Friday, May 16, 2014

Do Outsiders See Your Church As Greedy? (The answer might shock you...)

Money. It always comes down to money. And, the church is no different. I can't count how many times people have used money as the reason they don't attend church - "all the church is interested in is taking my money."

Well, before I address that, and the subject of this post, let me state one point everyone must recognize:

Churches need  money 

I'm talking your average, ordinary, every day type of church. They need money. They have to pay bills (yup, electric company charges the church, too. Imagine that). They have to pay the pastor (sorry folks, the dude does need to eat...). They need to purchase supplies and who knows what all just to keep the church functioning.

And, to be honest, I think most people understand this. When they complain that the church is only interested in money, it isn't that they don't recognize the needs of the church (although, they may not recognize the extent of the needs). It's that they do recognize the greediness of the church.

The Giving and the Greedy

A young mother runs out of milk to feed her child. She goes to a neighbor who isn't too well off financially, but hopefully has just a few ounces to spare. The neighbor gives her a gallon of milk. The young mother insists she'll pay the neighbor back. As the days move on, the neighbor makes no mention again of the borrowed milk.

Take the same story, except....

The neighbor gives her the milk, and the young mother insists she'll pay the neighbor back. The next time the neighbor sees the young mother, he reminds her of her debt. And reminds her the next time. And the next.

I'm sure you've all met people of both types - the one who gives when she's able and doesn't expect to be paid back; and the one who gives (often reluctantly) but consistently reminds you that you're in her debt. The one who gives, and the one who expects things to be given.

One person can make a Church look greedy

The stories above can somewhat be applied to churches as well. The difference, however, is that a church is made up of several individuals; and, depending on the position/popularity/status of the person, it often takes just one person within that church to make the entire church seem greedy.

That's right - just one person can make both Church members and outsiders see your Church  as greedy.

1) Mandatory voluntary donations

Yes, you read that right. Mandatory voluntary donations.

Donating money to the church is a common practice. And, it is a voluntary practice. Some people have the money to gift to the Church, and some do not. And this must be acceptable to the pastor and all who work within the church. And, unfortunately, this is not always the case.

"You get the use of the fellowship hall free because you're a member, but you are expected to make a donation." This is something I actually heard said by another member of the Church. The person quickly amended the statement to "Well, you don't have to... but everyone does."

Through implication and attitude, this one person managed to make the church appear so greedy that it mandates donations. This person makes the Church seem like a place that consistently expects money from those who attend or are members.

2) Mentions offering amounts, or hints at the inadequacy of amounts

"Since you can't put a lot of money in the offering plate, you can use this as your way of contributing."

Again, that's a statement I have actually heard. The "you can use this" was referring to a service the person was offering the Church without pay. It wasn't to get out of having to give an offering, but rather as a way of fulfilling a need within the Church.

No one... not one single person... within a church should mention what a person gives each week. It shouldn't be implied they give too little (or too much). It shouldn't be implied that the person should be giving more. It should not be stated to the person him/herself, and definitely should not be mentioned to anyone else.

People give what they can, when they can.

3) Doesn't acknowledge non-monetary contributions

Some people can't afford much financially, so they contribute in other ways. Some just love to contribute in non-monetary ways. These people volunteer whenever they can. They teach Sunday School. They do the newsletter, or website, or bulletins without pay. They mow the lawn, or shovel the sidewalk without pay.

And, if this service gets any acknowledgement, it's usually in a negative tone, as if to say this person doesn't want to give the church money and therefore is doing something else that isn't worth the missing offering.

Non-monetary contributions are not something to be ignored. They are not merely so someone doesn't have to give the church money. True, the Church needs money to pay the bills. But, without the loving contributions of time and service, the Church would also be paying for teachers, janitors, marketing specialists/webmasters, etc.

What can be done... and is it necessary? 

First, let me answer the "Is it necessary" question. Yes. Emphatically, Yes! One bad egg spoils the bunch. Even just one person (again, depending on who this person is within the society and/or Church) can make an entire Church seem greedy and petty.

As for what can be done? I don't have the answers. The only thing I can think of is that if you hear someone starting to act this way, either correct them or walk away. Don't allow them an audience.

Can you think of how to stop the one bad egg from spoiling the bunch?

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