Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book 5 of 2012 -- Not Your Parents' Offering Plate

I picked this one up at a book display last year, read a bit in the summer but then got distracted.  Today I picked it up and read it (which shows that it is a fairly easy read). 

The subtitle is "A New Vision for Financial Stewardship".  My thought is that a better subtitle would be "HOw to Fund Raise in the Church". And that speaks to one of my main objections.  This is a how-to of fundraising, cometimes (but not always) couched in stewardship language.  There was no discussion of a theology of stewardship other than saying that a pastor has to have one.

There are many helpful things in those hints.  THere is much in this book that I can utilize (though much of it was a restatement of things I had read elsewhere).  THe book is well worth working with.  BUt it is also flawed.

In addition to the flaw mentioned above, I found myself vehemently disagreeing with Christopher's understanding of how the church actually operates.  The church he describes has not been the church of my experience.  Certainly we can learn from what other non-profit organizations.  But the church is NOT just another non-profit organization, no matter how many times he wants to intimate that we should act the same way.  And part of that is the role of the clergy.  I am not "in charge" or the CEO or the person best able to make the congregation's vision come to reality.  I have a dream for what this congregation could do.  I play a major role in helping them work out how they will live their vision.  But I have little actual authority or power (beyond being persuasive).  In fact in some  congregations the clergyperson has the least authority in these things.  Some of that may be due to the fact that there are radically different models and understandings of church polity between different denominations.

OTOH, I agree that the clergy should be acquainted with the giving patterns in the church -- but not nearly to the degree he suggests.  ANd his words about the clergy needing to be involved in preaching stewardship, in taking a lead role in addressing monetary questions in the church need to be required reading (or at least words like them) for all in ministry.

I also take issue with the claim, made repeatedly, that a person who does not give monetarily to teh church is spiritually sick, that the soul is jeopardy.  My objection to this goes along with the assumption that we can assess the giving capacity of an individual/family merely by looking at where they work or live.  We do not know, unless it is shared with us, what the real financial situation of anyone is.  We also do not know, unless it is shared with us, where else a person may be directing their giving.  At the beginning of the book Christopher does a wonderful job of explaining that churches need to do a much better job of re-learning how to convince people to give or else they will be convinced to give elsewhere.  The church does not "deserve" people's money.  SO to turn around and say that they are spritually sick when they give nothing (which they may literally not be able to afford, or they may give elsewhere out of a sense of mission, or they may give anonymously [yes that happens, in amounts big and small], or they may not feel they can give "enough" to make it worth while) seems contradictory.  THis is where a better explication of a stewardship theology would come in helpful--particularly a theology of stewardship that is far more inclusive than money raising.

But on the whole I would recommend this book.  THere is a lot to use here.

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