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Old 11-01-2002, 09:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've never really visited Spirituality before but wanted your input here so I can work out what I feel (or should feel) about our church asking for money.

We are not weekly churchgoers, but did have a wonderful parish church in England, which we attend still when we go home. But we wanted to find somewhere here where we felt comfortable taking the girls maybe once every four to six weeks. We want them to be brought up within the 'cultural' family of the church, then make up their own minds as they grow and develop.

So, we tried out various churches and found one that we like, deciding now to start attending this one regularly. We've been to services there three times over the past year.

Anyway, we must have got onto their mailing list, and they asked our names when we were there last Sunday. Then on Wednesday we received a letter about donations to the parish. It is very strongly worded, with the underlying message that it is one's duty to give, and that biblically we are obliged to donate 10% of our weekly income, with the implied message that this entire amount should go to them. It says that if we dont think we can do 10% this year, to calculate (on a piece of paper they sent with a sliding scale) a lower percentage then increase it by 1% every year until we reach the biblical 10%.

I was really put off by this, for several reasons. Firstly, it didnt feel like much of a welcome (although perhaps this letter just went out this week to everyone on their database and it was just a coincidence that we attended this week and got the letter a few days later)

I also feel that it is like some sort of emotional blackmail, that if you don't give you are not being Christian. I also resent the idea that my gifts should be to them (Personally, if I could afford to give 10% of our income away, it would not be entirely to the church, but to other causes that I consider worthwhile)

I know that if we decided to, we could manage to give that amount, as let's face it, we are all 'rich' in the west and could afford to live on less. But having said that, we struggle to survive with me staying at home with the children. To give up 10% of our income would mean for us, moving to another rental property and some really major life changes. We're not exactly rolling in spare cash right now!

Anyway, maybe I'm being selfish or over reacting. Our church in the UK never sent out things like this, and I never felt any sort of obligation to give - we gave our time and dh did things like built them a computer for use for the parish magazine - ie things we could afford to do that cost time not his hard-earned cash!

Am I over-reacting? I don't feel like going back there, and I feel sad about it, as until now, it was our favourite church and we'd felt good about attending.
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Old 11-01-2002, 11:33 PM
 
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Wow. That letter seemed too direct to me. I wouldn't consider you an official member of the church, so I wouldn't think that you would have an obligation to give, especially a mandatory 10%. I personally believe that, if financially able, it would be a good idea for a regular churchgoer to give money to the church to help with expenses or to contribute time baking cookies or helping in the nursery. But gosh, I certainly don't put you into that category. You're both new to the church and attending irregularly. As a matter of fact, I don't think that anyone should be compelled to give. I don't think that you're overreacting. If you enjoy the church, go ahead and attend anyway. The worse thing that can happen is that you'll get another letter--in which case you may decide it's not the church for you.
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Old 11-02-2002, 03:25 AM
 
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Hmm.... My church just sent out a letter and commitment cards on the same topic, but it was worded much more discreetly and it was sent only to full members. It's that time of year, you know, preparing for next year's budget. They never talk about how much they think you should give, they just encourage you to give something. The stuff your church put in the letter about tithing 10% and if you can't, having a plan to work to that amount - that is stuff I learned in a Christian financial seminar DH and I took when we were engaged. It certainly is never something our church would put in a solicitous letter like that.

Although, having previously served in a mission church (on the finance committee, among other things, btw) until the church failed when it ran out of money, I've seen the other side and how important it is for a church to have tithing members. There were times when I knew our family's tithe was the only thing that kept the pastor's family fed and with a modest roof over their heads. It was scary to be in that kind of position. There were also times when the pastor would encourage us to give sacrificially above and beyond our tithe, but he only did this with the "core" group - the group of 3 to 4 families that saw the church as our own lay ministry - and not with just plain members or regular attenders. And he would only do this because he knew what our personal commitment level was (very high). And that was just the money side of our commitment. And I should add that our commitment was entirely voluntary on our part - no one pressured us into it, we just wholeheartedly wanted to do it.

