3 Reasons Pastors Have Access to Their Church Members’ Giving Records

Many pastors want to avoid knowing their church members’ giving recordings. There are a few reasons for their avoidance. They don’t want to be perceived as showing favoritism, desiring to spend more time on other ministerial duties, and receiving advice from their peers who recommend avoiding it.

But some pastors have a different view. While they understand the reasons why pastors avoid giving records, they feel that reasons to access the records outweigh the reasons for avoiding them.

Here are three reasons pastors have access to their church members’ giving records:

  1. They view access as critical to discipleship. Jesus spoke on money more than any other topic while on earth. Why? Money is not just a bank account issue but a heart issue. Money management reflects heart management. The way one manages their money reveals their life’s priorities. And one of the main outcomes of a heart that is aligned with God’s design for a person and their money is generosity.
  2. They view access as critical to leadership placement. Pastors want to ensure that their church leaders, whether volunteer or paid, are giving to the church. There are two reasons—discipleship and buy-in. The discipleship issue is addressed in prior point. Beyond discipleship, pastors want leaders that are invested in the church, they have skin in the game. Pastors, and most church members, do not want detached leadership. They want oversight and guidance from those who put their money where their mouth is.
  3. They view access as critical to navigating conversations with disgruntled members. Disgruntled members can take up a lot of a pastors’ time. It’s the squeaky wheel effect. Sometimes, the disgruntled member even threatens to discontinue their giving. Knowing the member’s giving record aids the pastor with this conversation, both in content and time allotment. Conversations with disgruntled members who are invested, both with their time and money, should be approached differently than conversations with disgruntled members who have no skin in the game.

Both pastors who avoid giving records and those who view it as critical to their ministry have valid positions. Of course, church culture should be considered as well. Even is a pastor has a strong preference, it is probably not the hill to die on.

What about you? Do you have a preference? And why?

5 Reasons Why Pastors Avoid Church Member Giving Records

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13 thoughts on “3 Reasons Pastors Have Access to Their Church Members’ Giving Records

  1. I’d say the largest danger is knowing how much is being given because the human condition will prioritize their members by dollar amount as opposed to the attitude of a giving heart that Jesus pointed out in the Bible. Our church focuses on participation which can be an indicator of health. It’s a tough thing to measure as it can reveal the condition of the heart and plays into discipleship, but if used for church gain or favoritism, it only leads to great destruction. I’ve experienced both sides so I think the awareness of member giving should be minimal and should be handled with great care.

  2. Read the article. Points made would likely work fine in a church setting where such a type A method might work. Reality is, in the overwhelming vast majority of church settings, such an approach will merely result in one being shown the highway. It’s that simple. The American experience does not breed compliance in everyday life much less in the life of the local church.

    Don’t know that it is a matter of discipleship. Do consider it more of a matter of trust and acceptance of authority. Very few church members trust anyone including a pastor with information that almost anyone would consider strictly private and personal. It is about like expecting someone to talk about their personal health/medical issues. One would be at ease sharing such intimate details with Jesus. But with a pastor or anyone else … extremely unlikely.

    As far as serving in the church, buy-in is not listed in the New Testament as a criteria for any service. No where are we told that those who pay the bills are to call the shots. Certainly such concern would help place financially committed people in critical places of leadership. That is all.

    Disgruntled members will be with us until Gabriel’s trumpet blows. No amount of screening either by finances, etc. will eliminate them, nor should they be eliminated … but listened to and ministered to. That’s how it was done when some complained in Acts 6, etc. As to this being a hill worth dying for … agree … not.

    • bthomas, I definitely think that faithful giving is a matter of discipleship. CS Lewis – among others – have said something like, “No one can be a discipled follower of Jesus Christ unless and until they understand and act on God’s command to be “Generous and willing to share.”

      No man can serve two master.
      Failure to be generous is a matter of the heart . . . and it’s really about idolatry.

      As I said in another entry in this blog, “It must be done with a pure heart, and can never be used as a tool to scold or to lord the information over another.

  3. A wise old pastoral mentor years ago told me that in conflict situations giving can be an important key to understanding exactly what’s happening with a disgruntled member. If you have a member that has an issue with some issue in the church, giving can give you some idea about their motive. A “controler” will often use giving as a crowbar. One of the first things they will do (but not always I might add) is lower or even stop their giving. A faithful member who has an honest concern will seldom use giving as a tool. As a pastor for over 37 years, in certain situations, I would ask the treasurer or financial secretary if there had been any change in an individual member’s giving. I was not interested in the amount but interested in change. This was a good indicator of motive. I found this dear old pastor’s advice to be very helpful.

  4. So the widows mite would disqualify her from being a part of this team! The love of money like gan green to a Ministry….. sound more like some impastors have invaded the Body of Christ…. Ever heard of the old “Shepherding movement!”
    Kind of sounds like a precurser to me. Do you want your bank statements revealed? Does that qualify you for greater ministry with a bigger check!We have gotten so smart in justifying building our Kingdoms and making our disciples that God rarely shows up at Churches. Oh yea bigger tithes and offerings lead to bigger salaries too! Ichabod!

