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Should Pastors Know

How Much People Give?

By Rev. Brian Kluth, Senior Pastor, Author of the bestselling www.GenerousLife.info devotional and Founder of www.MAXIMUMgenerosity.org

In conducting training seminars on church giving for thousands of pastors and church leaders the most common question I hear is "Should the Pastor know how much people give?"  From my own experience, I can tell you that when churches try to answer this question in order to make a change to their current practices or policies on this subject, they will have some of the most emotional debates their leadership will ever experience!

Because of my background in executive leadership of non-profit ministries (prior to my becoming a local church pastor), I personally have experienced the importance of the leader of a ministry knowing the giving practices and patterns of people that support the ministry.  But I have also learned that the church world is very different from a non-profit organization.  Many churches have a long standing history (or even policies in place) that never allow the pastor to know anything about people's giving.

But as I've pondered this issue, I think the question about "Should the Pastor know how much people give?" is probably the WRONG QUESTION for pastors and church leaders to ask!

I think the RIGHT QUESTION to ask is "WHAT should a pastor know about people's giving?"

In the average church, if you ask the question, "Should the pastor know about people's giving?", most people envision the pastor getting computer login codes and passwords and under the cover of darkness secretly sitting in the church office carefully studying everyone's detailed giving records and then deciding who he will be nice to and who he will ignore in the future.  Even some pastors admit that if they knew how much people were "giving" or "not giving" they might be tempted to treat people differently.  We forget that the Bible clearly identifies that leaders and others knew the giving habits of some people (see I Chronicles 29, Acts 4:37, Nehemiah 7:70, Acts 5:1-2, Luke 8:3) and that even Jesus sat and watched how much people were putting into the offering box (Luke 21:1-4)!

While discussing this question with a leader at my church who said that if I knew how much people gave, I would treat them differently.  I commented to them that as the pastor I know many dark secrets about people's lives.  I know who has committed adultery, who has a drinking problem, who had in abortion in the past, who has had homosexual encounters or relationships, who is on drugs, who is seriously in debt, who has tried to commit suicide, and much, much more.  Their response amazed me - - "but this is different - - we're talking about MONEY!"  I assured the person that regardless of people's dark secrets or their giving habits, I'm called to love and shepherd all the sheep in our church's fold.

But, let's get back to the RIGHT QUESTION I think church leaders should discuss and decide: "WHAT should a pastor know about people's giving?"  Here are six things I think a pastor should be notified about if he is to effectively pastor his congregation.  In each of the following cases, the pastor does not necessarily have to know specific amounts to effectively pastor these individuals.

1) WHEN SOMEONE NEW STARTS GIVING REGULARLY:  If a pastor is notified when a person, couple or family starts to be regular givers, he or she will then know that this is someone that is making an intentional effort to become connected to the congregation.  These are ideal people for a pastor to begin to talk with and find out ways they might be able to serve using their gifts and interests.  New givers can also be sent a short note of appreciation for their gifts from the church office or pastor that could include some helpful information about the church's finances, generosity flyers, or booklets that help them deepen their understanding of Biblical giving principles.

2) WHEN SOMEONE STOPS GIVING (OR SIGNIFICANTLY DECREASES THEIR GIVING): This usually happens in someone's life for two primary reasons.  First, the person is going through personal challenges or a great hardship (sometimes even unknown to others).  Secondly, the person is upset with the church or someone in the church, and this is the early warning sign of that type of situation.  I read once that someone that is upset usually stops giving 6 months before they actually leave the church.   Both of these are pastoral issues.  If the pastor is notified that someone's giving suddenly stopped or was greatly decreased, he can look for an opportunity to talk with them and find out what's happening in their life.  If it is a time of hardship, the pastor can pray or possibly mobilize ways the family can be helped.  If it is a conflict the person is having with the church or someone in the church, the pastor can encourage healthy dialogue and reconciliation.

3) WHEN SOMEONE GIVES A GIFT FOR A SPECIAL PURPOSE: In every church there are constantly designated funds coming in and special projects taking place - - missions trips. funeral memorial gifts, scholarships, renovation projects, special projects and purchases, and so much more.  When a pastor knows that someone gave a special gift, he can be sensitive to make sure the person knows their gift was received and appreciated and that it was being used as intended.  Sometimes it will also be appropriate to send a special report documenting the impact of the person's gift (e.g. if someone gave a gift to help underwrite a short-term missions project).