Anyway, as this letter so bothered you (and it sure would have set me off, too!), could you call the priest or minister and talk to him about it? Get a feel for how this church views money, particularly in relation to other things like acts of service/giving of time, etc.; what the church views as its members obligations, as opposed to where there may be needs that they'd really like volunteers for. Also, I'm not familiar with denominations that do parrishes - is membership automatic just because of where you live or something?
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Old 11-02-2002, 03:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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SonjaG - this isn't a parish church (that was our UK church, this is just a church local to us here in the US)

You're right, maybe I should call the minister and talk to her. But then again, I don't know if I can be bothered, as part of me just wants to start the search again for a church where we feel comfortable. It seems from the responses here that I'm not wildly off base for feeling uncomfortable with this direct approach.

It's reassuring though to hear that this is the time of year for setting budgets, so maybe the letter went to everyone this week, and it was just coincidence that we got the letter a few days after attending. Not that this changes the way I feel about the letter, but at least it would mean that they didnt just target us the moment we walked through the doors!

Dh is put off too, and not at all keen on going back. Sigh. And we were planning to go to their holiday bazaar tomorrow to spend some money and start to get more involved. We don't honestly feel like doing it now.

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Old 11-03-2002, 01:21 AM
 
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Britishmum, go to the bazaar. Have a good time.

The letter is pretty ... intense ... but you don't know who wrote it, and you don't know that it's got the whole community's backing, and you don't know if maybe the church is undergoing some particular financial problems ...

You might want to talk to the clergy, or maybe one or two people, to get a feel for things. Maybe they just need help with public relations ... or letter writing ...



- Amy
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Old 11-04-2002, 12:15 AM
 
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This is a sore subject with me. I did attend Catholic church from childhood until a few years back. I occasionally go now but Ido not consider it my religion (whole different thread!!). When we lived in the Bronx and had our DD baptized a donation was requested (We were flat broke, it was not possible) but that was it. I have been told by everyone I know where I am cyurrently living that the yis a minimum donation to get your child baptized. basically (this is in Catholic churches) you must PAY for everything. (Annulments being the priciest...GRRRRR!!!!) I feel it is the legacy of guilt. My Father plays into the tithing game, he also beleives walking into the church building once a week and giving 10% of his income to the religion will get hima ticket to Heaven. This way of thinking/bribing saddens me. I see these local parishes build BUILDINGS that serve little purpose with these funds while poorer communities who have little money and crumbling buildings are not pushy.

Anyway, I'd write back explaining why this letter made you feel UNWELCOME at the church. Use bible refs if possible!! It will at least make you feel better!
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Old 11-04-2002, 11:32 AM
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I have seen a lot of pressure within certain churches regarding tithing.

This letter was bold but at least it didn't attempt to provoke you into tithing out of fear. I have actually sat under teaching that included "If you don't tithe to the church you will tithe to the doctor, mechanic, carpenter, etc." !!!!!

This stuff is rampent within the U.S. church.

I have even read fundraising letters that encourage people who *do* tithe faithfully to start giving even *more* (oftentimes until it hurts!!!) The people who aren't (who are even tithing but not "stepping out in faith" are not having faith(!!!!)

I take issue with this because I'm not convinced that we're expected to tithe at all. In the Biblical times the tithe was the *tax* and the people were required to give more like 25% alltogether. The Bible tells us to give generously with a cheerful heart.

I don't think our G-d uses fear as a fundraising tactic.

This issue really gets to me.

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Old 11-04-2002, 12:25 PM
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Hey Debra--

BTDT. When I was preggo with our fourth, and our car broke down, the pastor at our church said that it was from not tithing. Hello, it was from driving an old car.

We tried to tithe for a time--even when it meant having only about $40 bucks for a week for food, clothing, and incidentals. At the time, the pastor was living in a huge $300,000.00 house, and our house was only about 800 sq. feet for all of us. I remember singing songs in church about freedom and liberty in Jesus, then slavishly putting the food money in the offering plate. I didn't feel freedom, I felt bondage. And the church kept asking for more money, ect. the ship was sinking (didn't help that the church board decided to be "under the cover" of its national denomination, and started tithing to its offices).

That church soon broke up over deep spiritual issues. Our ten percent of nothin' was not going to keep that ship afloat.


The verse in Malachi, about stealing from God? Check out a few verses above, it says "and this Priests, is for you." The priests were supposed to tithe from the tithes they recieved, so that there would be food for the poor. They werent supposed to keep the whole ten percent to support their lifestyles. God was angry that they weren't doing so....funny how pastors who use this verse to guilt trip the people never seem to realize it was written to the leadership.

