Saturday, July 24, 2010

Push/Pull Stewardship

In my Church's July Stewardship Team meeting, we discussed something I'd thought about before, but hadn't really expanded upon much. Many of our discussions and goals thus far have focused on stewardship of time and spiritual gifts. It's tough to try to come up with ways to promote spiritual maturity through volunteering and other channels. Our Church does a great job with this, but there's always room for improvement. In this meeting, though, we dove into what most people think of when they consider stewardship: giving money.

If you're looking for a fun experiment, try this:
  • Go out and find as many Dutch folks as you can. (They might not even need to actually be Dutch... almost anyone affiliated with the CRC will work.)
  • Ask each of them how much they make in a year.
I'd be willing to bet that 9 of 10 would turn a little bit red and decline. Some might even raise their voice at you.

It's this attitude about money that makes discussing monetary stewardship so difficult in our Church and others like it. It's just not something you do using specifics. The pastor might say "You should give 10% of your income or more to the work of the Lord," but it rarely gets more specific than that. Vague ideas are thrown out, ideal scenarios and rarely much more. It's more comfortable for everyone that way. The pastor doesn't have the luxury of telling each member what is specifically expected of them in dollars and sense because a) he would get a serious tongue-lashing from the more salary-sensitive members of the Church and b) it's different for everyone. Some members are capable of giving 50% of their income and still living comfortably. Others are low-income, have hospital bills, and are struggling to get by.

At some point, our council determined that if every member gave 6.5% of their income to the general fund, all of the bills of the Church would be covered, and the remaining 3.5% can be donated at the member's discretion. So do they have the right to demand that kind of money from the members? Running a Church is expensive, and it provides almost all of its services to anyone that walks through the doors free of charge.

So on to my main points.

First, I don't think it's out of line for the Church to discuss specifics on monetary issues, as long as that happens with an understanding and sensitivity to those with much less who may not be able to give.

Second, tithing is really a matter of the heart. If giving your 10% is like pulling your own teeth out with a rusty pliers, you may as well not do it.

Third, there can be some sort of balance between push giving and pull giving. Push giving is when a member is prodded by someone to give. Having the pastor of a Church get behind the pulpit and explain what is expected of his congregation is legitimate and necessary if the Church is to function properly. Pull giving is when an individual feels called to give to certain causes. This type of giving is what often gets people excited, as donating a goat to someone in Haiti is much more interesting than paying for the AC in the sanctuary during services. (Something my Church could stand to do a little less of. It's FREEZING in there on Sunday mornings, regardless of season.)

I guess that's it. Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

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