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November 9, 2010

Should Pastors Know What People Give?

Does such information create temptation toward favoritism, or a needed discipleship tool?

A question on XPastor.org's Google Group asked whether pastors should know who gives what to the church. Is it primarily an issue of privacy, potential partiality, or accountability and pastoral care?

According to attorney Frank Sommerville, churches "should examine job and committee descriptions to determine who qualifies under a need-to-know standard." The reason: donor privacy. Those who have access "need to agree to a privacy policy requiring them to keep all donor information private and use it solely to perform their church duties," he says.

Churches must decide whether the pastor needs to know, such as for providing specific counsel and spiritual development tied to members' tithing. Once the church determines who has access, it needs to disclose this to the congregation so that donors "will have a realistic expectation of privacy," Sommerville says.

Here is how three XPastor.org members say their churches handle this question:

This article first appeared in our sister publication, Leadership Journal. Click here to read the rest.

Matt Branaugh is director of editorial for Christianity Today International's church management publications and resources. His current duties include editing Your Church Today magazine and TheYourChurchBlog.com, as well as leading a fantastic editorial team.

Related Tags: finances, giving, pastors, Relationships, tithes

Comments

Pastors should not know who in their congregations give what. Having served on 2 church boards, I have seen where it leads directly partiality and peferencial treatment with parishoner needs and requests.

In my opinion, I can't think of a situation where the pastor needs to know where the giving comes from within the congregation. Pastoral care is not conditional or contigent upon how much a parishoner gives.

No, I do not think the pastor nor anyone other than the treasurer/accounting person(s) should have access to this information. We are very protective of this information at our church and I, as treasurer, make sure the congregation knows they can be assured of privacy. Whatever people give is between them and God, the sermons/lessons on tithing need to be given to all of us routinely and the outcome is the result of people's relationship to God. People are free to make their personal decisions.....the pastor's role is to guide us all to proper relationship with our money. It is not the pastor's role to "control" this or guilt-trip specific individuals. They will be convicted by God Himself if their hearts are moved. If not, they aren't there yet. I only see a downside to the pastor having this knowledge.

I tend to agree with both comments so far. However, as a volunteer that is the head of finances at my church, I've had conflicts related to points made in the article where some people are given significant leadership roles on the assumption they are at a certain level of spiritual maturity yet their giving (or lack there of) would not support that assumption. Additionally, I've seen people receive benevolence gifts from the church when that committee is under the impression they have been a significant giver at our church for years. I've never brought these concerns to anyone before, but I am interested if anyone reading this has been in a similar position or if they have adopted policies regarding such situations.

I have served on church boards for 40 plus years and the answer is absolutely not. The disadvantages far outweigh any advantages.

While I can see the difficulty in a pastor knowing the giving of a congregant, I think there is a much bigger issue here. The last charge that Christ gave us before He ascended, was to make disciples. I know personally that God would have been unable to carry me further on my path of discipleship without me first trusting Him with money. When I started tithing, my whole viewpoint about trusting God.
If not the pastor, then who should counsel me about my spiritual growth? My pastor challenged me to try trusting God by tithing. I never thought he was "after my money". He presented it as a way to more fully trust God. We are very comfortable talking with folks about all other aspects of their spiritual journey. Why not tithing?

On Vicki's post, our church does look at giving, as well as other criteria, when reviewing benevolence requests. This helps us make benevolence a discipleship opportunity.

On leadership, we must look at all aspects of their maturity as believers, and money is an indicator of spiritual maturity. If we don't trust God with our tithes & offerings, how can we say we trust God?

On balance, the pastor doesn't need to know what everyone gives, as they need to focus on prayer, studying God's word, and their relationship with God & man. When it comes to making decisions on church leadership or benevolence, this is one of the exceptional times when giving information provides pastors & staff with perspective necessary to properly disciple the church.

I am torn as a pastor if I should know but I think it is good if the pastor knows if there are changes in parishoners giving may help you know if something is going on in their life. They may have a problem with the church. They may have a financial problem or some other issue. Usually if someone is going through tough issues it shows up in their giving first.
Mike

I believe the Pastor(s) should not know what the individual members are giving. This allows him to teach/preach about tithing without the pressure of knowing he is speaking to any particular member. The members also will know the pastor is not speaking (knowingly) to them. I also believe the member should not serve in key roles if he/she is not mature enough to tithe yet, and that the nominating committee should discretely ask the treasurer about that fact before a member is considered for an office. Again, the pastor would not be burdened with this knowledge.