  5. Art,
    What a “risky” and helpful article. I think it is hilarious to read the comments in other places from people who are adamantly opposed to it. As a pastor whose church determines that a lay person should know and record gifts but the pastors should not, I have often marveled at the inconsistency. It is expected that a pastor could and should know and even help a person to repent of such sins as sexual immorality, marriage problems, and other issues such as chemical dependency, post-abortive counseling, etc. It is not suspected that a pastor would ever treat a sinner differently in these instances; however, if he knew a person were a robber (Malachi 3) the pastor would be somehow overwhelmed with the knowledge and respond sinfully by demonstrating favoritism? He would be expected to do backgrounds on children’s workers to guard against pedophiles, but not see giving records to guard against thieves?

    I don’t have a desire to see what John and Mary give. If I did, I would still serve them and shepherd them…only with more insight into their spiritual maturity. Still, my church has its own views and I am ok living within those boundaries…but seriously people…isn’t the inconsistency of the view almost laughable?

    • Timothy, The low capacity person with leadership skills should not be disqualified. A small amount that still represents generosity in their situation is the primary message of the “widow with two mites.” Jesus said, “She gave more than all the rest of you, for she gave out of her poverty. You give out of your wealth.

      Why are we so afraid of someone knowing something about our finances? Why is the only really closed book on us? I believe it’s all about idolatry. And if pastors or leaders are using this information wrongly, than that is on them . . . sin! Knowing this information must be with the right heart/motives.

  6. How a person manages the pocketbook tells more about their character and maturity than what they say or how they serve the Lord’s work. Before a Christian becomes a member of a church they should understand that they are expected to financially support the church. No member of a church should be considered for a leadership position when they aren’t faithfully supporting the church financially. If you can’t support the church you attend, you need to find a church you can support and join it, then support it.

  7. Working with churches in the areas of Capital Campaigns and Discipling Generosity I am often asked, “I choose not to know . . . ” but should I?
    I respond with “Yes, Pastors should be aware of their flocks giving habits!” and for the very reason you, Thom, point out. But . . . you must do so with the right reason/heart. You must never lord that information over a congregant, or exploiting the large giver.

    Some pastors tell me their board will not allow them to. Okay, then what a great place to start a conversation with their board about this, speaking truth into them about how a generous heart is part of being a devoted discipler of Jesus, and listening to their reasoning. Here’s a reality that I have observed more than a few times. Leaders don’t want the pastors to see their own giving. And as Thom pointed out, the knowledge of whether a leader is a generous giver should definitely be a part of vetting potential leaders.

    If we are up against a brick wall on this, then I suggest a couple alternatives:
    1. Ask to see who is in the top 10% of givers in your congregation, without being given the information about the exact amount.
    2. When vetting a potential future leader, simply ask the treasurer if they feel that “John Doe” is giving generously and regularly to the Lord (our ministry).
    3. I recommend that leaders sign a covenant that among other things it includes something like, “I commit to financially give generously to our (church) ministry, as the Lord leads. And make sure they know of this covenant before they make the commitment to a leadership role. This same kind of covenant should also be included for staff.

  8. As a former pastor I can definitely see both sides of this. Ultimately, I have landed on the side of not wanting the pastor to have any clue as to my level of giving. Knowledge is power, and I have witnessed first hand the abuse of the power that comes from knowing what John and Susan give to the church. Open positions given to large tithe payers who are otherwise unqualified is a stench in my opinion. Precluding the most qualified for a position only because their tithe is much lower is just as despicable, again in my opinion.

    I have no desire to know what the pastor makes because it is simply none of my business. I feel just as strongly that it is none of the pastor’s business what I tithe. If the amount one tithes tilts the decision on whether or not to minister effectively to a person, or how one feels about the person, that pastor has far more problems than he realizes. Personally, I wouldn’t give a dime to any ministry that operated in such a manner.

  9. I have a middle of the road opinion. In our church, I am an Associate Pastor and the Administrator. I, along with our Ministry Assistant, see and create the giving records. The Senior Pastor does not want to see any details, but does want general information about people in senior leadership. He seeks my opinion as to whether someone is tithing or tipping. We are not legalistic about tithing, but we don’t want someone in a leadership position who isn’t serious about supporting our ministry.

  10. I understand the point of this article is not to “reward” the largest givers with ministry opportunities, but to make that spiritual discipline a factor in leadership positions and certain service assignments (the pastor should know if a deacon candidate is a faithful giver, for example). I do, however, think there is a healthy balance that can be struck by the pastor.

    The pastor can avoid the “appearance” of favoritism by not seeing financial statements, nor knowing specific amounts given by any congregant. Yet, at the same time, the pastor can be informed by the financial committee about who is and who is not giving. Giving offerings in itself is not a fail-safe indicator. It can be a heart-felt spiritual exercise, or it can be a crutch to satisfy religious legalism. Not giving, on the other hand, is an indication of spiritual decline or immaturity.

    Knowing who isn’t supporting the Kingdom financially is a spiritual issue that the pastor needs to engage (be it a disgruntled member, a financially challenged member, or a relatively new Christian who may not know about giving). He can better come alongside those who are not giving, or have noticeably lessened their giving in an attempt to disciple them in all aspects of their Christian lives, if he knows who those people are. Helping them learn the biblical reasons and spiritual importance of becoming an unconditional giver is part of pastor’s discipleship responsibility and leadership.