Many assumptions accompany the way we do church. Some of these theological and cultural assumptions are helpful to tie us together. Others can push us apart. Further complicating things, they’re assumptions we’re often not even aware of in the first place. In today’s post, Grace Duddy Pomroy writes about an assumption many church leaders make about “giving units.” Or, more particularly, what people make up the “unit” and their capacity to give. Read on only if you’re ready to have your assumptions challenged.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Grace Duddy Pomroy
A few years ago a pastor mentioned to me that the biggest stewardship hurdle his congregation members faced was guilt. Initially this answer didn’t take me by surprise — I’ve met many committed Christians throughout my work in stewardship ministry that feel guilty for not giving enough, for giving too much, or for spending too much money on themselves. Yet, the specific guilt this pastor mentioned was something entirely different.
He pointed to the pattern of many women in his congregation with spouses who did not come to church. While the spouses were somewhat supportive of church attendance, they were less willing to support the church financially. In relationships where the non-churchgoing spouse holds the purse strings, these women were left with little to nothing to give. Their desire to give was strong, but their means were limited.
I now find myself in a similar situation: happily married to a partner who does not attend church with me. While my husband and I mutually control the purse strings in our marriage, I have seen firsthand how this situation has impacted my capacity to give to the church.
Growing up in the Assembly of God denomination, I learned early on that a tithe of 10% of my income was expected and I started giving that way from a young age, continually adjusting my giving as my income grew. I came into our marriage tithing and I’ve continued to give based on my income alone.
During last fall’s stewardship campaign though, I felt inspired to grow in my giving. As my husband and I discussed this opportunity, he asked me some insightful questions:
“What will they use the money for?” and “What work are they doing outside the walls of the congregation?”
His questions made me curious. What work was my church doing to help our local and global community? Was my giving going toward sustaining the congregational institution alone, or was it something more?
Our discussions prompted me to ask more questions during a church meeting, to listen closely for the ways we are serving our neighbors, and to challenge our congregation to focus more on our mission beyond the building walls. I’ve learned a lot in the process — my congregation is doing some amazing work in our community. However, I’m not sure how much of this story I would know if my husband had not encouraged me to dig deeper.
So what can we do for those folks in our congregation who may be constrained from giving (or giving more) because their partner is not involved?
A few suggestions:
- Equip your congregation members to have open and honest conversations about money and giving with their spouse — whether their spouse attends the congregation or not. Share discussion questions that help the couple to consider their values, their goals, and how they are joining God’s mission in the world through their gifts to the church and beyond.
- Engage their passion about the mission and ministry work you do. Tell inspiring stories about how the offering is used both inside and outside the congregation to fuel God’s mission in world. Encourage congregation members to bring these stories home. An unchurched partner, or partner of another religious tradition, may be unsure about giving to the church at large, but they may be enthusiastic about the food pantry, homeless ministry, or emergency relief services.
- Remind them generosity comes in a variety of forms. Generosity doesn’t have to be financial. Are their ways they can support the mission and life of the congregation with their time and talents?
- Show them grace. Remind them that everyone in your congregational community has different capacities to give, we make ministry possible by bringing our diverse gifts together. Encourage them to find other ways to be financially generous that align with their values as a couple. Living generously does not stop at the offering plate.
For More Information
Grace Duddy Pomroy is a millennial stewardship leader and financial educator. She’s passionate about helping couples transform their relationship, and deepen their intimacy, by having open and honest conversation about money. Find out more on her website where you can sign up for her weekly blog.