I share the same view as Mike Roberts.I don't see anything wrong in the Pastor knowing the giving level of each congregant. It is usually a good indication of financial difficuties if the level reduces. May be he/she has lost a job, or is in debt. There could be other reasons. The job of the Pastor is to seek God's face concerning such members and pray for a restoration.In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus had knowledge of satan's plan concerning Simon and prayed for him. I believe this is what Pastors should do with this information

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Our Pastor is very adamant about NOT knowing who gives what, so he won't fall into the temptation of treating some people better than others. The only one who knows for sure is the treasurer.

I believe that someone should really be keeping track at least of trends if not actual amounts, especially since giving is a sign of spiritual growth. If someone starts giving that is a milestone. If someone starts giving more that could be a sign of spiritual maturity or maybe a promotion. If someone stops giving or gives less it could be a sign of financial distress, bitterness, disinterest, or backsliding.

In any case a good Pastor knows the state of his flock and needs to follow up to encourage spiritual growth, sympathize, or turn someone back to God. Even if he doesn't know exact amounts, at least he can be notified of major changes in giving so he can do his job.

I have been the bookkeeper at 3 churches for a number of years and I attend a different church so I have seen tithing information both ways. My church allows the ministerial staff and several ministry assistants access to giving information, for the purpose of determining who should be allowed to be a leader in the church.

I have concerns with pastors and staff knowing how much someone gives. I have seen pastors base their treatment of individuals on how much they THINK the member gives. So whether a pastor knows how much someone gives does not prevent him from playing favorites. That he does that is a flaw in his leadership in the church. I believe that if the leadership spends time alongside the members instead of remaining separated due to duties, then they would be able to discern who is qualified spiritually to be in a leadership position.

Tithing should not be the signal as to whether someone is a mature Christian. The reason I say that is I have seen Christians in the church who are ignorant of Bible teachings (even so far as to believe the hymns are sacred like God's Word) who give large sums (or withhold large sums) in order to control the ministry of the pastor and his staff. There are people within the church who are very involved in the ministry of the church, who are not able to give much to the church, for various reasons, such as a spouse who is not a believer. A leader in the church working alongside that person would know from conversing with him/her and watching for viewpoints and motives, whether that person is a mature Christian and therefore qualified to serve in a leadership position.

So my recommendation to all the church pastors/staff/ leadership is that the leadership actually interview or spend time with each person being considered in order to disciple and determine his/her heart, motives, beliefs, etc., rather than basing an assessment on someone's giving record. Is that person devoted to serving the Lord in line with His Word, or is the person motivated by a desire to control, to impress, to feel good about herself, etc. Does he support the pastor and mission of the church? For certain positions, such as a Finance or Personnel Team member, the Treasurer and/or Bookkeeper should determine whether the person is a regular giver or tither. Then if you are considering putting someone in leadership or on staff, get recommendations from staff and from respected people who do know that person. Perhaps also develop a checklist or questionnaire along these guidelines, along with the person's testimony.

As a pastor I never wanted to know what people gave. I thought that this would keep me from treating people differently -- even subconsciously. However, pastoring a small church, we had two people move and two retire. I did not know that they were major givers (tithers? who knows what people make?), and our church got in serious financial trouble. If I had known, I would have prepared better. You bet I want to know now.

It is my most sound believe and feel with scriptures backing this, that no one should know what you give. God's Word states clearly (paraphrasing)...."let not your right hand knows what your left does....." it also says, that each of us should give what God purpose in our heart to give..."which means, if we are having a close relationship with God on a daily basis, the Spirit of God which dwells within us will purpose in our heart what we need to give without having the need to let it be known to man. I believe it's a trap (my personal opinion) from Satan disguising the laws that men have implemented in reference to the donations/gifts once gives in order to get a cut. God's word says, render unto Caesar what's Caesar and unto God what's God. You keep both things separately. I work in the Finances at the Church I presently assist and I have seen what knowing who gives what and how often has made a difference when it comes to giving position within the church government. This always makes me think about how the first members back in Acts, were elected as elders, deacons of the church to relieved the Apostles of the everyday task. They fasted and prayed for the Holy Spirit to point out the persons that should be elected for this position and then layed hands on them. Now, a days the Church of Christ, His Body, has lost this vision which was well defined and written for us to follow. At the end each of us will be accountable before the Lord for what we did. If we love the Lord and have an everyday relationship with Him, it will show and our fruits will speak for itself where is visible and even palpable. No one needs to know what you give unto to the Lord. This is my humble opinion on this particular subject.

Pastors already have significant power/authority/influence in the church body and do not need additional fodder to tempt them and be "dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed". God is a God of relationships, so everyone, especially pastors, must develop relationships personally "to strive for full restoration, to encourage one another, to be of one mind, and to live in peace." This would be very difficult and insincere, especially after "sneaking" a peak at someone's gift (tithe) to God. In Matthew 6, Jesus commands that giving is to be unannounced and in secret.

