House church finances

Stacked coins

Our friend, Steve Lyzenga of did his doctoral dissertation on releasing resources (both financial and personnel) towards completing the Great Commission. He compared how resources are used within a traditional church set up and house/simple/organic churches. I had the honor of being on his doctoral board, and so was closely involved in the whole process. His results (not large enough to be statistically significant, but giving some idea of what is going on)  fascinated me.

Here's a couple of the interesting results:

Of those surveyed, 51.6%  of those involved in organic/simple church gave 11%-25% of their income to charity, and 7.5% gave greater than 25%.  In other words, almost 60% of people are giving more than a tithe. 

The money spent on the internal administration of simple/organic churches is very low:  59.1%  of the participant's house/simple church spent less than 1% of their total annual proceeds on internal needs, and 15.1%  spent 2%-5%. In other words, more than 70% say their simple church spends less than 5% on administration costs.

(The typical American Christian gives less than 3% of their income to charity and the typical institutional church spends 85% of all church activity and funds directly toward the internal operations of the congregation, such as staff salaries, building payments, utility and operating expenses.)

People in simple/organic churches are giving more, but their churches are spending less on internal needs, so more money is made available for Kingdom purposes.

The question is, are we giving strategically? I would be interested to know what you think.

14 replies on “House church finances”

I am not sure what the situation is in the States, but in New Zealand we can get a tax rebate for the amount we give to the church or charity, as long as the church or other organisation is recognised by the Government as a charitable organisation. The criteria for being such an organisation has been tightened. I would love to hear from any one about how House churches work with these issues, particularly if your in New Zealand.

I think it is interesting to consider time as in money. About a decade ago I was part of a denominational church that had a significant mission – our building was a renovated factory, which was used throughout the week by AA, other 12 step and other support groups, we offered cheap lunches and we had some small social welfare ministries. But I did a rough estimate of time spent by the congregation, and it came out as 75% maintenance and 25% mission. I think an outward looking simple church could improve on that, though many probably don’t.
As to your question: are we giving strategically? How would one judge that? By the number of gospel witnessing opportunities created, the number of third world people’s lives that are saved??? I think our objectives are so varied it would be very hard to come u with a performance measure.

Our house church has seen a measure of this as well. I’m constantly surprised at how much a committed group of believers can do when they deeply believe in the mission God has called them to. Not having a building or paid staff members has significantly helped us do things I haven’t seen larger churches do. Some day I believe whole networks of house churches will be able to leverage their finances in a way much more significant than anything we have ever seen. Exciting days are ahead!

I agree about being strategic, but the question is: what is strategic? We may have different opinions of that. We’d have to look at the local and the global. Would love for you to post about that. The local to me would mean how it relates to discipling, sharing Christ with those in need on a relational level. Then giving and supporting those who are doing frontier mission work with unreached people groups.

It would be interesting to see what results George Barna would come up with if he polled the same way that he did when the results indicated a growing trend in simple churches…only incorporate a component that would reflect pertinent giving info.

Dear Felicity and friends, the comments above so far have been about personal opinions of what is strategic giving for simple/house churches. Discussing personal preferences is interesting, since we each have a personal opinion, but this is an endless circle of discussion. The only authoritative voice is the New Testament teaching about finances. To what did the early church give? There were three groups that funds were given to. First, the needy in the church (Acts 2:44-45), such as helping believers in crisis (Acts 11:28-30), feeding hungry believers (Acts 8:1-3), caring for widows who are believers (1 Tim 5:8-9), and so on. Second, the needy in general, who are not necessarily believers (Luke 10:30-37; James 1:27). Third, material support for traveling apostolic leaders, such as Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc (Matt 27:55-56; Luke 10:7; John 13:29; 1 Cor 9:1-14; Philip 4:15-16; 3 John 1:3-8). I believe we need to deliberately recapture this kind of New Testament practice for today’s simple/house churches, otherwise people will vacillate between the extremes of giving based on their own personal preferences or not giving at all as a reaction to their institutional church past.

Thanks Felicity for spurring us on to this discussion. I agree with Rad Zdero in that we must base our giving on the biblical examples. I am involved in obtaining funding for mission work which primarily includes #3 and recognize the awkward task of letting folks know about the needs without being self-promoting and falling into the old trap of getting people to give by guilt manipulation or fund raising tactics that resemble a sales plan. There are 2 sides to this issue, the giving side and the receiving side. Once we get the giving side working in the HCs, I believe it will solve the dilemma on the receiving side. We certainly need more direction from the Lord on this. There is a plethora of information from a human wisdom point of view. We need the Lord’s point of view. Just saying 🙂

Just to add to the average of less than 3 percent given by traditional churches — According to stats quoted in “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Stearns, the average given by churches to world missions is only about 2 percent. So that’s 2 percent of 2 percent. I don’t offhand remember the precise numbers, but would take only a slight uptick in those numbers to raise enough money to eradicate preventable diseases like malaria and provide clean water for everyone.
Almost 80 percent of my traditional church’s budget, btw, goes to buildings and salaries.
Also, my employer has a foundation that will match dollar for dollar what I give to certain preapproved charities. World Vision is on that list so once a month I tithe a paycheck to WV and that is matched by my employer. In the next two months I’m taking that money and we’re investing it in burger and brat frys to sell and make more money to give to relief efforts in Missouri and the South. My tithe will likely be increased 10 fold.
Also, a former employer also had a charity match so I gave money each month to a local Christian crisis pregnancy center. Something to check into.

In an institutional church, you MUST dump 10% of your income into the church coffers, to be used for whatever purposes church administrators decide. In the house church, you may give to your choice of charities, to the homeless, etc. You are able to give in a biblical way. The house church movement, the coffee shop church meetings, and other small groups are defining the way Christians worship together, and perhaps part of it is due to the frustration with traditional churches expenditures of money.

The greatest concern i have about the rapid growing house church movement is the economical system involved. Most house churches have thrown tithing out the window because the leader is working on a full time basis. We should not forget the principles of Melchizedek tithing and firstfruits that must go UP. Not to charities or any other purpose but to the grace carrier, the one who is delivering the manna, the Word of God. Every disciple needs a grace carrier. Every garden must have a manager, the one that is tending and keeping the garden.
2 Tim 2:6
6 The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops.
Strategic giving is giving into grace. Paul said that you are all partakers of the grace in me.
The leader must work (labour) until Christ is formed and then the he/she must be able to partake of the benefits.
Gal 6:6
6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. NKJ

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