Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stewardship, Charity, and the church. Who gives to what?

I highly recommend this blog article entitled The Decline and Fall of Charity, posted at Culture 11. It gives some statistics about what amounts of money churches take in and what is spent on site and what goes to other charities. It is an eye opener. I'm bringing it to the attention of the Stewardship committee tomorrow.

Two reflections:
I attended a wedding at a church in a suburb that is known to be on the high end of the income distribution list, so to speak. Certainly the bride and groom are not in that group, but apparently, the groom attends church there. This was about the largest, fanciest church building I've been it. It was beautiful even though it was very modern. There was much that was unnecessary to the furthering of the telling of the story of Christ, if I may be so judgmental, such as many indoor trees. There was a large baptismal pool, even though the denomination is solidly in the infant baptism camp. They are going to remodel the pool. I asked about the church and somebody told me that the church was known for working on justice issues. It was not the time to get into the details of that, but I did wonder how much justice there is in spending on a beautiful interior when only 8 miles away, there are people destitute in freezing cold apartments.

Our church has been working on a building remodeling plan for several years and we are finally in the last steps of the actual engineering plan before there will be a vote. Given the hard economic times, closing of several (some of the only) large employers in the area, I do wonder if the vote will be "yes." And will we be able to get a loan to complete our fund raising? Within my household, there has been discussion about the virtues of this project: Are we feathering our own nest at the expense of other issues/causes that our church might support? Should we commit our fiances to this cause or give more to other causes we already support?

My opinion prevailed; we are supporting this remodeling. The major reasons are 1) our church building is heavily used (maybe 500/week) by the community at large, so this is part of our mission, and 2) much of the building is quite worn out and needs much work, such as insulation, new windows, roof (which currently leaks), the furnace is about dead, plumbing is bad, and many areas are poorly lit. I think much of this needs to be done even if the vote is NO.

However, in the grand scheme of things, we do have a large building with many rooms, and we do a good job of ministry in that old building. It is better than much of the world has.

How does your church give beyond its walls and how does it feather its own nest?


  1. When I was Pastor all the remolding we did was to improve axis to the building. The last project gave us an elevator. We had lots of old people and the stairs to the fellowship hall were very difficult for them.

  2. A beautiful church is not always indicative of a selfish congregation that doesn't care about mission and helping the poor. It might just be indicative of the regard with which a congregation holds God.

    Jesus did not tell the woman who washed his feet with her hair and expensive perfume to stop, sell the perfume, and give the money to missions.

  3. Yes, I was being judgmental about the church of the wedding. And certainly the traditional cathedrals reflect a reverence for God. This church had a fairly large worship space that was sparsely decorated. I think I was reacting mainly to the enormity of the whole place, especially the non-worship spaces, such as the hallway. I didn't see any of the offices or classrooms; there appeared to be very many of those. The hallway seemed to have enough square feet to encompass my church at least four or five times over. I attend a church that is crowded only when more than about 220 attend. Why would I think that this is excessive? Well, this is space that has to be heated, cleaned, tiled with stone or whatever was there. My impression was that there was nothing about this space that had much to do with honoring God. But, I didn't see this church in action on a Sunday morning or a week day, so who knows.

    I do know that my church is in need of work because it does serve the community and God daily, with at least dozen groups and meetings each week, bringing in people from our membership and from the community. We are doing this on a small budget and the building is getting worn out.

  4. I also attend a small church - barely room for the 100 of us when we are all there and not enough room in the church hall for us all to sit for a cup of coffee after church. Our building is old and tiny and in need of much work.

    But if you don't know what goes on there Sunday mornings or from Monday-Friday, how is this fair? Perhaps they have a daycare or a preschool, perhaps like a former parish of mine they have a tutoring program or maybe an after school program. Maybe they don't have any of these things but they built the church with growth in mind - that's actually wise.

    But most curious is why you assume they are not honoring God with their space, or why having the space is somehow dishonoring to God.

  5. That church does have a lot of programs as well as hosting meetings. Many of these, I'm sure, further God's kingdom. The real issue is how much money is spent on the space compared to spending it on people. And what is the witness of spending on spending money on space compared to spending it on doing justice in the can anyone answer this? Doing justice..., not just being for justice.

  6. "The real issue is how much money is spent on the space compared to spending it on people. And what is the witness of spending on spending money on space compared to spending it on doing justice in the can anyone answer this? Doing justice..., not just being for justice."

    And unless you - a visitor to the building - know these figures, and to what extent they are "doing justice," with their money, I am just asking whether it is fair to judge them. That's all I'm saying.

    Check out LSS' newish digs on Luther Seminary's campus and ask if they really need all that space - and whether they need to heat and light and air condition it - and whether the execs who office there need such lovely offices (I've been there!). Did they need to furnish it as nicely as they have? Could and should the same questions not be asked of them?

    It is not a point I wish to be-labor. In fact I've already be-labored it too much. Forgive me if I've offended you - that wasn't my intention. I just don't really get the issue, I guess.

  7. The issue is "feathering one's own nest" when there are people without nests at all.

  8. And if we have more than one set of clothes (when there are cold and naked people outside our own doors), if we are warm (when there are homeless people outside our own doors), if we have food in our pantry (when there are hungry people outside our own doors), if we have a savings account (when there are penniless people outside our own doors) - if we have any of these things - and I do - how does this post not convict all of us - and you, too?

  9. Exactly right! Isn't that what Jesus taught?

  10. It is - so I am brought around to my initial inquiry: why point the finger at someone else?

  11. Because when we point our one finger at someone else, we are pointing three fingers at ourselves.


And what do you think?