Sometimes I realize how insulated my life has been.
- I was born into the home of a Southern Baptist preacher and missionary. My grandpa (maternal – Dr. Eugene Pratt) was an SBC pastor, professor at SWBTS, and head of evangelism for the Missouri convention until his death in 1965.
- I’ve been attending Southern Baptist churches regularly since 9 months before I was born.
- I attended an SBC college (as liberal as Donald Trump is crazy) and graduated from Southwestern (after a two-year sojourn at Dallas).
- Even whilst I attended a non-denominational seminary I was a member of an SBC church.
- Since I was saved and baptized in February of 1964, I’ve been a member of approximately 10 SBC churches – an unbroken chain of SBC membership.
- I’m SBC born, SBC bred, and when I die, I’ll be SBC dead.
In all of that time and in all of those churches, there has been one guiding principle that has been taken as pretty much a universal dictate – as if it were carried by Moses off the mountain, written on stone by the finger of God.
Pastors do NOT look at the giving records of the church.
In pretty much every SBC church I know, strict rules of confidentiality are observed. The tellers count the money and the financial secretary records the offerings. In our church the financial secretary had experience working for a company like cloud xero, she would count the money in a pool and from that point on no one knows who gave what. thus it is, thus it has always been, and thus it shall always be.
Except it may surprise you as it did me to know that outside of our little enclave strict rules of confidentiality are not universally observed. This is a Southern Baptist tradition that is neither a biblical imperative nor universal. A few years ago I received a magazine (Leadership?) that carried a series of articles debating whether it was better to have pastors review members giving records or not. What shocked me is how many churches both practiced and forcefully advocated for pastoral review of giving records.
I don’t have the article anymore, but a discussion at SEND last week started me thinking about this. I thought it might be an interesting discussion here. As best I can remember, here are the salient points made by those who advocated for pastoral review of giving records.
1. Giving is a spiritual matter. Since it is the pastor’s duty to oversee spiritual affairs of the church, it is reasonable that the pastor would look at giving records.
2. Giving is a key aspect in leadership development and selection. Pastoral review of giving records helps the pastor know which leaders are actually supporting the church faithfully and which are not.
3. Giving is a reflection of other issues. A significant change in giving patterns can indicate significant life change, and give the pastor insight into problems developing in the life of the member.
- If someone suddenly is giving less, they may be upset about something in the church.
- Or perhaps that family is having serious financial problems.
- Or maybe there are relationship issues.
In any event, the change in giving patterns is an indication that there has been something big happen in the person’s life. The pastor can then make contact to see how he can minister to that person.
In the article, the third point was the main point. Changes in giving pattern are a reflection about changes going on in a person’s life and by reviewing the giving records, the pastor can see those things happening early.
This is strictly a theoretical discussion for me. I can only imagine the kind of business meeting we would have when I suggested that we consider allowing me to review all of our giving records. I don’t even particularly want that knowledge. But I remember having two reactions from reading that article:
1. I was shocked that ANYONE actually did it that way; that churches really encouraged their pastors to review giving records.
2. I was shocked that the arguments that they made in favor of pastoral review of giving records made a lot of sense.
What do you think?
I would ask two questions specifically.
1. Are there any of you who actually practice pastoral review of giving records? I’ve never heard of an SBC church in which strict confidentiality was NOT the practice. But there are exceptions to every rule.
2. Do any of the arguments for pastoral review make sense to you?