the weblog of Alan Knox

Did someone forget to pass the offering plate?

Posted by on Jun 20, 2011 in blog links | 19 comments

Did someone forget to pass the offering plate?

When people meet with us (and I’m assuming something similar happens with other simpler types of churches), they are often confused because we don’t “pass the plate.” In fact, I’ve had several people ask me if someone forgot to pass the plate.

Nope. We don’t “pass the plate.” Why? Because we don’t expect people to give “to the church.” We expect them to give as God directs them – primarily to friends, neighbors, family members, and perhaps even strangers who are in need. (And, there are many, MANY people in our area in need right now.)

That’s just not the way it’s done in churches today. People usually expect to give to the church, and they then expect the church to decide how to apportion that money. In most cases, the largest percentage of the money goes back to the church, not to those in need.

But, won’t people stop giving altogether if the church doesn’t expect (and require, in some cases) people to give to the church?

Well, Felicity at “Simply Church” recently wrote an article about that. The article is called “House Church Finances.”

In the article, Felicity refers to some research. Here are some of the findings:

Of those surveyed, 51.6% of those involved in organic/simple church gave 11%-25% of their income to charity, and 7.5% gave greater than 25%. In other words, almost 60% of people are giving more than a tithe.

The money spent on the internal administration of simple/organic churches is very low: 59.1% of the participant’s house/simple church spent less than 1% of their total annual proceeds on internal needs, and 15.1% spent 2%-5%. In other words, more than 70% say their simple church spends less than 5% on administration costs.

(The typical American Christian gives less than 3% of their income to charity and the typical institutional church spends 85% of all church activity and funds directly toward the internal operations of the congregation, such as staff salaries, building payments, utility and operating expenses.)

What do you think about these findings? Do you think the stats reflect what is actually happening in both simple and more organized churches today?


19 Comments

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  1. 6-20-2011

    While I’m not sure about the actual statistics, most traditional churches definitely spend the majority of their collection on overhead costs (salaries, building, utilities, etc). Is that wise stewardship of our possessions? While I’m sure everyone has an opinion, I find it hard to justify from scripture that our offerings to our Creator and Savior are to be used to make us more comfortable and sustain the bureaucracy.

  2. 6-20-2011

    Alan –

    I’m very interested in some of the ways (systems?)that organic/simple churches use vs the “plate” method?

    -Tom

  3. 6-20-2011

    John,

    I’d love to hear how you and your family (and your friends) use your money to serve others.

    Tom,

    I can only tell you what we do. Each family decides who to support. This is typically done through existing relationships: friends, neighbors, families, etc. Similarly, we give to those itinerant (traveling) servants that we want to support as well. When there is a corporate decision to spend money on something, then people give as they want.

    -Alan

  4. 6-20-2011

    Well, I’m not sure what my friends do, but in my family, we do give to our church (to take care of our existing facilities, pay staff salaries, etc.) but we also give to mercy ministries (we sponsor several children through Compassion, give to World Vision, etc) and we give to local people (people who need things like cars, houses, food) as well as to local mercy missions (our local homeless shelter, men’s and women’s substance addiction recovery, social services, pregnancy crisis). But it’s not just the money. We work on people’s homes, take elderly people to medical appointments, serve at food banks, and serve meals at homeless shelters.

    While the money may seem spread a little thin, we want to be involved in as many of God’s works as we can. And the serving is actually more meaningful than the giving. But even with the giving, we can usually see concrete results.

  5. 6-20-2011

    So, as a recovering church book keeper this is a subject that still brings me sadness, anger, and grief.

    For 4 years I worked at a church that spent over 90% internally; I saw things that greatly troubled me. When I would bring them to the attention of our administrative pastor, I was told “that’s just ministry”. Finally, I could take it no more; I put in my resignation and started attending a home church/home fellowship.

    God has revolutionized how we tithe; it may be a waitress who is a single mom that we give $20 to on a $20 bill. It may be buying fair trade cerified food, clothing, whatever. It may be helping a homeless person, or whatever.

    Anyways, my heart still breaks over the self absorption of many churches in America. This is a great blog post for all of us to ponder.

  6. 6-20-2011

    John,

    That’s very interesting. Does your church still ask for a tithe (10%)? I think your idea of giving your time and presence is much more important than giving your money (although at times that’s important also).

    Jen,

    90%? Wow… I never thought it would be that high.

    -Alan

  7. 6-20-2011

    I have never heard a sermon at our church saying that the tithe was a New Testament requirement. While I am sure that some people do, I believe we are taught that God owns everything and we are the stewards. I can’t speak for everyone, but knowing that it all belongs to God, is it right for me to spend on luxury and extravagance for my own pleasure and personal comfort, or should I use it for God’s glory? I don’t need a lot to live on, and it’s quite a bit less than the 90% left after a tenth given back to God like they did under the Old Covenant. I try to give out of love, not legalistic compulsion.