Absolutely the pastor has a right to know. Does that mean he checks every week? No. I checked giving after pastoring a church plant for about three months. It made me sad and I vowed never again. People who made the most gave the least. People who gave nothing at all wanted to direct how the church spent money.

In our church, leadership is expected to give generously to support the work. Without getting into tithe/not tithe debate, when someone is being considered for leadership, I simply ask our treasurer if it looks likes the person tithes. Without getting a W-2, he tells me yes or no. We can then move on in the process. I don't want people to give so they can be a leader, but someone who already supports the work.

So do pastors have the right? Yes. Should they regularly check giving? No. I realized early on that God provides. Sometimes He uses people in the church, sometimes He doesn't use the people in the church, but He always provides.

As Treasurer I do not believe the Pastor should have any access to the tithe amount a member tithes. I have seen where this has been used to get someone who tithes large sums to be targeted when a need arises. However, I do believe that when the Nominating Committee is meeting, that the Pastor and Nominating Chair should get with the Treasurer or person responsible for recording amounts and ONLY on those key committees that are finance driven, ie. stewardship,Counting cmtte, new building/facilities, building & grounds, personnel committee should adisclosure be made not the amount but if they tithe. We have key people in positions who spend and allocate church funds that are well able to give and don't, yet have no problem with obligating the church. The other problem is that the counters get a sense of who gives and how much and I've seen some on them use this information in forming alliances.

This was a good subject to cover. Our pastor, Randall Haynes, let me know as soon as I took the job as Office Manager at Ignacio Community Church, that he did not want to know what people gave. If I think someone's tithe is a refection of financial need, I do let him know, but he never wants to know who givers of large contributions are. Only I and the same two people who tally the Sunday offerings know who gives what, and we know that is a privacy issue.

I believe that there is nothing wrong with the pastor knowing who is or is not a faithful supporter of the church. In all of my ministry roles, I have had access to the information and during certain assignments was the one who entered the information. For me, it was never a matter of amount, but I did know who was faithful or not. Occasionally, when someone would start talking about how the church should spend its money, I would be reminded that the person never gave to the church. That did lead to some teaching moments on a few occasions.

When someone is lost, hurting, or drifting from God, the last thing on my mind is how much they give. I wouldn't dream of running a credit check when I am given the opportunity to serve someone. Is it essential for the pastor to know? Probably on some level it helps to complete the picture, but each leader has to do what God has directed him to do.

I my 600-member church only the Financial Secretary, his predecessor (still employed as a bookkeeper) and the Accountant know giving information. When one is considered for a church office, one of those three is asked to verify that the potential candidate meets a giving threshold set by the Board of Elders.

A very good book on this subject is "Not Your Parent's Offering Plate by Clif Christopher. Every pastor and church leader should read this book. It clearly explains what local churches face in TODAY'S giving environment.

Yes, Pastor's need to know. So they can personally thank those who are sacrificing for our Lord, and counsel those who are not.

Money is ONE of the things that helps churches do what God has called them to do, and Stewardship is (or should be) one of the basic planks with which the church is built (along with worship, prayer, fellowship, evangelism, ministry and education).

I basically agree, in principal, with Anna and Ish. The question that this discussion brings to my mind is, why is giving (especially tithing) always the very first consideration of a person's value or worth in the church?
Comments such as being "faithful" when used to describe or influence one's giving is more of a judgment or indictment, rather than a Christian response. A mature Christian is someone that reads the bible and decides for himself/herself
what is right, according to the bible. In closing, if a church is truly the body of Christ, HE will provide everything needed for the church to grow---If we live by Faith expressing itself through love and NOT by the Law. One cannot choose parts of the Law, without applying the whole Law (Galatians 5:1-6).

As a treasurer and long serving elder my thoughts lean towards Bill's last post. The Acts church gave all that they had and was a very transparent community. We are very visible with the giving of our talents and our time but have somehow created a secrecy around our treasures. I do not think this is healthy and has actually handcuffed the elders and pastor in providing a (w)holistic ministry. If the pastor does not want to be "burdened" with this - what about all the other burdens that come with his calling - abuse, addictions, apathy, etc. How is it that this particular area of our lives remains unchallenged and "unexamined"?