What did Jesus say about the Pharisees binding people with heavy burdens that they themselves could not bare? Our ten percent, at that time, was a heavy burden, keeping us from having the bare essentials, not just extras, whereas for some of the folks who tithed it didn't make that much difference. Hence a heavier burden tied on our backs. Maybe we needed more faith, but we also needed more money....

If what you are giving to your church works out to ten percent, and its not hurting your family, God bless you. But don't place yourself above those who can't. I was judged and chastized when we stopped tithing, by someone I've known for years. That same person later lost their home for not paying the mortgage, filed bankruptcy, has constantly had phone service cut off, always been late with rent...makes it easy to tithe, I suppose, if you neglect your bills, but what kind of witness is it?

Again, I'm not against giving to the church. Just keep it in balance. Jesus came to set the captives free, not to enslave us to a corporate church structure (especially since we already pay about 20-30 percent totall in taxes, if you add tithes, this is even more than the old testament required).

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Old 11-04-2002, 12:39 PM
 
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This is the one thing I really don't like about my church. They put way too much emphasis on money. I realize that it costs a lot of money to pay salaries and to maintain buildings and operate great programs. But they essentially devote a month's worth of services to money-grubbing. We sleep in on Sundays a lot in the month of October.

In our church it's the board of trustees who spearheads this agressive fundraising, not our minister, so they're the people I respond to.

They want you to commit to paying a certain amount for the upcoming year buy pressuring you to fill in a pledge card. They send out quarterly statements, and if you aren't paying what you said you would, they tell you how much you "owe" and try to lay on the guilt.

At least that's what they did to us the first year--now they don't get the chance. I just write on the pledge card that I'm offended by these tactics, I won't be bullied and when pressured, I dig my heels in. I tell them that while I am happy to contribute to the support of the church, I will consider any attempt on their part to contact me to try to exact a pledge amount to be harassment. This has worked just fine for the past two years.
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Old 11-04-2002, 12:44 PM
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DeAnna,

Yes, same thing.

When we were dirt poor we tithed out of obligation and fear.

We were dirt poor, folks and my poor dh worked extra hours in the evening and weekends while the pastors lived in luxury (I know where the head pastor moved to and, believe me, folks, it's a very exclusive neighborhood)

We didn't have enough money to provide our children with dental care and several children suffered from cavities and abcesses.

We barely had enough money for food and I didn't have a second car (you *need* a second car around here)

Now, we were kicked out of that church over parenting issues and we stopped tithing and since we stopped tithing our income increased almost threefold.

We're solidly middle-class now (perhaps upper middle, I'm not sure how to calculate such things) I've been blessed to stay home with my children and my children all go to the DENTIST often enough (every six months) so they don't get painful cavities!!!!!

Robbing G-d, HAH!! G-d has blessed us with our finances so we can do our duty by our children and TAKE CARE OF THEM PROPERLY.

I don't have the words to convey how much this means to me.

DB
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Old 11-04-2002, 01:10 PM
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Cool, Debra--

I forgot to mention that rather than being cursed when we stopped tithing, my husbands income increased substancially as well. We are not rich in terms of the standards in this society, but I can afford clothes for the boys, and an extra trip to the grocery store now and then. And we were able to build on to the house, so now it is a mostly comfortable 1200 square feet. I am all done with walking in fear, and very much wish to tell others to stop as well. Curses and blessings do not come from the same place.

God knew these boys would get expensive when he gave them to us, and He has graciously provided, and He is not up in heaven with a ledger in one hand and a stick in the other, waiting to thump me whenever my contributions fall short of an arbitrary amount. His ledgers are only accounting of His immeasurable love for us.

Since being set free from giving a fixed percent of our income to a church, I have been able to give in other ways--food for the broke family next door, funeral bouquets for a grieving family, flowers from my garden, help when needed, it just flows so naturally, because I am not always afraid and stressed, focusing on writing that fixed percentage check.

Britishmum, you are not selfish. You have enough common sense and self esteem to resist manipulation. In your post, you mention that you are struggling to stay home with your kids, and that that is a priority. Realistically, a ten percent reduction in income could jepordize this.

Don't accept the guilt. It was never meant to be on your back.

