Does Ananias serve on your finance team? Nearly every church in America has an Ananias or his wife Sapphira on their Finance Team. You remember the story in Acts chapter five of Ananias and Sapphira. They sold their home and pretended to give all the proceeds to the church. They obviously told people they donated all the money when in fact they kept a portion of it for themselves. They were putting on a show to impress people but it ultimately led to their deaths. I thought of that passage after I received the following email…
“We are a church that has traditionally had an annual stewardship campaign, and requested, sought-after, received and maintained annual Financial pledges or commitments. Would it not seem reasonable then, to expect that anyone who is in elected leadership of our congregation would be someone who has made a financial commitment to the church in the form of a pledge?”
What this pastor found out was that members of his finance team were not faithful givers. These are people of means so it is not an issue of poverty but of withholding from God while appearing to be generous.
This is a huge Church wide issue not simply an issue for this church. Part of the issue is that members know that no one knows what they give and they can thus pretend to be supportive while taking God’s money and using it elsewhere. George Barna found that only 44% of pastors in a study he did knew the giving patterns of their members. I found another study that found 3/4 of pastors did not know the giving trends of their members. So pastors when it comes to giving of their members are supposed to hear no evil, see no evil nor speak evil about non-givers. Only in the church!
Pastors who are ignorant of the giving of their members raise less money than those that know the giving of their members! Some of you might not like to hear that but the studies show it is true. Here is a great quote from George Barna…
“Why should a pastor risk the possibility of leading people unfairly because he is aware of how much money they give to the church? Because the pastor is generally one of the key strategists involved in the stewardship campaign and in the aggregate financial oversight of the church. Having a detailed understanding of the giving patterns within the church facilitates clearer strategic planning. Pastors use giving data as a means of assessing how to broach the topic of financial need within the church, and how to conceive fund-raising plans for church-wide implementation. You cannot make good decisions without good information.”
So, pastors often unknowingly appoint the banker to the Board or Finance Team never knowing that person gives very little to the church. How is that leadership?
“I don’t want to know what people give it might affect the way I deal with them.” Have you ever said that? Stop saying it NOW! Even if you don’t want to know stop saying it is because it might affect how you deal with people. When you say that you are saying you are too immature to handle the sin of stinginess or greed. If you can’t handle that I am not giving why would I tell you anything! On top of that, are you saying your financial secretary has a better ability to know and handle giving trends of members than you?
Who says a pastor should not know? It’s your laypeople that are terrified you might find out how little they give. Nowhere in the Bible does it say a pastor should not know. The pastor is the spiritual leader of the church and should know.
Here are some practical points to consider…
First, you have to pick your fights. Is this a hill worth dying on? The answer to this might be in how long you have been at the church.
Next begin educating your key leaders. Try giving them books to read that helps them understand why giving and leadership go hand in hand. For instance look up my friend Clif Christopher who has great books on giving that also deal with this subject. You can find Clif’s books at, Clif Christopher book
Consider adapting a covenant for leadership service. Write a covenant that lists out the requirements expected for a leader in your church making sure that giving or making an annual pledge is one of the requirements expected before a person agrees to serve.
Handle this issue with grace and love. You can be right about an issue but wrong in how you attempt to enforce the issue. The goal is not to increase giving. The goal is to make disciples. A high standard for leaders helps everyone in their spiritual journey. The end result is that giving increases!
At the end of the day you have to remain the pastor of those that are not giving the same as those that do give. My point in this post however is that leadership carries with it a different set of expectations and requirements. Let’s stop dumbing down what it means to be a disciple.
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach