Thoughts On Church Giving: Part 4, Hiring the Minister of Sharing

Okay, last post regarding my practical suggestions for improving traditional church giving. This is the post I was really wanting to get to.

Now, if you are a staff member or leader of a church my last two posts--about a giving receipt and more direct giving on Sundays--might have made you cross your eyes. Your natural and very legitimate response might have been this: Great idea but who is going to coordinate all this?

Excellent question.

Let's put a pin in that question and talk about many of the excellent points many of you have been making about tithing. Specifically, shouldn't Christians be giving more that 10%?

Again, excellent question.

And the answer to both questions, I think, is the same: Hiring a Minister of Sharing.

Here's the cold hard truth. If you were to poll church leaders asking them to name the most pernicious influence upon American Christianity I bet the answer would be unanimous: Materialism and consumerism.

But if you look at the hiring practices of churches where on staff is the minister and associated team who are working to combat this problem? I know of no churches who have a minister focusing exclusively on issues related to materialism and consumerism.

Which is, let's be honest, an abomination. Think about it. We all know and agree on the #1 Problem. And yet churches aren't doing anything about it.

Here's an example close to home. My church is currently looking for a worship minister. Really? That's what we need? Isn't this the spiritual equivalent of hiring someone to lead singing at Weight Watchers? The audience is full of spiritually obese people and we think a great band or worship service will help them lose weight?

(I mean no offense to worship ministers or my future worship minister. I'm just asking for an additional hire beyond the worship ministry.)

What we need is someone who will involve the church in the spiritually formative practices of giving, sharing, and hospitality in order to combat rampant materialism and consumerism.

So yes, in this series I did float a few ideas about giving on Sunday morning that will require personnel to implement. So let's hire that person. And let me add to the job description:

First, lots of churches have financial classes to help people get out of debt. And I think these are great. In fact, Jana and I got out of debt as newlyweds by reading some of the books associated with these ministries. I think the Ministers of Sharing should run all these classes.

But they should do more. Getting out of debt is just the first step. The Minister of Sharing should also run classes on simple living. More, they should be a coach and spiritual director. A large part of what the minister should do is to sit down with church members who want to simplify and give more. So, as a coach, the minister would come to your house and review your life. Go through your bills and bank accounts. Your closets and refrigerator. And then, in consultation with the church member, the minister would set out a plan with some clear goals. These goals could be modest (e.g., increasing giving from 10% to 15%) or ambitious (e.g., a 75K income family fixing living income at 45K and giving the rest away year after year). To help with these commitments, the minister would connect the members with others within the church working on similar types of goals. This would create networks of encouragement and accountability. To help build congregation-wide enthusiasm the minster would also be tasked with sharing stories through the church bulletin, newsletter, or website.

More, the minister should have a team who can help people with aspects of simple living. People who can coach on how to dress a family sharply and fashionably from shopping at Goodwill. Or cooks who can create amazing meals on a dime. Or gardeners who can help you set up an urban garden. On and on it could go. The minister helps identify, train, and coordinate these coaches, mentors, teachers and exemplars who can come alongside us to show us the joys of living on less and giving away more.

Beyond this coaching, the Minister of Sharing can also help organize sharing within the congregation. Setting up car pools so people can sell the second (or third) car or creating sharing networks where every member doesn't have to own their own, say, lawnmower or weed eater. In short, the minister is tasked with helping the church share more with each other. Sharing cars, tools, money, and homes. And speaking of homes, yes, the Minister of Sharing is also in charge of helping the church welcome others into their building and into their homes.

In short, if you doubted, I think the Minister of Sharing would have plenty to do to keep him or her busy. And, of course, we could throw in overseeing the actual benevolence ministries currently going on within a church. But my wish would be to keep those ministries away from this person. At least initially. That is, what we are talking about here isn't hiring someone to oversee and administer a ministry program (like a food bank), but rather someone working on spiritual formation within the congregation, transforming the membership through various practices. We're talking about someone who works like a spiritual director but is focused on sharing, giving, and hospitality.

