This series is about our life with the church as we attempt to live together as brothers and sisters. (For a more detailed description of this series, see my post “Church Life – A New Series.”)
The way that a person handles money says alot about their priorities. This is true for a group of people as well, including a church.
When we started meeting together several years ago, we handled money the way that most church organizations handle money. Everyone that was part of the church was asked to “give” through the church. The church created a budget that covered administrative costs, meeting locations costs, and ministry opportunities.
Over time, we found that our budget was directing our ability to serve more than the Spirit or the opportunities that God gave us was directing our service. So, a few years ago, we completely changed how we handle money.
To begin with, we still have a budget. Why? Because we have made certain corporate decisions as a group. For example, we’ve decided as a group to rent a place to meet. If we made the decision not to rent a place to meet and to forgo a few other administrative responsibilities, then I could see the possibility of having no corporate budget. But, at this time, we do have a budget.
So, since we have a budget, we still ask people to give to cover that budget. How much is that budget? Well, if you divide the budget between the people who meet together weekly, it amounts to less that $20 per person per month. That’s what we ask people to give “to the church” in order to cover corporate responsibilities.
Beyond this, we do not ask people to give money “to the church” – that is, to the church organization. However, we often ask people to give “to the church” – that is, to the people.
What do I mean? I mean that there are often needs or emergencies that come up among the believers that make up the church. The people involved have opportunities to let others know about their needs, and their brothers and sisters can then give to those needs, usually giving directly to the person or family in need.
Similarly, we often have service related needs. Again, when the church (that is, the people) are aware of those needs, they have the opportunity to give money, time, or other resources in order to help with those service needs.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are individualistic about the way we handle money. In fact, we often work together to take care of financial needs.
A couple that is part of our church is planning to move to Africa to work in Bible translation. Last Summer, they traveled to Africa for several weeks to work with the group that’s there and to learn more about what they will be doing in the future. They told the church about their financial needs for this trip, and the church helped them. How did this help come to them? It usually came from different families giving directly to this couple, as each family was able to give. Some gave more; some gave less. But, together, we helped this couple travel to Africa.
Several of us are praying about traveling to Ethiopia next Summer to work with the churches there. None of us can afford this trip on our own. But, when the church decides to send one or more of us on this trip, then the church will again take the responsibility of providing for their needs. How? Again, by each family giving as they are able.
We’ve found that by freeing people’s money from the constraints of an organizational budget, we are actually able to provide for more immediate needs as well as for larger and more long-term needs.
All in all, handling money in this way has helped us as we attempt to live life together as the church of Jesus Christ.