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.

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Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior 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. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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Recent Comments
I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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