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Old 11-04-2002, 01:16 PM
 
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I forgot to share that I send my DD to Catholic school for now. My Mom is paying (long story) but TECHNICALLY I am suposed to go to mass every Sunday and put a minimum of $7 (in a marked envelope pf course!) in the collection basket for us to recieve a tuition discount. I am so broke that it is not possible anyway. Plus, we noticed when we do attend mass, we are niserable peopel the remnainder of the day... PErsonally, I don't beleive that is wha tGod intended!! I did take the kids last week and it was funny b/c DD interpretive danced to all the hymns. We only had a quarter on us so I gave that! Oh and it was a speed mass, not even a sermon/homily-this occurs when a Priests favorite sport or team has a big game.

I go to torture myself I tell ya, I don't consider myself Catholic anyway!!!!!!!!
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Old 11-05-2002, 04:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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dlb - you're right, nobody manipulates me!

However, I am very irritated over it, as is dh. The irony is that we can't afford to give them 10%, even if we wanted to. But they sure as heck aren't getting anything from us now. I think we'll start looking for another church, although it seems as if this is a common practice over here. Maybe we should interview the minister before we waste our time and ask what their tactics are! I still havent decided whether to respond to the letter or not. I threw it in the recycling last week and decided to forget about it, but it's still playing on my mind.

Anyway, if I were to give 10% of my income away, it would be for the most part to people who cant' afford to eat, not to a church that is certainly not falling apart and is well supported in an affluent area.

I detest bullying, and I saw this letter as being a bully tactic - with an implication that if we didnt give we were not being Christian. Heck, I don't see emotional blackmail as particularly Christian either. :

Who knows what will happen as a result of us ignoring this letter... maybe dh's company stock options will become worth something, or maybe he'll lose his job. I'm just not gullible to believe that whatever happens will be connected in anyway to what action we take over a begging letter.
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Old 11-05-2002, 07:55 PM
 
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Holy smokes. I have been to churches that have a solid "prosperity ministry' and have never been so blatently harrassed for money.

I want to start by saying that it is well and good for churches to ask for money. The pastors family needs to eat, electric company needs to get paid and they need to have an adequate staff so that the pasors wife doesn't have to pick up all the peices. I don't think it is wrong for a church to ask for said money or even have a "campeign" to meet the budget or take on special projects. They should however always act with tact and never pressure/guilt people into giving. People who consider a church thier home church should give generously and make it a financial priority (not over thier health or groceries but over luxuries and entertainment stuff etc. . .). Noone should give if they do so grudgingly or with a sour spirit, God is not short of cash and doesn't need your money (although this may describe your church ). Giving is a privledge and a blessing and only do so if you feel privledged and blessed to give. We don't give to our home church because we don't feel they are good stewards of the money (then why do we go there, long story) and choose to give to missions instead.

As for the 10% I don't believe this is even mentioned inthe new testement. In the old testement you were to set aside 10% of your income. One year it went to the priests so they could do thier thing and take care of the needy and the other two years it was to be accumulated and used so you ad your family could celebrate a religious holiday in Jeruselem (it was a long time ago I studied this but I believe it was Passover and so essentially the average Joe would have a truck load of money to travel to Jeruselem and participate ina big ole party). So while 10% is a good idea today because it is easy to figure out and a good healthy sum without being too much for most people it is certainly not required that we give that much to our church or anyone and anyone who tells you otherwise should be asked to point out where Jesus says that.

Oh, I also wanted to address the comment about if "you don't tithe to the church you will be tithing to the mechanic, the Dr. etc. . ." OK your giving is between you and God and he may consider your reasons for not giving a sin. Like I saiud that is between a person and God. Butno matter what your sins are he is not going to punish you by making your house burn down, your kid get sick, your tire get flat, your boss get cranky or your dog die. The wages of sin is death, nothing else can attone for them. If God was going to punish you for not giving He would take you out. Simple as that so don't let anyone convince you that God is punishing you for anything.

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Old 11-06-2002, 07:10 AM
 
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I want to add to this...that the church that DLB was describing is the exact same one I recently left for the exact same reasons....funny huh?

Anyway, I did go to a church in Oregon, I loved it there, and willingly and happily gave....and the pastor was asking for money. But I also knew that the pastor and his wife were struggling financially, the church has sooo many outreaches to the poor and homeless in the area, the lights were almost shut off several times. The church was putting out so much, and had such an awsome ministry that I had no problem supporting them. And I still send money to them on occasion.

