June 26, 2012

To Know or Not to Know (What People Give)?

Giving money, asking for money, pledging money--these are usually complicated issues for the church filled with ambivalence. But if there is one thing people really don't like to hear from the pulpit, it is the biblical truth of tithing. I do understand, because it's hard for me too. Although I have prayed about it a lot and have come a long way.

According to research, pastors and their families give a much higher percentage of income to the church than others. Most Americans give from 1 to 1.5%. In our church the percentage is higher, but my spouse has preached giving and our community has benefited from the fruit of our church's generosity. So we have a growing number of folks who tithe.

A related issue is should a pastor know what members give? Here there are legitimate concerns no matter what you think. Even in the church, people are people; and people who give more often think they are entitled to more--more of the pastor's time and attention--more leadership positions--more say in how things are done. Then there are the people who lead you to believe that they give a lot but don't. These folks often want the prestige or people to look up to them, but they don't have the spiritual fruit to pull it off without their pretense. But there are also the people who are generous with their money but remain humble and don't make a big show about what they give.

But how does the pastor know, if he or she doesn't see the financial records?

Jesus talked about money a lot, saying it is a spiritual issue. If the pastor is the spiritual leader, then shouldn't the pastor know what people give? Is what people give a spiritual barometer of the church's spiritual health? As you can tell, I have mixed feelings, but lean toward the pastor knowing.

What do you think? Do you know what people give?

Grace, Kathy


  1. I commented before on another post, but I'll say it again here...

    My husband does know how much people give. He didn't used to want to know, but that changed within the last year or so, for two reasons: 1) if someone's giving patterns change, either positively or negatively, it likely means something has happened in their lives that could use a pastoral response (job loss, etc.). 2) it is good information to know when choosing leaders. I'm not saying to put the big givers in leadership positions or something like that. But giving is a spiritual issue, and if someone isn't giving anything, you may want to think twice before putting them in a position where they are teaching others. Our DS tells a story about how he was considering a certain person to be the youth leader at one of his old churches, where he didn't know who gave what, and his finance secretary warned him he might want to reconsider. He asked why, and the finance secretary told him to take a look at the person's giving, which was basically non-existent. He decided he didn't want that kind of attitude passed on to the youth. So, to be clear, I'm not saying you have to be a big giver to be in leadership, but giving is part of everyone's discipleship, and church leaders should be trying to grow in all areas of their walk with God, including giving.

  2. You both made good points and I see no reason why the minister especially shouldn't know an approximate amount of the regular givers. Of course it should not be passed on to others or used as leverage for favors or nonfavors. Sometimes withholding money is the only way churches can disagree with the direction the church is taking. You can't keep pouring (even tithes) into mismanaged uses. Tithes could be given to disaster, hospitals, child welfare, homeless, etc. and not just toward the church budget. But churches should be able to know approximately what can be expected from members on a yearly basis.

  3. As a spiritual discipline tithe is between a person and God and not the pastor's business.

  4. I agree with Melissa on this. Giving appropriately is an indication of investment in the church and its missions. It is an important piece of information in the whole picture.

  5. Interesting comments, but I, too, believe giving is a private matter and not the business of the pastor. Each one is worthy in God's eyes and what he/she gives does not determine that worth.

  6. I don't think anyone was saying that the amount given determines someone's worth. Everyone is equally worthy (or equally unworthy, depending on how you look at it) in God's eyes. But that doesn't mean everyone is equally qualified for church leadership roles. Biblically, spiritual leaders should be held to higher standards. If it's the pastor's business to select church leaders, then maybe it's the pastor's business to know invested those people really are in the church?