If you’re like most pastors and church leaders, there’s something about looking at the giving records of people that will make you uncomfortable. On the other hand, you want to know who your committed people are. There’s a big tension there.
But that tension is a good thing.
It means that your motives are in the right place. It means that you do not want to take advantage of people and use them to fund your dreams. It means that you care about pastoring people, not just taking their money.
Keeping your motives in check is important, and it’s something you’ve got to continually address. Proverbs 4:23 says that we must guard our hearts. That’s definitely true when it comes to knowing what people give.
As a pastor, I didn’t agonize over reports or hunt people down who didn’t give at a certain level, but I did have a basic understanding of who gave what. When I looked at reports, I learned that 75% of our funding came from 10% of our givers. Knowing that allowed me to encourage those who were supporters and challenge everyone to step up.
Why Should You Know What People Give
Here are four reasons I chose to know what people gave.
1. Proverbs says that a good shepherd should know the condition of his flocks. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, your heart will follow.” This means that as a pastor, if you want to know the condition of someone’s heart, look at their giving. It’s a discipleship issue more than anything else.
2. If people gave a large gift or suddenly stopped giving, that may be a sign of something significant that happened or changed in their life that signaled a need for pastoral care. On one occasion, realizing that someone stopped giving led us to find out that there was an impending divorce. We were able to provide pastoral care through that issue.
3. I knew the people in our church who were good with construction. I knew people who were gifted to work with special needs kids. I knew the people who had the gift of encouragement. It seemed appropriate to match these people with the right opportunities for ministry. Developing the spiritual gift of generosity in people includes knowing what they give.
4. The Bible doesn’t seem to prohibit this. James does indicate that I shouldn’t care for people’s soul or eternity differently, but I don’t think the Bible precludes knowing the state of a church member’s finances or giving. Showing favoritism to rich people isn’t a finance issue, it’s a spiritual maturity issue.
I suppose this raises another important question…
How do you treat people who give large amounts of money?
You’ve really got three options.
1. Use them. There are too many pastors who only get in touch with certain donors when there is a big need. That’s taking advantage of someone’s spiritual gift! You MUST examine your heart and get to the place where you care more about people than what they can do for you or your church. People are not a funding mechanism for ministry – they are individuals created in the image of God who possess infinite worth to God. Using rich people is totally wrong.
2. Favor them. James 1:8 teaches us that we shouldn’t show favoritism in the church. We shouldn’t value people differently because of their contributions; instead, we should treat all people equally because they ARE all equally valuable in the eyes of God. Too many times, people with means are given special opportunities or positions based solely on their financial standing. Putting wealthy people on committees or giving people special benefits because of their social position is wrong.
3. Ignore them. Some people ignore people’s generosity because they are afraid that the attention will turn to favoritism. But just like we should develop people’s gifts of leadership and give people with the gift of service the opportunity to serve, we need to develop people’s gift of generosity. The Bible teaches that those who are given more are required to be faithful, and as pastors, we must pay attention to that. I don’t think it’s honorable to “brag” about not knowing what people give (as I’ve heard some pastors do).
I think the key in all of this is being sensitive to the Holy Spirit as you lead people. It’s fine to know what people give, but it’s not fine to abuse that information. It’s probably healthy to know where support is coming from, but it’s not good if that information makes you cynical. If you were to look at giving records, you might be surprised, so think through how you will respond and make sure that you respond and not react.
As leaders, you have to lead the way Jesus has called you to lived. For me, that included having the most accurate information possible – including giving records. I feel like this is one of those areas where the Bible gives freedom, and that we’re just called to lead with wisdom.
This is just one of the many issues we can help you process as a Giving Rocket member. I believe the investment is worth it.