BUT: if the pastor is bringing in a 6 figure income, driving brand new cars, shopping exclusivly at Nordstrom...I do have a problem giving...I can barely make ends meet...some months we hardly have food to eat. Why does he NEED MY MONEY...he should be giving his to me! And that church has no outside ministry, no outreaches in the community....NOTHING! So I know that my tithe was just padding his pockets...and I really resented that!

I personally would be looking for a new church if I were you, if they are sending this out to you and you just started going there...imagine what they send their members...do they automatically deduct from their bank accounts, or garnish their wages...(that was meant as a joke)
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Old 11-06-2002, 01:30 PM
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Hi Rachel--

actually, this one I am describing is yet another church, although I did indeed also attend the one you described. A long history of this kind of thing. Unfortunately.


I think it is really cool that you still support the church in Oregon, it shows that you have a generous heart, no matter what the percentages.


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Old 11-09-2002, 03:47 PM
 
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."..do they automatically deduct from their bank accounts, or garnish their wages...(that was meant as a joke)"

LOL, I wouldn't doubt if some of the really big prosperity churches offered thier members this "convience".

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Old 11-11-2002, 03:57 AM
 
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I am not sure if this has to do with your particular denomination, although I have been in several churches where 10% was a basic guideline, it wasn't the only benchmark.

My protestant NT (KJV) emphasizes giving of yourself and depending on God for the rest. I have never found God to leave me wanting when I have tithed in hard times. Currently I don't tithe much b/c hubby has had a huge decrease in income, and I don't think my faith is there as far as trusting God to provide. All of that said, I haven't found anywhere in the NT where the NT is used as the guideline. There is the idea of rendering to Ceasar that iwhich is Ceasar' s and rendering unto God that which is God's" I personally think this can also refer to ones time as well as money, not neccessarliy inreference to the government.

In Paul's epistles he talks about giving out of the abundance of one's love for God. I think if you are not comfortable with giving, or you are giving b/c you fell pressured or guilty to give that you should not give. I don't believe God wants us to feel pressure from within ourselves or from without. God wants us to give cheerfully. Tithing is a matter of the heart. Give b/c you genuinely want to. But also don't hoard what God has given you. In your particular situation you mentioned that this isn't even your home parish, so I wouldn't feel guilty about giving.

I feel so blessed by the church I am involved in. Our pastor NEVER speaks about tithing. HE believes that when people truly love God they will not have to be prompted to give, b/c the Holy Spirit will prompt giving when neccessary. Let me also mention that our church has gone from 100members foru years ago, to 900+ members, Just finished a new sanctuary, and working to open a daycare within the next year. So as you can guess the church needs money to continue its overall ministry. It stirs my heart to read the weekly bulliten as it lists the weekly budget requirements to fund all the ministry, and then list what actually came in. I can only remember a few times where what came in was less that what was needed, usually during summer when attendance is often lower than usual. But normally the giving is 30-50% over budget needs.

I also think a church should be a wise steward of its moneies. All members should at anytime be able to review the churches books, and know exactly where and how much is being spent. I think that is one thing I don't like about some of the larger denominations, I feel like that sense of stewardswhipis lost.

I would definitely let the parrish know why you are considering looking elsewhere. Perhaps as you said you just ended up on the mailing list for members or such. But it would also be helpful to know if they are coming across to strong, or maybe that is how it was meant to be. I guess this is an odd situation. JI souldn't let someone pressure me into giving. Sorry to be rambling, I am tired and my fingers are no longer keeping up with my thoughts, I think I need to go to be before I fall asleep on my keyboard!
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Old 11-11-2002, 04:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It's so interesting hearing your perspectives on this. We're still undecided about what to do. We haven't been back, and I don't feel that I want to unless we talk to the minister about how we're feeling.

But I have enough to deal with right now with other stuff going on, and don't want more hassles. So my instinct is just to renew the search for a church that we like. We may just go back to our 'second choice' and see how that goes. If we get a begging letter from them, maybe we'll have to do something about it!

