Rethinking giving

Until a few months ago, the church that meets in our home did what I suspect the majority of simple/organic churches have done with their giving.

Nothing!

That’s not to say that people haven’t been giving. They have–generously. (A few years ago, a friend of ours did research on how giving within simple/organic/house churches compares with the traditional church. Well over half the people give more than 10 percent of their income. The typical American Christian gives 3 percent.) But most people don’t tend to give via the house church. They give to friends they know on the mission field, needs within the church as they have come up and various other charitable/spiritual projects they have wanted to support. All of it good.

The issue was forced on us recently when a couple told us they wanted to do some of their giving via the church.

What to do?

As a church, we sought the Lord and had the sense that he wanted us to be more strategic in our giving. It’s not that one or two people should make the decision about where the money should go. As his body, together, we were responsible for asking him what he would like us to do with any  money collected. Even with people continuing to give their regular support to projects they are committed to, with no buildings and no staff, there’s a lot of money available.

So we opened a bank account, and each week we have a pot available for people to put money in.

In the past three months, as a church, we’ve spent time seeking the Lord as to what we should do with the money collected. Each time, there’s been a general consensus as to where it should go. We’ve given to missions, we’ve helped some people within the church who had overwhelming financial need, we’re helping one of our young people go to camp over the summer and we’re giving a proportion (rather than a set amount) regularly to House2House.

The most strategic network of churches I know of regarding finances is in Killeen, Texas. Last time I heard, they’d given more than $1.2 million since their inception.

What if the rest of us were to be strategic with our giving too? What if, as a movement, we were strategic with our giving? What more could God accomplish?

 

 Photo Credit: borman818 via Compfight cc

8 reasons why simple/organic/house church people may not give via their church

 

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The last post looked at the fact that most people within simple/organic/house churches, although they give more generously than their traditional church counterparts, often do not give (or only give a part) via their simple church. Here are some potential reasons for this:

  1. Many simple churches do not discuss giving. Period. Christians have been so burned by the pressure to give from their previous experience that no one wants to bring up a potentially controversial subject.
  2. Some simple churches haven't set up a giving mechanism. They have neither a bank accounty nor do they take up offerings. They ponder over whether to become a 501C3 charitable entity. Some are very wary of giving information to the government. Others don't want to go through the hassle of all the paperwork.
  3. Many Christians have sought the Lord over their giving, and are giving where he indicates (which is not via their simple church network.)
  4. There is a lot of giving going on within the simple churches that doesn't go via the church as a whole. A person becomes aware of another person's need and provides for it without going through "official channels."
  5. Many people have friends who are involved in full-time Kingdom work and revel in the freedom to support them directly.  
  6. To tithe or not to tithe: that is the question.
  7. Many individual churches or networks of churches have not sought God corporately regarding what he wants them to do with their finances. 
  8. Lack of vision for what a strategy for giving might accomplish.

What other reasons can you think of?

Could simple/organic/house churches be more strategic with their finance?

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There was good news about giving within simple/organic/ house churches in my last post. This came from Steve Lyzenga's doctoral thesis, which is now available on the House2Harvest website. (The House2Harvest website serves to network and assist simple churches and house churches to do strategic missions in order to finish the task of reaching all peoples with the gospel.)

Steve's research showed that those of us within simple/organic churcnes tend to give a higher proportion of our income and to spend very little on internal, administrative needs. This means there is considerably more money available for Kingdom purposes–for benevolence and missions.

Now for the potentially challenging news from the same research: Around 70% of people gave 25% or less of their giving via their simple church. Most people are giving to their own friends on the mission field or some other charity rather than via their simple church. Why is this? Does it matter?

Could we be more strategic in our giving if we corporately sought the Lord as to where he wants our giving to go?

I would be interested to hear about other people's experience.

House church finances

Stacked coins

Our friend, Steve Lyzenga of http://www.House2Harvest.com 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.