4) WHEN SOMEONE IS BEING CONSIDERED FOR A TOP LEADERSHIP POSITION:  The Bible says in Luke 12:34 "Where a person's treasure is, there your heart will be also."  In considering people for top leadership positions (elders) in my last two churches, we would give the list of potential candidates to our treasurer and ask the question, "Do each of these people show Christian maturity and generosity in their giving practices?  Yes or No?"  Notice, we did not ask the specific amount.  It has been amazing that the treasurer has had to come back and report "No" on a number of people over the years that "appear" to be spiritually mature and are very active and respected in the church.  But here's the problem:  If they aren't giving faithfully to your church, their hearts are not with you and their hearts are actually far from you!  These are not the type of people you want in your key leadership positions. For one reason, any time you have to face important financial decisions that will impact your church's future (renovations, ministry expansion, building projects, etc.) they will naturally be resistant to anything that might cause them to need to give.

5) WHEN SOMEONE HAS SHOWN THE CAPACITY TO GIVE GENEROUSLY: While God blesses all people, some people have been especially spiritually gifted to be very generous givers.  Romans 12:8 tells us that some people are given the "gift of giving" and that they must use this gift well.  Normally, this means a person has been blessed with abilities to make a greater income than they choose to spend on their lifestyle that they invest in God's work.   If someone is a great singer, we encourage them to sing.  If someone is a great teacher or youth worker, we encourage them to use their gifts.  But if someone is a great giver, we ignore them!  Don't all people need to be encouraged in their God-given giftedness, including generous givers?  If a pastor knows someone is exhibiting generous giving habits, the pastor can connect with this person and encourage them to sharpen their gift of giving through ministries that can encourage and empower them to live and give even more generously (www.GenerousGiving.org, www.GenerousLife.info, www.NationalChristian.org, and others).  Also, in major church projects (building campaigns, etc.), generous lead gifts and leadership gifts (Nehemiah 2:2-9, I Chronicles 29) that are normally gained through special meetings with key people that God has given the capacity to give generously can make the difference between success and failure in a project. 

6) WHAT ARE THE GIVING PATTERNS AND LEVELS IN YOUR CONGREGATION (AMOUNTS NOT NAMES):  Most pastors and church leaders have no idea about the giving patterns within their congregation.  Yet, in any undertaking it is important to know your facts and what is happening around you.  A number of years ago I developed a treasurer's annual giving worksheet report that can give the pastor and key leaders and/or the congregation important giving demographics for the church (without any reference to people's individual names).  This worksheet has often proved to be very helpful as we realized the need to develop financial ministries in the church that would train people how to manage their God-given resources and to give generously.

IN CONCLUSION

In my own church that is 112 years old and had an unwritten policy that the pastor should never know anything about anyone's giving, I experienced the heat, friction, and tension of trying to change the policy about "Should the pastor know about everyone's giving?".  I now realize we were asking the wrong question.  The RIGHT QUESTION to ask is "WHAT should a pastor know about people's giving?"  The six items I identified above will help every pastor know how to shepherd, care for, and lead well.

(c) www.kluth.org

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rev. Brian Kluth is a Senior Pastor in Colorado and is the founder of the www.MAXIMUMgenerosity.org website.  Kluth is the author of the bestselling www.GenerousLife.info devotional that has been used by hundreds of churches to inspire greater generosity and increase giving.  He has a FREE e-newsletter on church giving that is sent to 15,000 pastors and leaders nationwide and to over 80 countries.  He has conducted half-day "MAXIMUM Generosity Leadership Seminars" for thousands of pastors and church leaders.

INTERNATIONAL RESOURCES: Availability of Brian's materials in 21 languages (from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, India)

CONTACT INFO: ►Cell: 719-930-4000  Fax: 719-634-7933  bk@kluth.org   5201 Pinon Valley Road  Colorado Springs, CO  80919

(c) Brian Kluth.  All articles and products copyrighted.  For permission to reprint Brian's materials for for personal, committee, church or ministry use, click here.

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