  8. 6-20-2011

    John,

    That’s great!

    -Alan

  9. 6-23-2011

    My limited exposure to ‘not passing the plate’ suggests that there is a decrease in giving. Not only does our church not pass the plate but rarely is anything mentioned about giving. I think it is too extreme – but that doesn’t mean God might not use it. Perhaps other better things are happening due to this approach.

  10. 6-23-2011

    Brian,

    Most church who are organized more simply don’t need the “income” so they encourage people to give directly to those in need. As Felicity’s article shows, there is actually an increased in “giving” although it is not given “to the church.”

    -Alan

  11. 6-30-2011

    I’m way behind on my reading and just now getting to this post.
    Jen and I attended the same church, were in fact on staff together, and I can vouch for that 90%. In fact, since Jen has left and a new bookkeeper has come in that doesn’t appear to have the same convictions the internal spending has gone higher. In the past year as my family and I have started to transition out of the traditional church we have decided that we cannot continue to give to this church because of their spending habits that oh so clearly have nothing to do at all with the work of God. The last time I was in our church I looked around and tried to figure out how they could justify the new and unnecessary furniture while not fulfilling the commands to take care of the widow, orphan, hungry and thirsty. It grieved me and in part what grieved me is that the leadership continues to dismiss it, as Jen said, with the excuse “that’s just ministry”. How is new furniture ministry unless it is being given to someone truly in need?!?
    But enough of my most recent soapbox, I am still too raw in my emotions about the whole thing to articulate it in a beneficial way at this point. :)

  12. 6-30-2011

    Beth,

    Thank you for adding to this discussion. I hope being able to get up on this “soapbox” was beneficial.

    -Alan

  13. 9-17-2011

    Have been in organic (house) church now for over a year. We do not collect money or have any real needs to speak of. If there is something, say a book we need for a study, we just all pitch in at the time of need and make it happen. With this money I used to give to an institution can go exclusively for helping people. I have given to many ministries, a local Christian school, along with paying expensive co-pays for a Christian brother with cancer who was out of work at the time. I find the freedom to give spontaneously as the Lord presents things is a joy and such a freedom in Him, vice the old 10% mindset that I had been taught for years.

  14. 9-18-2011

    Darryl,

    I agree completely. Thanks for sharing your experience with this also.

    -Alan

  15. 3-6-2013

    I often wondered about the fact that Missionaries generally need to raise their own support to go and be an ambassador of Jesus, what would happen to all of the Preachers and Staff if they also would have to raise their own support… Would they continue to serve God in the capacity that they now serve?

    I volunteer as an Online Missionary for Global Media Outreach, there are about 9000 of us that do this and GMO only has about 70 or so staff members, the cost of sharing the gospel is 10 Cents (yes 10 Cents per soul) and God is in control check out http://www.greatcommission2020.com/ and see for yourself what God is doing real time, also check us out on http://www.globalmediaoutreach.com whre you can find out more information about us.

  16. 3-6-2013

    Mirvan,

    I think you’ve asked a great question. Another good question (to me) is this: While we see examples of itinerant servants of God (missionaries) receiving support from others, do we see that of those who remain in one place (i.e., elders/pastors)? And then, we have to deal with Paul’s admonition to the elders in Ephesus to work with their hands like he did. So… yeah… lots of good questions around that issue.

    -Alan

  17. 7-25-2013

    This is great. I’ve been post articles on this subject on Ecclesia Café, Underground discussion, all 3 Organic church site for about a month. I have A Friend in Calif who has been teaching Christians Hebrew for over 50 years. I been using his book mahazare THE TITHE, I’ve been posting excerpts out of it.
    \It has changed my life. I’m 68 and from the age of about 8 I’ve been in church and can’t believe the lie that the IC has propagated on Christians for almot 1800 years

  18. 7-26-2013

    William,

    Thank you for the comment. I love hearing from my older brothers and sisters in Christ who are living (and have been living) what I’m discovering from Scripture.

    -Alan

  19. 7-26-2013

    In responds to John: Most churches use Malachi 3:8,9,10, but if you read the whole book you will see God is rebuking Israel and that book has nothing to do with anyone else in the world but Israel.

    Alan I hope you don’t mind me mentioning mahazare The Tithe by George Everett but it so clearly explains the history of tithing and who had to tithe and when it ended in 70AD after the Temple destroyed. In the New Testament we as Christians are to practice Tzedakah charity (giving with a cheerful heart.