Should Pastors Know What Congregants Give?

"We asked a variety of pastors this difficult question. They all emphasized that every church situation is unique and that there is no single 'right' answer. But here’s how fellow leaders from across the country approach this issue in their own church contexts." - CToday

1371 reads

There are 11 Comments

WallyMorris's picture

NO

But if a regular supporter stops financial support but keeps attending, then the pastor should be informed as a potential problem exists.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Mark_Smith's picture

of the quotes from pastors... 2 are women.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

No. The amounts given shouldn't be available to the pastors/deacons or any other regular member of the church.  Usually only the accountant/bookkeeper has those numbers for tax and end-of-year giving statement purposes, and at least in our church, they are considered strictly confidential.  However, in our church, when men are considered for the office of elder or deacon, a question is made to the bookkeeper to ask if the candidate is a regular giver, but no amount is returned, just a yes or no.

Dave Barnhart

DLCreed's picture

If you idolize money and those who have it so much that you can't be trusted not to treat those who have it or give it differently than others, then you have no business being a pastor.  What other area of a person's life would you intentionally hide your awareness of it?  The individual's church attendance?  Their doctrinal beliefs?  The health of their marriage?  Their reputation at work? Their use of alcohol/tobacco/pornography?  The fact that so many make a big deal of this seems to relate to the idolotry we have for money above all else.  I don't go looking at what is given by whom every week, but at the same time, you bet I check to see if someone is giving proportionally to their wealth if they are being considered for an eldership or other leadership role in the church.  Accountabiliy across the board of someone's life is the essence of transparency.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

DLCreed wrote:

I don't go looking at what is given by whom every week, but at the same time, you bet I check to see if someone is giving proportionally to their wealth if they are being considered for an eldership or other leadership role in the church.

How do you determine their "wealth?"  Do you require income and/or account statements for prospective leaders, or do you make assumptions based on house, car, and clothing?  What if they live modestly and don't flaunt any wealth they have?  Also, how do you determine their total charitable giving?  Do you require a specific percentage to your church?  You obviously can't know about giving elsewhere unless you also require that to be reported.

I'm not trying to say that your thoughts about spiritual aspects of their lives don't have some merit (as I posted above, we also check to see if giving is regular from prospective leaders), but trying to be the arbiter of "wealth-appropriate" giving seems to be going a bit far.  For checking on alcohol or pornography use, do you require them to give you access to every room and cabinet of their houses, or access to their phones and computers?  You see the problem here?

Dave Barnhart

Craig Toliver's picture

I will be completely transparent to my pastor ...

I will bring out my tax return showing all my income and all of my contributions ...

If he will do the same.

(for us ... we give beyond the church to 3 missionaries and one agency. That would not be in my church's giving record b/c that does not go through the church).

Dan Miller's picture

Part of our work on moving from a few pastors to plural elders was the question of how to see if candidates for leadership were giving. 

Some felt very strongly that the command of Jesus not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing prohibited us from any sort of evaluation of giving.

Others felt that giving was a matter of obedience and that not doing it would be disqualifying, therefore it should be evaluated. 

In the end, we narrowed it to two questions for the leadership candidate: (Have you prayed through your finances and arrived at a conviction before the Lord about how much you should give? Are you following that conviction?) and one for the financial secretary: (Is this person giving at all?)

-------====-------

I myself argued that it should be more intense than just those two simple questions. But I do believe that it is a matter entirely between the individual/couple and the Lord. There is no xyz% that is proper giving, so I think DLCreed will have some trouble answering Dave's questions. Each must think about his finances, his church, pray about it, and be satisfied in his own mind about his conviction regarding what to give.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Dan Miller wrote:

In the end, we narrowed it to two questions for the leadership candidate: (Have you prayed through your finances and arrived at a conviction before the Lord about how much you should give? Are you following that conviction?) and one for the financial secretary: (Is this person giving at all?)

This seems like a reasonable way to handle it.  I have a friend with a very large income who for a while attended a very small church.  This friend decided that in order to not overwhelm the church (or hurt it if they moved away and went to another church) to give only a small percentage of their giving to this church and the rest to other needy ministries.  This friend also lived in a nice but modest home, dressed nicely, but not expensively, and did have a nice car, but not an obviously really expensive one.

Your questions would adequately deal with a similar situation, where simply looking at the giving and comparing it to outward appearance would not have given a very accurate picture.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

I remember becoming very enamored of 2 Corinthians 9:7 as a young believer, and remain so.  As such, I am very nervous about the notion of testing peoples' financial accountability--the person earning my income as a single person is going to have entirely different available resources than I do with six children, for example.  There is also the issue that when a pastor might confront someone on his financial contributions, he's more or less asking for more resources at his disposal.  So you've got two things mixed in there; the fiscal accountability of the congregant and the same for the pastor.

And then, per 2 Cor. 9:7, you've also got no specific amount for the proper amount.  In the New Testament, it's not really the "tithe" or tenth, but what one freely gives, conditioned by the reality that the one who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly.   

I dare suggest as well that one thing affecting giving is the simple question of whether the congregation trusts the pastor.  Many people will give to trusted ministries independently of their churches when they don't trust the church to use the donations well.  (sorry, I've been there)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

G. N. Barkman's picture

I prefer not to know who gives what.  However, I can imagine a situation where I might need to know.  (None have come up in 48 years in the pastorate.)  My advice?  If you can't trust the pastors/elders to decide when this information is necessary, you've got other issues that need attention.

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

If it were a matter of trusting the church leadership, I could cease giving by check and give only cash, where no one knows where it comes from.  I can't see how that wouldn't be biblical, and it would take the trust issue out of the equation.  Then what I give is truly between God and me.

Since it doesn't bother me that the amounts could be known, I still use bank checks for giving.  I just happen to think that the circumstances under which pastors need to know individual incomes/giving to minister well would be extremely rare.  If Pastor Barkman hasn't needed that info even once in 48 years, then for the rare occasion it would be necessary, I suspect it would be easy enough to ask rather than looking at the numbers surreptitiously.  (I'm not counting criminal investigations where information held by the church might need to be shared with law enforcement.)

I believe that we can evaluate the character of someone in the area of money the same way we do in other areas -- generally, or just asking them.  We evaluate whether leadership candidates have addiction issues without searching their homes, and we evaluate their home lives and marriages without putting cameras in their homes and/or bedrooms.  In the same way, we can evaluate whether they are people characterized by "love of money" without access to their bank accounts and/or giving statements.

As to trust in other individuals, particularly church leadership, I would agree that we should have a certain amount of trust.  However, ask yourself this -- how many people outside you and your spouse (and businesses that have to know like your bank) do you trust to know your finances?  Personally I don't share that with my children (both adults now), parents, or any close friends.  And yes, that includes my church leadership, all of whom I count as friends.  It's just not information they need to know.

Dave Barnhart