Questions and concerns about money and stewardship arise often in parishes.
When parishes transition to a new stewardship system, often based on an all member canvass/pledge system questions and objections are particularly prevalent. Some of these same questions are likely to be heard in parishes that have long practiced a system of proportional stewardship/pledging for many years –since new people come into the parish unfamiliar with the practice or because parish practice has become lax.
The following are typical questions and objections, along with possible responses.
“I give in other ways. Do I need to give money too?”
Many people give endless amounts of time to their church. This is a worthy gift. In some cases they give their time instead of dollars. We are asked, directed really, by God to return a meaningful portion of all of our resources back to His church. That means not just money or not just time – but a portion of all of it.”
“I give to other non-parish charitable causes. Are we being told that all charitable donations should be given to the church?”
No responsible parish stewardship effort would suggest that you must donate only to your parish.
We are called to be disciples of Him and it is through the Church that we carry out the work of Christ in the world today. The Church is the body which most clearly expresses the meaning and values that we (should) find at the center of our lives. Additionally many persons find simply that giving to their church provides much greater leverage and control for the contribution.
It seems reasonable then that in a Christian’s “portfolio” of donations his or her church/parish should be number one on the list – by a considerable distance.
“People won’t give if we ask.” or “If we ask, people will give less!”
In parishes where the the stewardship system has long been “dues” (everyone “pays” an equal base share to maintain a membership in the parish”) this is a common reaction. Often this is because the parish can never seem to catch up financially and there are continual pleas for help. (see “All we hear about is money” below.)
However stewardship and charitable giving experts generally agree that the opposite of the above is true. “People don’t give unless they are asked.” The key issue then becomes how, when and by whom are they are asked.
Why don’t we just take special collections for particular needs?
If fund-raising is done by emphasizing needs in special collection after special collection, or financial drive after financial drive, a certain insidious sense of the Church as an institution of never-ending needs begins to develop. If the needs are always causes which do not involve anything other than people’s pocketbooks, the congregation slowly learns a lesson in ecclesiology. If people are cajoled into giving through a sense of guilt, they learn that God is one who is very demanding and that they cannot do enough to please him.
It need not be all negative, however. People can learn to see God as the source of all they have and are, and they can learn to see themselves as sharing in the work of God by the use of their time, talent and resources.
All we ever hear about is money”
Jesus preached on money more than any other topic. Seventeen of thirty-eight parables are about money. There is boundless scriptural support for concepts and practices of Christian stewardship. There are at least 2350 bible verses on possessions or money. Biblical writers probably had something in mind when they used the word “give” three times more often than the word “love.”
Grateful use of our God given resources, including money is an important, serious topic to Christians. It deserves our attention.
That having been said a pledge approach should limit the number of special appeals and help to keep from falling behind financially. We should be able to focus on areas other than money more often.
“We don’t need more money. We spend too much already.”
As potentially narrow minded as this objection may be or sound parish leaders need to be able to respectfully account for and defend how money is spent. Parishioners should be encouraged to ask fair, honest questions and parish leaders should be expected to offer useful answers.
If you can’t offer convincing answers to the need for money –or additional money — you may not deserve it. “What will be accomplished?” “How does this help us to fulfill our mission and purpose?” “How will this build up the body of Christ?” “How does this fulfill our responsibilities.” “How does this fit our priorities?”
In many parishes the mindset of (too) many parishioners is a minimalistic attitude toward giving and spending money. Parish money is used for paying necessary bills, funding crisis maintenance on the building and offering a subsistence wage to parish clergy.
Helping people to see the parish as a place where Christ is proclaimed through various efforts and ministries, many of which require money to be done with excellence, will take time and continual education. This question will not go away quickly — but parish leaders should not shy away from it. Be prepared to offer a hopeful positive response to this question. The questioner may not agree –but many others will.