not with "doing/being" less than under the law.  As long as Americans have enough money to have cable, eat out multiple times per week, drive cars, visit the land of the Mutant Rodent in Orlando and live in 2,500 square foot plus homes, I'm going to have a hard time listening to the rationalization that the "tithe" is too much under grace and not a privilege to joyfully give in the midst of all of our Western abundance.

[quote]

According to Paul each person purposes in their heart what they are going to give. He says nothing about giving less than the tithe, tithing or exceeding the tithe because the tithe has nothing to do with a born again believer under grace. You may purpose to give 10% which is okay but you still  aren't tithing. No one was ever commanded to tithe except the Jew under the Law. Much false teaching comes about when someone tries to apply what was specifically meant to the Jew under the Law to the church age believer under grace.

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