To know or not to know? That is the question. via pixabay.com
Another week, another movie. Actually, it’s been awhile since I’ve gone all Roger Ebert and provided my highly refined movie reviews. Here are two: First, “Three Identical Strangers” – the crazy and disturbing true story about triplets separated at birth. It’s engrossing but definitely not light summer fare. I give it a strong three and a half stars. The second movie I recently saw was the animated “Incredibles 2.” It’s a great laugh-out-loud and warm-hearted summer movie with a fabulous message about family. Five stars. Two thumbs up.
And, another week and one last post (for now) answering the burning question: “should you know who gives what?” As you recall -- or otherwise I assume you have memorized -- in part one, we looked at the change in the United Methodist 2016 Book of Discipline affirming that clergy can know who gives what in their congregation. In part two, two clergy, who had positive experiences around this question, were highlighted.
Now, we’ll hear a different perspective from a layperson.
“Heidi” (as in Heidi Klum – I’m sure she’s an avid reader) asked that I not use identifying information about her. “Heidi” is from Southern California and works at a church. Here’s her take on The Question:
I want to respond to the “knowing who gives what” subject. I have been a church secretary for (literally) decades in my church, as well as serving in a lot of volunteer positions. Over the years I have worked with pastors who refuse to want to know what people give and I have found that those who don’t know are fairer in conduct and care.
Most of the ones who need to know what a person gives seem to be more partial to those with a larger financial statement. It could also mean that they are insecure in pastoring and faith, and should be employed elsewhere.
I realize some finance committee people and pastors think they need to know what people pledge/give in order to plan a budget. I, personally, do not want the pastor (or anyone else) to know what I pledge/give to the budget. I think everyone should be treated equally, regardless of finances. God does not look at my checkbook to determine the many gifts and graces He provides me.
Using statistics, I consider myself one of the top 25% givers to the church budget, and in service. The pastor will not know that I also pledge/give satisfyingly to United Methodist Women and causes of other churches, and that, too, is none of her business.
So friends, here’s my takeaway:
If you want/need to know how much people give, be very aware that others will watch how you handle that information. While many people believe that money is a spiritual issue, they also believe that it’s something that should be between them and God, not between them, God, and their pastor. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know – but you need to prayerfully consider and watch your reaction to knowing.
As an aside, it's curious that there are non-clergy people in the church who may know what everyone gives (the weekly counter, treasurer, finance chair, whoever sends out the quarterly statements, or church secretary/administrative assistant) and yet there is much consternation over the pastor having that same information.
As someone who does development work for secular non-profits, I want to know who my bigger donors are and treat them with care and gratitude.
But…I also want that for all my donors - most importantly because it’s the right thing to do AND because I know it’s the person you least suspect who might leave you a large bequest.
I have a sneaking suspicion that we have not settled this debate. I hope that this three-part series has given everyone something to think about and perhaps ponder with your church leadership. The number one thing to remember: Giving is a spiritual issue, no matter who knows. And number two: go see “Incredibles 2” and enjoy yourself. Life is too short not to have a good belly laugh while watching an animated baby.