Recently, I have had this conversation with members of several churches. I give to my church to a point. I like my church and want to support it, but at some point I want to know my giving is making a difference and I would rather give directly to the need I want to help.
In pastor-speak I might say it this way. For tithing percentages 1-5, a person will probably quite comfortably give to their local church. Churches strongest ministries tend to be for children and youth, and for these ministries families gladly give. For percentages 6-10 or beyond, however, it is increasingly likely a giver will go another way. They will develop a relationship with a person/group/cause that is meaningful to them, bypass the church, and devote significant resources to a second effort.
What is at work here?
When I served as a pastor inside the church I thought – people just don’t get it. Maybe if I hit Leviticus harder people will see the light? Now that I am in this conversation from the nonprofit angle, however, I see giving from a different viewpoint. It’s not that people do not want to be generous – many, many do. The issue is that many feel called to acts of generosity beyond the local church. Other organizations tell the impact story better, and many nonprofits structure themselves to get out of the way so that the person giving the donation experiences the help given to the person in need.
Think of it this way – if a person experiences a child being healed verses hearing a pastor speak about a child being healed where is the heart moved to give?
Churches compound this problem by giving a little money to a lot of causes. Churches act this way to leverage their position in the community. Where it limits the church is that a church is not really invested in the ministry. Little money means little attention. Churches tend not to ask questions of mission organizations like – How strong is the board governing the ministry? – or – What is the key person doing to take care of himself/herself? These failures to ask occur because of a failure to invest. The result is missionaries in the field who are underserved, and in terms of fundraising demands, overstretched.
The truth may be this – generous people are seeking powerful impacts, and powerful churches will directly connect those who give with those in need.
(thank you for reading, if you found Jesus in this please share)