I left the house, got in my car, hung my head, and sighed. I was sure Tom and Melinda were going to give a generous gift to the building project—perhaps up to $10,000. However, they weren’t planning to give anything.
You can imagine my disappointment when they told me why. Almost two decades before, it seemed, Jim and Connie Thompson (now deceased) had given a large amount of money to the church for a project. It got stuck in an account. The project was delayed. Over the years the money got mixed and mingled into other accounts. Eventually, the project never happened. Jim and Connie were good folks and never made a fuss. However, as I was finding out, damage was done that now was a generation old. The confusion was still with us. Was the money there or wasn’t it? What account was it in? Do the trustees have it in their account? Did we spend it on the sound system four years ago? Really, how much was given to begin with?
The word is TRANSPARENCY. That means folks can SEE what is happening with finances. When people can’t see they don’t TRUST. When people don’t trust they don’t GIVE. I can tell you that if I had any question whether my money was going to be used as I intended, I would not give, either. Stories like Jim and Connie Thompson linger for years in a congregation, depressing the generosity of the faithful.
Churches are famous for squirreling away money in various places and never reporting on it. I have met Trustees who didn’t believe the church should know what they had. The same goes for pre-schools or men’s groups. What in the world possesses people to keep private what belongs to the whole church? If they think hiding it will protect it, they have no idea how hiding it will keep more from coming. If they fear some group will swoop in and “take” their money, they have a larger leadership problem to be solved by the church Board or Council.
Friends, be open about money. The leaders need to see everything and share everything—with anybody who asks. Communication about money should be regular and accurate. Mistakes from the past need to be acknowledged and apologies given. Clear the air. Open the window. Let folks see. It will yield benefits both for the offering plate and for the fellowship of those who put money in it.
For support with your church’s stewardship and giving development, contact your United Methodist Foundation here or 877-391-8811.
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Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana