By the grace of our God, the generosity of our congregation has marvellously supplied the needs of Barneys and the partners that we support. As a result, total giving is ahead of target, which is a huge answer to prayer.
That said, we are going to make some changes to the collection of giving on Sundays. Here are some key points:
- Around 97% of our giving comes in electronically. The remainder is in cash, with a few larger gifts on Sundays, but mostly bits and pieces.
- Few of us reliably keep the kind of cash on us that would make for generous and godly giving. A member of our church pointed this out to me this week – he said that if he only gave what he had in his wallet, he wouldn’t give remotely near a generous amount!
- The Barneys community believe in generosity, but we also believe we give 4x what we actually do. A survey earlier this year indicated that our community reports giving $4.5 million to the church each year, compared to less than $1 million actually received.
- Research indicates that ‘giving inflation’ is associated with cash and ad hoc electronic giving. In other words, in the Western world, people who put cash in the basket on a Sunday, or make occasional electronic transfers, tend to be surprised if they discover how little they really give. Obviously, there are exceptions.
- Jesus teaches more about money than anything else. Jesus, I take it, doesn’t have church budget, and doesn’t pay staff. But he taught more about giving than any other topic. The problem is that there is often a bit of murkiness at church: is the pastor preaching about money like Jesus, or is he preaching about money like someone who needs to keep the lights on?
With all this in mind, we’re going to try something a little different.
Firstly, in a few weeks, we will stop collecting money in our services for the purpose of supporting the church ministry and partnerships.
Secondly, we will stop talking about ‘how our giving is going’ in general church services. We will continue to publish the details in these emails, so you know where we are at and can pray about it.
Thirdly, we will plan to teach on giving twice per year in two blocks of two weeks, during which time we will talk about giving to Barneys. At two other times in the year we will talk in services about church membership in general, which will include (but in no way focus upon) giving. As giving comes up in other bible passages as we work through biblical books, we won’t avoid it, but we won’t discuss our church budget. My aim is to ensure we can focus on giving as a foundational Christian virtue, without getting caught up in issues of church budget.
Fourthly, we will encourage the congregation in our giving teaching blocks, and generally, to move to automatic, scheduled, electronic giving, where possible. For those who absolutely must use cheques or cash, there will be a new, secure Everything Box mounted on a pedestal at the rear of church.
Fifthly – and this really excites me – from time to time we will conduct a collection in church for a particular need or charity beyond our church. In the Anglican tradition, the collection in the service has mainly been of ‘alms and oblations’ for the ‘sick, poor and impotent [powerless]’, who are to be ‘sought out and… relieved’ (from the 1662 prayer book). We will advise by announcement or email the week beforehand or more so that members can set aside funds for this purpose, if they so wish.
I’m hoping that there will be a number of important things that come of this. It seems to me that, just as we don’t ask growth group leaders if they will minister to their groups in the coming week, so we ought not to ask Christians each week if they will give to support their church. To me this seems to diminish the dignity of the Christian person and their capacity to exercise faithful generosity. I hope that it will allow us to give spontaneously to some really wonderful projects without blurring that giving with our church budget. I think that it will help non-yet-Christians to feel welcome and clear about their role in church.
And I hope that it will help many Christians move to a prayerful, thoughtful and generous habit of giving that reflects what they already believe to be true of themselves.