"What did they say about money?" pasja firstname.lastname@example.org
Quick, quick. Before we get to the follow-up on “The Church is ALWAYS Asking for Money,” two quick movie reviews:
1. Roma. This is absolutely gorgeous filmmaking in every way. Shot in black and white with English subtitles, it’s an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of an indigenous woman who is the maid for a white family living in Mexico City in the 70s.
2. If Beale Street Could Talk. If you liked “Green Book,” this is the antidote to it. Based on a novel by James Baldwin, it’s a heartbreaking story about a young African American couple facing the realities of race inequality in America – all the while celebrating the strength of family and love. See them both.
Now, back to last week’s post.
Thanks to all of you who sent along comments. I love hearing from you. This is what you had to say:
A. Let’s start with a continuation of the interpretation of Luke’s story of the “Widow’s Mite” (don’t forget to start by reading Jesus’ rebuke of the scribes at the end of Chapter 20).
Former District Superintendent Rev. Gwen Drake (retired) said, “I’m not sure if the widow’s mite is about generosity – although she did give everything. I think it is about injustice and inequality. But that’s okay…I’ve used her this way many times.”
Rev. Brian Shimer of Westside UMC had another thought:
[The widow] was not just giving freely, she was giving into the unjust institution that supported the very ones who were devouring widow's houses. Jesus didn't comment on this, but celebrated that she knew she was giving to God. That always floors me and I have used it in speaking to those who think they don't support all the greater church does with money. I ask, "Do you need to? Or do you need to simply learn what it is to give?"
B. To the direct question of “should staff members be asked to financially support the church?” Rev. Jeremy Hajdu-Paulen of Tigard UMC says:
I do have an expectation that staff members who are also church members will financially support the ministry of our church. It's like the comment you quote: "how can you ask others for money if you're not willing to financially donate to your own organization?" We have staff members who are not church members or would not identify TUMC as "their church" and I have no expectation of them with regards to giving. I also communicate to our Church Council (who are volunteers, of course) that I would like them to all complete and return an estimate of giving every year (and, presumably, to follow through on it as they are able to do so).
The caveat that I strongly emphasize and make as clear as possible is that the amount of their giving is not my concern. That's between them and God. I say, "What matters most to me is the practice of giving and how it reflects a commitment to the ministry that we all share through our church." For me, this is a leadership issue.
C. Finally, tackling why someone should give at all, Rev. Drake succinctly says,
“I did not have an issue with asking for money as a pastor because I believe it is another spiritual practice that has helped me be more disciplined about money and my own consumerism.”
Rev. Shimer adds:
“I think that everyone needs to learn how to give. It is not a matter of the nonprofit but is about a matter of the heart and poor or rich, volunteer or staff, everyone needs to give from their hearts and learn to not let the wallet own them. The only way to keep ‘money’ from ruling us is to learn to give…”
Sometimes he’ll say to his congregation, "Yep we are asking for money for the sake of this project and for the sake of your own growth as a giver. Even a coin makes a difference..."
His final statement on the subject: “The church is not always asking for money, we are continuing to help people learn that we are all called to give for that changes our hearts.”
And isn't that the truth? As we practice generosity, the miraculous seems to happen. We start to enjoy giving because our heart has been changed. Our wallet does not own us. We come to understand and delight in the fact that “God is the owner. I am the ower.”
Consider engaging your leadership council in the conversation. Put “why is giving important?” on your agenda. Pass out these two articles and ask their opinion. We need to talk about this more, not less. And guess what? Everyone will have an opinion. I’ll be praying for the spirited discussions you’ll be having and I sure wish I could be a fly on the wall.
P.S. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner…don’t forget to do something sweet for your congregation!