To conclude, I'm not sure why churches don't have talented people working in positions like this. We all see the problem. So where are the ministers, spiritual coaches, and staff members who are devoted to the practices of giving, sharing and hospitality?

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10 thoughts on “Thoughts On Church Giving: Part 4, Hiring the Minister of Sharing”

  1. Didn't the apostolic church assign similar tasks to lay leaders (Acts 6.1-7)? (Of course, on that reasoning, churches shouldn't have paid worship ministers.)

  2. love it. a minister who is not only not going to just make you feel better about yourself but actually get up in your business for the sake of tangible spiritual growth. would love to be part of a community like that.

  3. Of course we'd need our seminaries to alter their curricula because I can assure you, they don't deal with this aspect of ministry in any tangible way I've observed. It's one of those things that's left up to chance - and in addition, we'd have to do a better job of equipping those ministers as real leaders, because without that, these "ministers of sharing" will be woefully ill-equipped to impact their congregations. Which is probably why we won't see many churches wanting to do this kind of hire...

  4. A church I attended at one point decided to move because--and this is the frank version--they wanted to attract young middle class couples and that was difficult in a poor part of town. It made me very sad.

    Here's why I bring up my experience: poor persons don't have much--which, after all, is what it means to be poor--and so they can't give much; relative to others, that is. One solution is to make the sad choice of moving away from a place where there is a concentration of poor persons. But if not, the local church is taking on a population of needy people. That can mean replacing "sad" with "scary."

    Now, none of this affects the great points that have been made in these posts and comments. But I have this concern. If the church is known as a place where giving is rigorously encouraged, might that make church a place where poor persons are made to feel like de facto outsiders?

    I loved the suggestion about "cooks who can create amazing meals on a dime" precisely because it would be a great way to counter this "poor as de facto outsider" problem. Preparing and eating meals can be a great way to bring people together--and was such an obvious motive for "Communion" in the NT. I know I'd enjoy an hour chopping, baking, and stir frying more than most Sunday school classes I've been in. :-) (I tried to encourage my 23-year-old who's into nutrition and has worked as a cook and baker to try setting up a "cooks' club" ministry where she helps families do just what Richard suggested--create great meals at low cost. Perhaps if someone else had made the suggestion...)

    Between sad and scary, there's got to be a lot of middle ground. But not until competing underlying motives are thoughtfully addressed.

  5. I agree. Materialism and consumerism may be issues among those who can afford to be so, but in this economy, that's not always the case. Lost jobs, frozen wages (except for those poor executives who need their multi million bonuses so their companies can keep their incredible, precious talent on board), and a skyrocketing cost of living have frozen the capacity of many families to give as they once did.

  6. Tracy and Patricia,
    I also agree.

    That is why I speak of giving, sharing and hospitality. It's not just about giving. It's also about sharing with each other. And welcoming each other into our churches, homes and hearts--no matter what your socioeconomic situation. Rich eat in the homes of the poor and the poor in the homes of the rich.

    I'm reminded of these lines from Walt Whitman:

    This is the meal pleasantly set . . . this is the meal and drink for natural hunger,
    It is for the wicked just the same as for the righteous . . . I make appointments with all,
    I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
    The keptwoman and sponger and thief are hereby invited . . . the heavy-lipped slave is invited . . . the venerealee is invited,
    There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

  7. As a former worship-minister type, what if worship ministry and the spiritually forming conversations that come with sharing and hospitality were one in the same? What if the worship minister primarily tried to create a safe, warm, welcoming environment through encouraging, modeling and "coaching", as you put it, congregants to step outside their boundaries and invite strangers into their comfortable rows at church and dining rooms at home rather than through the highest quality musical performance? What would our churches sacrifice if the worship minister and the "minister of sharing" were one in the same? I mean, don't living a life of worship and hospitality operate in the same paradigm?

  8. I've actually seen various Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches have Stewardship Ministers on their staff before. They work with tithing, reporting back to the church how it is being used, coordinating volunteers, working with major donors, etc. Much like a fundraiser/stewardship person at a nonprofit.

  9. This is what I do! Except, since I serve as "Director of Stewardship" for three churches, there isn't much time for individual coaching. But I really like that idea!

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