Posts Tagged ‘how much should church board members give’

Pastor Ken had just discovered something that he didn’t want to know: most of the members of Joy Church’s governing board were giving little or nothing to the ministry.

And that information not only broke Ken’s heart … it made him angry.

It all started one July day when Amy, the church’s office manager, was supposed to mail out the giving records of every person in the church for the first six months of the year.  The records were supposed to be in the mail by Friday so that churchgoers would have them in their possession by the end of the month.

But it was now Thursday, and Amy called Pastor Ken to say that she was out sick with a fever and probably wouldn’t be in on Friday, either.  Wanting to run an efficient church, Ken thought for a moment and asked his good friend Steve, a trusted staff member, if he would step in and put the giving statements in the mail by late that afternoon.

Ken could have dropped everything and mailed the statements himself, but two things stopped him: first, he needed to devote the rest of the day to preparing his sermon for Sunday, and second, he had always promised himself – and others – that he would never know who gave how much to the church.

During the course of that Thursday, Ken poked his head into the office several times and asked Steve how things were going.  Each time, Steve responded, “Pastor, folding the statements and putting them into envelopes is going fine, but sometimes I can’t help but notice how much people are giving to the ministry here, and it’s extremely disheartening.  Many of the leaders, who have great jobs, are giving next to nothing, while some with little income seem to be giving much more generously.”

Although he didn’t want to go there, Steve’s statement piqued Ken’s curiosity.

Years before, in another church, Ken wanted to know about the giving patterns of the church’s regular attendees, so he asked the financial secretary to make a list for him.  Down the first column, Ken asked that each giving unit in the church be assigned a number so he wouldn’t know their names.  Then he asked for 12 more columns: one for each month of the year, accompanied by how much money each unit gave every month.

Ken still shudders when he recalls the giving patterns in that church family.   He noticed that many families gave nothing during January – presumably because they were paying off their credit cards after Christmas – and that others gave virtually nothing during June, July, and August – most likely because they were financing their summer vacations with at least some of their regular giving.

When Ken received that information, he remembered a story a pastor friend had told him years before.  Ken had been asked to be a guest speaker at a church, and before he went, his pastor friend told him, “You’re visiting a church where the pastor discovered that 35 members were giving a total of $50.00 per week to that ministry!  The pastor exposed those non-givers and they were all voted out of membership.”

While Ken thought that approach was going too far, he thought to himself, “This is why I’ve never wanted to know how much money people give to the ministry.  I’m human, and I’m afraid it would impact the way I view them.”

Ken tried to put his disappointment aside that Saturday, and he preached his heart out the following day, although many people were gone on vacation.

But after the second service, as Ken was preparing to go home, the financial secretary walked up to him, handed him a sealed envelope, and told him, “You need to see this.”

Ken waited until he got in his car before he opened the envelope.  To his surprise, he had been handed the giving records of every board member and staff member for the first half of the year … and what he saw tore him up inside.

On the one hand, the staff members were giving very generously.  In fact, when Ken got home, he did the math, and the staff were outgiving the board by a three-to-one ratio.

But of the nine board members, six were giving virtually nothing to the church.  Out of those six, three had each given a total of $150 for those first six months … almost as if their donations had been coordinated … and one was giving just $20 per week.  Three others were giving regularly … one generously … but Ken was obsessed with those six non-givers.

The next day was Monday, and Ken took an early and expanded lunch.  He needed time to think.  Now that he knew how little the board members were giving, what did it all mean?

Ken came to four conclusions:

First, the non-givers were not spiritual individuals. 

Didn’t Paul tell Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:3 that an overseer should not be “a lover of money?”  Didn’t Peter write in 1 Peter 5:2 that a church elder/leader should not be “greedy for money?”

Ken knew there was a direct correlation between spirituality and giving … that those who give to God are putting Him first, and must trust Him to take care of their needs … and that those who don’t give are often confessing that money means more to them than God.  Didn’t Jesus say we can’t serve two masters?

Ken believed strongly that spiritual leaders … including pastors, staff, and official board members … need to be examples rather than exceptions.

