When Church Members Withhold Financial Gifts

The story is too common, but I hear such stories repeatedly. My most recent conversation was with a church leader where an affluent church member offered to make a large contribution to the renovation of the worship center. He had one stipulation: the worship center had to be named in memory of his late mother. The leader politely declined. The affluent member did not make the donation. To the contrary, he began withholding all of his gifts to the church.

Almost every pastor and church leader has some story about members withholding their financial gifts as an act of protest about the direction of the church and its leadership. I have never known such a situation that had any positive affect. Such is the reason I offer nine concerns about this practice.

  1. It assumes that we are the actual owners of our finances. That is unbiblical thinking. God gives to us everything we have. We are the stewards of these gifts. Such is the reason we use the word “stewardship.”
  2. No church is perfect. If every member protested about an imperfection in a local congregation, no church would ever receive funds. This selfish act is not the way to resolve concerns.
  3. This practice is divisive. One of the most precious resources of any congregation is unity. The withholding of financial gifts is an act of disunity and divisiveness.
  4. It is controlling. The church member who withholds financial gifts seeks to get his or her way. Such is not the spirit of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”
  5. It is self-serving. When Paul penned 1 Corinthians 12, he emphasized how we are to function in the body of Christ. Our motive for serving is for Christ and others before ourselves.
  6. It is demoralizing. Paul wrote in Romans 14:19, “So we must pursue what promotes peace and builds up one another.” This practice has the opposite effect.
  7. It backs church leaders into a corner. Leaders have one of two options. They can yield to the church member and thus affirm a sinful practice. Or they can refuse to yield and continue the conflict that was started by the member. It is a lose-lose situation.
  8. If the church member truly has serious disagreements with the direction of the church, he or she should pursue other paths. They can address their concerns with leaders in the church directly. If members still have serious concerns and no resolution seems possible, it may be best to go to another church. It is much healthier to give to another church than to withhold from your present church.
  9. This practice never has a positive outcome. Even if the member gets his or her way, unity and trust are broken at many levels. The body of Christ is always wounded by this practice.

This topic is both sensitive and challenging.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Lynn — 03/03/16 8:48 am

Your experience has given me hope. Thank you

Rick — 02/11/16 1:39 pm

Misguided member to be sure. Best course of action for pastors is to preach God's pure word, plant the seed, and God will bring the increase.

Fr. James Wozniak — 02/11/16 7:49 am

This article reminds me of an experience I had. In my third year at the parish I pastor I needed to make some staff changes. During that process I was constantly praying for insight and enlightenment. Some old time parishioners did like that I was making these changes. They did not like the growth that was happening and did not want any change. This group parisioners decided to protest by only putting a dollar a week in the collection. The most incredible thing happened, during the weeks they were protesting the parish collection went up by over 5%. Now as any pastor can tell you all collections fluctuate, but while people are deliberately trying to hurt the parish or more to the point hurt me, this was a blessing. This reminded me that if I pray and I try to do what I believe God is telling me to do, God will take care or me and my people. Pastors that are trying to do God's will, put God's will first and don't be bullied by people trying to lead you away from God's will.

Bruce — 04/27/15 1:55 pm

Whoa ! This is a two way street ! Unity is give, take & compromise unless if comes down to doctrine, there is NO wiggle room in doctrine. Needs and Wants can be very opinionated and the cause of much contention between the Lay and Clergy. Jesus and Paul did not have Gilded Pulpits and the masses did not have cushy padded "Lazy-Boys" Needs and wants have to be looked at very closely, so personal sacrifice has to be observed on both sides. Wants = Greed, Needs = Humility and content.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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Ransom Notes: When Givers Hold Your Church Hostage

Do you know any church members who have made demands based upon their financial giving to the church?

Okay, that’s probably a rhetorical question because most of you readers certainly have experienced that discomfort. I asked a number of church leaders to share with me how this “hostage taking” usually takes place. Here are the five most common responses:

  1. “If you don’t do what I want, I will stop giving.” In reality, this quote was not often verbalized. Members just stopped giving when things did not go their way. After I left a church, I found out that the chairman of the finance committee did not give a penny the entire time I was pastor. I don’t think he liked me.
  2. “You better be careful; I do pay your salary.” I’ve heard this one a few times. And the leaders with whom I spoke heard it many times.
  3. “I am going to give all my money to ____________.” The blank is a designated fund in the church. The member does not want his or her funds to go the general budget needs, so the check is written with stipulations.
  4. “Build what I want or you’re not getting my money.” One pastor shared the story of his church who was in dire need of more parking spaces. He attempted to lead the church to acquire adjacent land, but the biggest giver in the church led a counter move. She wanted a new worship center that the church did not need. She was willing to give significant dollars to the building fund, but only if it included her pet (and expensive) project.
  5. “I am starting a designated fund for my project.” This hostage attempt is similar to number three but, in this case, the member starts a new designated fund. One example shared with me was “The Caribbean Mission Fund.” Basically, this fund paid for a trip to an exotic island where the group sang one time in a local church on the island. The other ten days were spent on fun and touristy events. The members of the group gave their money to the designated fund. It became a tax-deductible vacation, not to mention it was both unethical and illegal.

Hear me clearly. Most church members give to their local churches freely, joyously, and without stipulations. But almost every church has one or more members who attempt to use “their” funds for their own needs and preferences.

The biblical reality is that we do not possess these funds; we are stewards of what God has given us. They are never “our” funds.

> Read more from Thom here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.