It's right what many of you have said, that you should only give if it feels right. This certainly doesn't feel right to us, and even if we could afford it (which we can't right now) we'd not be contributing. And I don't want to go back having just ignored their letter. It's sad, because if the letter had been worded differently, we'd have done something, maybe not financially, but with time and dh's skills.
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Old 11-14-2002, 01:49 PM
 
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I just found out about 'stewardship fundraising'

It's a program that churches can subscribe to - that helps them generate letters and correspondance - to get YOU to give.

They send the letters to all 'members' and even to 'casual attendees'

They encourage you to promise to give 'x' amt per month or per year - and then set you up on a payment plan. Sometimes the money goes directly to the church - and sometimes the money goes to the "fundraiser" company - and is distributed to the church.

These letters are sometimes strongly worded to encourage you to give 10% (and if not able to... then work up to it)

It sounds as if you may have been the subject of direct mail marketing by a CHURCH!!!

Not knowing the church or having personally read the letter... in defense of the church - it is sometimes easier for the leadership to determine the course of ministry (what programs to offer or to cut) based on the amount of promised income - as opposed to just setting and arbitrary budget and then never meeting it or not planning any outreach or programs at all and always meeting the budget? KWIM??
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Old 11-17-2002, 01:00 AM
 
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I'm a little late responding, but I figured I should put our $.02 in!

I have tithed ever since I got my first job at age 16. My parents didn't tell me I should or anything, they lived by example.

Dh and I have always tithed our income through thick and thin. Let me tell you, this year has been a year of testing!! I continued to tithe dh's severance when he was out of work and unable to collect unemployment. I worked and we tithed and prayed.

It's been 8 months since dh lost his job of 13 years. He's been at his new job for 5 months. We are doing as well as we ever have even though he makes less money now. The only debts we have are for our 1 1/2 yr old car, our house, utilities and a little bit on the credit card. We now have the ability for me to quit my job, live on his paycheck and still not lose anything God has given us.

Anyway, we give our tithe to the church mostly, but we have been led to write the check to another charity or person instead. Our church is well taken care of and sometimes I think God wants someone else to have it more. Ya know?

It all boils down to the state of YOUR heart. Are you giving because the church is pressuring you or are you giving because God has blessed you and you're blessing him back?

God has blessed us tremendously and we will give my tithe and thank Him for caring for us so well.
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Old 11-21-2002, 02:00 AM
 
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Believe it or not, we have the exact OPPOSITE problem -- we've been going to a church for the past 1.5yrs., attending Sunday School, reasonably involved, tithing regularly, getting the church newsletter, etc. So, last Sunday the pastor announces that everyone should turn in the commitment cards they received in the mail...HUH? WHAT commitment card? Dh asked someone after the service, and was told the church's software isn't set up to send stuff like that to people who aren't "official" members. Here we are, ready to give, and having to jump through hoops to make the commitment. This week I just got notice that our membership transferred, so hopefully this won't happen again.

BTW, tithing wasn't emphasized in the stewardship campaign, although our denomination (United Methodist) subscribes to the notion of tithing. They put alot of emphasis on giving service and making a commitment to attend faithfully and to pray and read the Bible daily. Our financial records are an open book. And the "Gold Standard" for the United Methodist Church has been to be in the 50/50 Club...to be in the Club a church has to use just 50% of income for salary, building upkeep, etc. The other 50% goes back into the community. Of course, United Methodist churches vary widely, so I'm sure others could give chilling accounts of what went on during stewardship campaigns at their local UMC, how the money is used, etc.

Personally, I like tithing mostly because my SIL doesn't like it. SIL is one of those sanctimonious, holier-than-thou types who will recite scripture about *why* tithing is no longer necessary under the New Covenant...in reality, though, she would rather spend her money in Williams-Sonoma or Pottery Barn than give it to the church. I'd like to think my religious practice doesn't much resemble hers, KWIM? So I tithe. I have a friend who gives away about 10% of her old clothes as a way of tithing (they don't have much money). Other friends volunteer to mow the church lawn, teach Sunday School, whatever, because they don't feel they can afford to give more money.

Church should be a place to be lifted up, where you can sing praises to God. If you feel so very negative, I'd leave and go somewhere else. My dad (a pastor) used to comment that folks need to remember to keep the Good News *good*. Surely there's a church near you where they "encourage one another and build each other up" rather than tearing people down for not meeting some standard of giving.
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