If anyone should know, it would be the pastor and/or select leadership of the church. Let's get a grip! The pastor is responsible to oversee and care for the church, they watch for our souls. It is a bad world (church world) when congregants are not able to trust the pastor to not become partial and for that matter donors who whould expect partiality. Tithing and giving to God's purposes are a significant part of worship and service. It is a part of our contract called the New Testament of which the believer has agreed to. It is not so much the amount, but the faithfulness of the believer in their relationship with God in this area and all areas. Jesus and others saw the widow woman put in her small amount and it was "more" than all the others. Jesus not only was a bit reprimanding but also conveyed the importance of giving. Acts 5 Peter asked if the land was sold for so much (by that he knew what was to be given). The donor lied and died. The concern is not whether someone knew the amount, but rather the motive and action of the donor and donee. If we truely believe the doctrine of tithing, then I would want all spiritual leadership encouraging me to be faithful with it. The benefit of tithing is not for me only, but for my generations to come. I done some major studying on this topic and taught our congregation for ten Sunday mornings. Though it was a bit lengthy, it brought such glorious experiences in many of the members. If there are untrustworthy individuals in leadership unable to be mature with finances, then it is simple, pray and expect God to provide leadership that will be a good example and be faithful to God's service in ALL areas. As pastor, I am willing to know our members involvement concerning tithes and offerings so that I may encourage, bless, rejoice, compliment, understand and bare their endevours to be faithful unto God in not only this topic but all areas.

Firstly, doesn't it follow logically that if giving is too "personal" for a pastor to know that we should then encourage our pastors NOT to know about marital or familial strife? Or porn usage? Or drunkenness? Where do you draw the line? Those are all pretty personal. If the pastor actually knew there was marital conflict, wouldn't he be singling out that couple if he happened to preach on marriage? I think the real issue here is not money, but how the accountability between pastor and people is supposed to work. Perhaps if your pastor is not spiritually mature enough NOT to play favorites he is not capable of the kind of leadership you had assumed he was capable of.
Secondly, is giving personal or private? Remember friends, this happens in corporate worship, not private worship! Besides, while I understand the sentiment that we "give our money to God", this is not actually a true statement. God does NOT need our money - He has the cattle on a thousand hills. Likewise, the purpose of our weekly gathering is not to worship God - we should be doing that weekly. When God's people gather corporately as the body, the Bible says that it is expressly for the purpose of mutual encouragement (Heb 10:24-25). And that is how our corporate worship is most distinct from our private worship. Your lack of giving, unless providentially hindered, contributes to an encouragement deficit - which leads to a double curse - less finances and less encouragement!
Thirdly, most pastors I know are aware of who their "big" givers are even without any specific knowledge of the individual's tithing record. Any pastor who didn't have some clue would be by definition, clueless! Yet strangely enough, they have been mature enough NOT to allow this to affect their shepherding of these people.
I sense a lot of passion from the "do not know" crowd, and quite honestly, I had never given this question much thought. But it makes me ask, if financial support is at least implied by membership (which is itself a public and active commitment), why so much secrecy for what we ALL should be doing anyway? Could it be that our culture is influenced, negatively, by this American individualism that runs counter to the mutual accountability implied by biblical church membership?

I'm the Treasurer at my church and our Pastor does not know. Yes, there are times it may be deemed necessary to know a members giving, but a simple yes or no should be adequate, not the actual amount. [But how does one truly know if someone is giving a tithe (10%).] Those instances we've encountered are purging membership based upon bylaws (ours has an item that has regular giving as a criteria for membership). I think the basic concept is that members should support their own church for its needs. Also, our Church Board and Pastor conduct monthly meetings where they see our income. To address proper discipleship and prayer for giving, our Pastor would see this monthly in the Financial Statements.

Another interesting thing to point out is what if people give their tithes in the loose offerings? They know what they are giving to God and God knows - so who are we to point fingers that they are not giving -- some people do not care to receive a giving report nor do they want people to know what they give. We are all responsible for what we give God.

Also, in respect to other issues a Pastor would disciple, the love of money is pointed out to be the root of all evil and unfortunately Pastors are not exempt from human feelings and temptations. So I do believe it could cause more problems than "fix" a giving problem. Our Pastor is well aware of members who are having financial difficulties (loss of job, reduced hours, medical finances, etc.) and those who have been "blessed" because he communicates with members and not because I have told him.

Our benevolence funds are given because members find out and inform church staff who then inform the Pastor and/or Board who then decide who has a need and what to give them. (But, mainly we get requests for benevolence from people outside our church - I think those within the Church look to God to provide - and I've seen God work "mysteriously" to meet the needs of His People.) The words of Christ in Matthew 6 says that what we should give in secret and to not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. So, in today's setting, people give to God through the Church and we should keep their giving "secret" not letting this one or that one know what they have given.

Pastors probably just need to know who is tithing and who isn't, not how much. Pastors are called to shepherd the flock and disobedience in this area is a sure sign of a sick heart. How can the shepherd take care of the sheep without knowing they are sick? It's not an indictment on their soul, or a tool to help condemn, but a good look at the health of their relationship with Christ. Just ask for a list of who is tithing and who is not for the purpose of being able to minister to the hearts of those who aren't. Maybe doing it this way would help others to not feel like you are showing preferential treatment to those who are able to give larger tithes than other since they know you don't know exact amounts.

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