SHOULD PASTORS KNOW HOW MUCH PEOPLE GIVE?
By Rev. Brian Kluth
In conducting training seminars on church giving1 for thousands of pastors and church leaders, the most
common question I hear is "Should the Pastor know how much people give?" In my own experience,
when churches try to answer this question in order to make a change to their current practices or policies
on this subject, they will have some of the most emotional debates their leadership will ever experience!
Because of my background in executive leadership of non-profit ministries (prior to my becoming a local
church pastor), I personally have experienced the importance of the leader of a ministry knowing the giving
practices and patterns of people that support the ministry. But I have also learned that the church world is
very different than a non-profit organization. Many churches have a long standing history (or even policies
in place) of never allowing the pastor to know anything about people's giving.
So from my experience as a church pastor and a trainer of pastors and church leaders, I think the question
about "Should the Pastor know how much people give?" is probably the WRONG QUESTION for pastors
and church leaders to ask!
I think the RIGHT QUESTION to ask is "WHAT?" should a pastor know about people's giving.
In the average church, if you ask the question, "Should the pastor know about people's giving?" most
people envision the pastor getting computer login codes and passwords and under the cover of darkness
secretly sitting in the church office carefully studying everyone's detailed giving records and then deciding
who he will be nice too and who he will ignore in the future. Even some pastors admit that if they knew how
much people were "giving" or "not giving" they might be tempted to treat people differently. We forget that
the Bible clearly identifies that leaders and others knew the giving habits of some people (I Chronicles 29,
Acts 4:37, Nehemiah 7:70, Acts 5:1-2, Luke 8:3) and that even Jesus sat and watched how much people
were putting into the offering box (Luke 21:1-4)!
While discussing this question with a leader at my church who said that if I knew how much people gave
that I would treat people differently, I commented to them that as the pastor I know many dark secrets
about people's lives—who has experienced adultery, who has a drinking problem, how many months or
years it has been since someone has slept with their spouse, who had in abortion in the past, who has had
homosexual encounters or relationships, who is on drugs, who is in debt, who has tried to commit suicide,
and much, much more. Their response amazed me—“but this is different—we're talking about money!" I
assured the person that regardless of people's dark secrets or their giving habits, I'm called to love and
shepherd all the sheep in our church's fold.
But, let's get back to the RIGHT QUESTION I think church leaders should discuss and decide: "WHAT?"
should a pastor know about people's giving? Here are six things I think a pastor should be notified
about if he is to effectively pastor his congregation. In each of the following cases, the pastor does not
necessarily have to new specific amounts to effectively pastor these individuals.
1) WHEN SOMEONE NEW STARTS GIVING REGULARLY: If a pastor is notified when a person, couple
or family starts to be regular givers, he or she will then know that this is someone that is making an
intentional effort to become connected to congregation. These are ideal people for a pastor to begin to
talk with and find out ways they might be able to serve using their gifts and interests. New givers can
also be sent a short note of appreciation for their gifts from the church office or pastor that could
include some helpful information about the church's finances, generosity flyers, or booklets that help
them deepen their understanding of Biblical giving principles 2 .
2) WHEN SOMEONE STOPS GIVING (OR SIGNIFICANTLY DECREASES THEIR GIVING): The reason
this happens in someone's life is usually for two primary reasons. First, the person is going through
personal challenges or a great hardship (sometimes even unknown to others). Secondly, the person is
upset with the church or someone in the church, and this is the early sign (usually done about 6 months
before a person walks out for good). Both of these are pastoral issues. If the pastor is notified that
someone's giving suddenly stopped or was greatly decreased, he can look for an opportunity to talk
with them and find out what's happening in their life. If it is a time of hardship, the pastor can prayer or
possibly mobilize ways the family can be helped. If it is a conflict the person is having with the church
or someone in the church, the pastor can encourage healthy dialog and reconciliation.
