It’s Time to Tackle the Taboo Topic
OK. I have put this off long enough. In the year and a half I have been writing this blog, I’ve avoided this subject. All morning I’ve been doing anything and everything to not write this (Please! Someone send be an email! Post something on Facebook!). Abortion? No. Marriage equality? Are you kidding me?
The most controversial thing that I have henceforth been afraid to write about: Should pastors know what people tithe? There, I’ve said it. The question is out on the table. And the answer is “yes.”
I know that there are a lot of people, clergy included, that don’t agree with me. I get that. What I don’t get is the justification. The Number One reason I’ve heard is: if pastors know who is giving what, they will treat people differently. Really? Our pastors have a LOT of information on us – I mean they know stuff that’s really personal and lots of them can already guess our incomes just by the jobs we hold. If clergy are treating people differently, in other words giving preferential treatment to big givers, then you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands and it’s time to have a conversation with the Staff-Parish Relations/HR Committee.
Charles Lane, in his excellent book Ask, Thank, Tell also confirms that clergy should know what people give: “Because wealth and what we do with the money and possessions God has entrusted to us is such a huge issue in our relationship with Jesus, the pastor has to know what people give.” In other words, giving is a spiritual issue.
J. Clif Christopher writes at length about this topic in his popular Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate. “I just love it when I hear people say such things as ‘giving should be just between the giver and God.’” He goes on to say – “That is malarkey.” It’s preposterous because people are not burying their gifts to God in the backyard. Numerous people – the financial secretary, the church treasurer, your bank, and the IRS see what you give to the church. So why “protect” this information from someone who cares so much about your spiritual growth?
When someone stops giving, it could mean many things – and the pastor needs to know. Just yesterday, the CEO of one of the non-profits I work with shared that a monthly donor had recently called and asked that her donations be stopped. Having been informed about this, the CEO wrote a note to the donor thanking her for her past donations and inquiring if everything was all right. A week later she received a letter – the woman was facing a major medical emergency and could no longer donate. She thanked our CEO for her care and concern. Because she followed up, our CEO had a pastoral moment with the donor. And when the donor’s fortunes change, you can guess which organization will be the beneficiary. Too many of those moments are being missed because sharing what people are giving with one of the most important people in the church is such a secret.
Whew, I am so glad that the last taboo has been broached. I feel a huge weight off my shoulders. No doubt, some of you have an opinion on this topic – so feel free to let me know what you think. Now that it’s out in the open, we can talk all we want! Let’s hear from you.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.