This was true for church attendance … serving in ministries … and giving financially.

Once or twice every year, Ken preached on biblical giving, and when he did, he told his congregation that he and his wife had tithed for years, and if anyone wanted proof, they could come up to him after the service and he would show them his checkbook.

Ken assumed that when he did that, the staff and board members could stand right there with him and do the same thing … but now he knew that most of the board members couldn’t … not because they didn’t make enough money, but because they weren’t spiritual enough.

And yet, by virtue of their position on the board, everyone assumed they were.

Second, the non-givers were not behind the church’s mission or Ken’s ministry.

In his mind, Ken wasn’t giving to keep the doors of his church open.  He was giving to a mission, not an institution.

But by the same token, those non-giving board members were silently saying, “We do not stand behind our mission or our pastor.”

Ken remembered one email he received from the person who volunteered to head up the refreshment ministry.  This person told Ken that a board member had approached her the previous Sunday and said, “The budget for refreshments is gone for the year, so there’s no more money for food between services.”

This information startled Ken because the board had never made such a decision … and because he knew the person serving refreshments was funding the ministry entirely from her own pocket.

To Ken, that refreshment ministry was vital, because guests would stay after the service … enjoy a treat … talk with Ken or other staff members … and be invited to return.  Much of the church’s outreach was facilitated by those conversations around the refreshment tables.

Ken believed that money was just a tool to fulfill the church’s mission, but he was now discovering that for most board members, money assumed a far greater importance.

Third, those stingy board members were impacting the giving of others … directly or indirectly.

Ken and his wife had determined early in their ministry that they would tithe ten percent of their income … on the gross, not the net … because they wanted God to bless the gross, not just the net.  And although they had gone through many hard times, the Lord had been faithful, so they never stopped giving.

Ken and his wife were giving around 12% of their income … well over a thousand dollars … on a monthly basis.  He assumed that the nine board members were right there with him … but now he knew that most of them weren’t.

The church was going through a hard time financially, and Ken wondered why.  But now he knew that if all the board members gave generously, the shortfall would be wiped out in no time.

Years before, Ken had learned that “like produces like” … that the lifestyle patterns of church leaders eventually rub off on much of the congregation.

So even though the non-giving board members assumed that no one knew what they gave to the ministry, their stingy stances were bound to impact the congregation through their attitudes, conversations and decisions.

Finally, Ken now understood why the board wanted to cut back on spending rather than expand the income base.

Ken’s bent was to “grow the ministry.”  He believed that when the church was trusting God and taking risks, people would be attracted to the church, and they would eventually become givers.

For most of that year, the board’s bent was to “cut the budget.”  They didn’t even consider growing more givers.  They just wanted to keep trimming the spending.

Ken knew that the non-givers … who outnumbered the givers two to one … would always vote to cut back spending because they didn’t want to increase their giving to the church.

If they were all tithing, that would have been one thing … but only one-third of them were even in the ballpark.  In fact, what Ken was giving to the ministry amounted to more than what any seven members combined were giving.

So most of the board members wanted to shrink spending … and cut the budget … so they could maintain their own meager giving patterns.

During that time, Ken endured long board meetings where the board’s mindset was, “Don’t spend money … don’t try anything new … don’t take risks.”

Ken couldn’t live like that.  He knew that mindset would send the church into maintenance mode, and the church would begin a death spiral.

While sitting at a budget planning meeting several months later, Ken listened to various board members and their gloomy financial scenarios, and it began to dawn on him.

The board was no longer following his leadership.

Ken also wondered if some or all of the non-givers weren’t contributing so they could squeeze him out as pastor by claiming that his ministry wasn’t producing enough income.

Suddenly, Ken realized that the information he had providentially acquired was not only a sign that the board wasn’t behind the mission, but that his ministry at Joy Church was in jeopardy.

And Ken was right.  The following month, the board covertly initiated a plan to push out their pastor … and let the biggest non-giver become their leader.

How do you interpret what happened to Pastor Ken?






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