3) WHEN SOMEONE GIVES A GIFT FOR A SPECIAL PURPOSE: In every church there are constantly
designated funds coming in and special projects taking place—missions trips, funeral memorial gifts,
scholarships, renovation projects, special projects and purchases, and so much more. When a pastor
knows that someone gave a special gift he can be sensitive to make sure the person knows their gift
was received and appreciated and that is was being used as intended. Sometimes it will also be
appropriate to send a special report documenting the impact of the person's gift (e.g. if someone gave
a gift to help underwrite a short-term missions project).
4) WHEN SOMEONE IS BEING CONSIDERED FOR A TOP LEADERSHIP POSITION: The Bible says
in Luke 12:34 "Where a person's treasure is, there your heart will be also." In considering people for top
leadership positions (elders) in my last two churches, we would give the list of potential candidates to
our treasurer and ask the question, "Are each of these people should Christian maturity and generosity
in their giving practices? Yes or No?" Notice, we did not ask the amount. It has been amazing that the
treasurer has had to come back and report "No" on a number of people over the year's that "appear" to
be spiritually mature and are very active and respected in the church. But here's the problem. If they
aren't giving faithfully to your church, their hearts are not with you and their hearts are actually far from
you! These are not the type of people you want in your key leadership positions. For one reason, any
time you have to face important financial decisions that will impact your church's future (renovations,
ministry expansion, building projects, etc.) they will naturally be resistant to anything that might cause
them to need to give.
5) WHEN SOMEONE HAS SHOWN THE CAPACITY TO GIVE GENEROUSLY: While God blesses all
people, some people have been especially spiritually gifted to be very generous givers (Romans 12:8
talks about a gift of giving). Normally, this means a person has been blessed with abilities to make a
greater income than they choose to spend on their lifestyle that they invest in God's work. If someone is
a great singer, we encourage them to sing. If someone is a great teacher or youth worker, we
encourage them to use their gifts. But is someone is a great giver, we ignore them! Don't all people
need to be encouraged in their God-given giftedness, including generous givers? Today, their are
ministries and resources that if a pastor knows someone is exhibiting generous giving, the pastor can
connect with this person and encourage them to sharpen their gift of giving (www.GenerousGiving.org,
www.GenerousLife.info, www.NationalChristian.org, and others). Also, in major church projects
(building campaigns, etc.), generous lead gifts and leadership gifts (Nehemiah 2:2-9, I Chronicles 29)
that are normally gained through special meetings with key people that God has given the capacity to
give generously can make the difference between success and failure in a project.
6) WHEN THE YEAR IS OVER, WHAT ARE THE GIVING PATTERNS (AMOUNTS NOT NAMES) OF
THE CONGREGATION: Most pastors and church leaders have no idea about the giving patterns
within their congregation. Yet, in any undertaking it is important to know your facts and what is
happening around you. A number of years ago I developed an treasurer's annual giving worksheet
eport3 that can give the pastor and key leaders (and sometimes even sharing it with the congregation)
the giving demographics of the church (without any reference to people's individual names). This
worksheet has often proved to be very helpful as we realized the need to develop financial ministries in
the church that would train people how to manage their God-given resources and to give generously.
In my own church that is 112 years old and had an unwritten policy that the pastor should never know
anything about anyone's giving, I experienced the heat, friction, and tension of trying to change the policy
about "Should the pastor know about everyone's giving?" I now realize we were asking the wrong question.
The RIGHT QUESTION to ask is "WHAT?" should a pastor know about people's giving. The six items I
identified above will help every pastor know how to shepherd, care for, and lead well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rev. Brian Kluth is a Senior Pastor in Colorado and is the founder of the www.MAXIMUMgenerosity.org
and www.GenerousLife.info websites. He has a FREE e-newsletter4 on church giving that is sent to 15,000
pastors and leaders nationwide and to over 80 countries. He has conducted half-day "MAXIMUM
Generosity Leadership Seminars" for thousands of pastors and church leaders.