The difficulty with giving money to churches today is that in the internet age, designated giving is easy. ThinkChristian has a good discussion going about the tension between supporting the church infrastructure and giving to particular causes that you believe in. Check it out.
The discussion revolves around that people like their money to go to projects they believe in. Giving to Doctors without Borders or Red Cross or other charities…the money goes to support those causes, right?
But when people give to the church, there’s this perception that it is diluted into maintenance and not mission. Maybe some will go to the AIDS ministry or the Food Shelter, but it also goes to that decrepit building that is always cold where I sit in the pew, or that pastor that I don’t always agree with, or the utility company really gets my tithe anyway.
Maybe we need to hack this perceived difference between giving to causes and candidates…and giving to the church. It would seem that Candidate Jesus would raise more money than the Church of Jesus these days!
There’s this concept that money gets diffused when given to the church and not for charities. But in reality, donations to charities are diffused. They have to have a secretary. They pay for office and web space. But still the perception is that “at least my money is going towards an effort I 100% agree with.” So a donation to a cause is less diffused than giving to my local church.
And then there’s the big winner this year in designated giving: Barack Obama. His online donations were embarrassingly huge, mostly from small donors (probably the ones who think an hour at church merits less of a gift than a movie ticket of equivalent time). But when we give to Barack Obama in small donations, we aren’t giving again 100% to the man. We are paying for the entire campaign infrastructure.
But that doesn’t matter to us. We are giving to a candidate, a person we believe in. If it pays for the gas for 100 miles in an RV, fine. So long as it is ethically done, where the money goes doesn’t matter, because we are a part of the movement.
So, why the discrepancy? People get so concerned about paying for the infrastructure of churches, but not social actions or candidates’ infrastructure.
- I think that giving to a Candidate or Cause is an expression of personal opinion, not so much a donation to the infrastructure. That’s why people don’t care that their $50 may have paid for lunch in Iowa somewhere. They expressed their opinion. They gave their support. Done.
So how are we to hack this perception in the public eye that money to a church gets diffused while money to other groups doesn’t. I know that tithing is a spiritual discipline and is more about discipleship than it is an act of giving. But for those who are not in that framework yet, how can we hack this perception? How can we reframe this mentality in the church?
- Do we celebrate “where we are going” and emphasize more vision-language in broadcast so that people get hooked into “the vision”?
- Do we raise money from the church for specific programs, designated giving, and rely on the shrinking dedicated group of tithers to sustain the infrastructure?
- Do we breakdown exactly where church moneys go so that people see that for every dollar given, .20 cents goes to mission, .30 cents goes to the church staff, etc? (If it is too unbalanced, then that’s cause for a church to change!)
I see a dark, dark path if we start to polarize our programs into extremes, either anti-abortion rallies or pro-marriage-equality programs to draw money from the extreme activist ends (who are most likely to give because they are convicted). That’s not the Church Universal.
So, how does your local church deal with designated giving and the need for general giving to support the infrastructure of the ministry? Discuss.