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Church and Money

Written by Corey Magstadt : November 28, 2007

Like Mark, our church is also fundraising for a building that can serve as a permanent home in the midst of the community we love. Through this process, we have had to ask a lot of questions about how we can raise money and still remain faithful to the way of Jesus. It seems to me that an “anything goes” philosophy is probably not acceptable, but how do we begin to discern which approaches are okay and which are not?

For instance, this weekend we were at my wife’s grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. One of her cousins, who is on staff at a church of 22,000 people, had a copy of his church newspaper. Not newsletter…newspaper. According to their website, the newspaper has a circulation of over 30,000 homes. They sell advertising space for $1375 for a full page ad. The newspaper was filled with pizza coupons, oil change inserts, “christian” businesses that we should all support, etc.

To me, selling advertising space is probably not okay…Naming rights for the sanctuary? The “Taco Bell Library”? Sponsors names flashing on the screen between worship songs? But what about other common church fundraisers: bake sales, garage sales, and car washes. Are these acceptable? What about sending support letters and asking people directly for money? What basis do we use to discern the appropriateness of these methods? How do we balance the reality of the need for money, in our case for money that comes from outside of our church community, with the desire to approach the need for money with integrity to our biblical values?

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2 Responses to “Church and Money”

  1. pastorboy on November 29th, 2007 8:58 am

    I have always seen that inviting people to partner in ministry is the approach that I am most comfortable with. This is where I share my God-given vision for the ministry with others and they give according to their identifying with the mission/vision.
    I have personally raised support for my mission twice in my career; both times it has been a great faith building experiment. Both times, God provided SO clearly that it was a confirmation about that ministry. And people never missed a check. When they know you and buy into the vision, it is much more effective and God honoring-because there is a level of ownership and accountability.
    I think it is heinous to think we could have a corporate sponsored sanctuary etc. More heinous is the idea that people by their giving to the church thinking they can influence policy or theology according to their giving. This happens all to often in the contemporary church.

    Still praying for you, Corey!

  2. forrest on November 29th, 2007 7:01 pm

    There’s no “balance” involved… Certainly there can be a conflict, but not one you can resolve via negotiations between God & Satan, for example! You stand for what you stand for, and need to do that, whether or not it interferes with getting enough money for the particular implementation you would like.

    What about ‘ads’ that say: “This business is helping with what we’re doing”? You don’t, that is, need to out-&-out sell space for people to say things you don’t approve; you simply thank them for a gift. Which is unlikely, after all, to bring them any commensurate financial return! So their support is not, after all, a financial transaction, but an indication that, at least in theory, they are with you.

    You don’t have to fret about whether you lose their support. Our street newspaper lost $100/month (abt 1/2 our printing costs at the time) from the local Catholic Worker group when we published an article about Father Joe’s shelter here, based on former security guards’ stories that agreed with what homeless people had been telling us about the place for years. We remained friends with many of their members, but their priest was down on us from then on. (We missed the money, but ultimately we turned the project over to someone else because it no longer felt like our Assignment; we’d said all we knew to say enough times that we were getting sick of it, while the prejudices we’d hoped to counter were, far as I could see, unchanged. If what I was doing wasn’t working, after five years, I wanted to try something else. But that’s another story, & my wife’s expecting me upstairs for dinner right now!)

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