Saturday, March 10, 2007

Why are many people hesitant about giving generously to their religious community?

I brainstormed a few possibilities about the fearful giver while thinking about my upcoming sermon series on Faithfulness and Covenant. Please add things I might not have thought of.

In no particular order:

--if we are angry come-outers from another tradition,
will we be deceived here?
--if we live at a fixed income,
will our giving generously cut into our ability to live comfortably?
--if we give to many causes,
is our congregation as worthy as the other causes we support?
--if we need companionship and connection,
will we find it here?
--if we have spent foolishly in the past,
will we be spending foolishly here?
--if we have been wounded by money in some way,
will that happen to us here?
--if we are generous,
will we set a standard that we may not be able to live up to later?

Many people, not just UUs, are fearful, not cheerful, givers. They may have grown up in a culture of scarcity because of the Depression, family patterns, Me First-ness, and a host of other reasons.

Instead of scolding them for their fear, it seems to me better to understand it and encourage them to deal with it effectively. I think people want to be generous but are afraid.


Steve Caldwell said...

Issues of trust and fears of deception can be addressed in part by encouraging a climate of openness and transparency.

Some approaches for increasing openness and transparency would be the following:

(1) Publishing board meeting minutes, congregational meeting minutes, budget documents, etc on bulletin boards at church, on the church web site, etc.

(2) Announcing upcoming congregational and board meetings and explicitly inviting anyone who is curious about church business to attend. It should never be a surprise to a regularly attending congregant that the board is having a meeting.

(3) Allow for congregational member open-mike time during board meetings (e.g. 5 to 15 minutes) for members to voice their concerns to the elected board leadership.

(4) All board meetings and committee meetings are accessible to congregation members if they are interested in attending. Even meetings that may have to deal with confidential subjects (e.g. Personnel Committee) would have a portion of their meeting that would deal with non-confidential business and allow for congregants to voice their opinions to their opinion.

(5) The congregational newsletter should have regular news coverage about congregational business.

Most trust issues could be addressed through open and explicit communication.

ms. kitty said...

All good strategies, Steve, thanks.

Miss Kitty said...

I like Steve's ideas. These are some great ways to get parishioners involved in their church's money matters.

It's important not to underestimate the effect of the Great Depression (or other financial troubles) on how we relate to money. I came very near to bankruptcy a few years ago and am only now feeling as if I can give money to charity. Nothing noble about being poor. It's very scary, and the worst form of violence there is.

Ms. Theologian said...

My sense is that many people live much closer to hand to mouth than we like to think, and that giving generously seems like an "extra" that they may not be able to afford.

Which is not to say that they shouldn''s just to say that there is a lot of hidden poverty within the "middle class" that probably affects how much people give to UU churches significantly.

Paul Wilczynski said...

I think that too many churches selling pledging as "let's divide the church's expenses up among us" rather than "what is the value of the church to you?"

Is it worth as much as a weekly dinner or two out, for example?

We need to demonstrate the value of our congregations to our members.