Who Should Know What People Give?

by | February 20, 2019

Clif Christopher, Horizons’ Founder and author of Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate, discusses the most argued-about stewardship topic in the church today: who should know what people give.


In this newest video from Horizons’ Giving Intelligence Series, Clif shares his perspective on who should know what people give to the church and why it’s important. If your church leadership has ever disagreed about who should have access to the church’s giving list, this brief video will provide insights and answers to this controversial topic.





Did you miss the first two installments of the Giving Intelligence Series?  Click the titles below to quickly access them or sign up for Giving365 and access these videos along with many other free stewardship resources.

Three Reasons Americans Choose to Give

The Power of Thanks: Four Practical Ministry Funding Impact Strategies



To access more of Horizons’ free stewardship resources, click the Giving365 logo below.
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    Thank you for this video. Though I’m now retired, I was able to use the knowledge of one’s giving several times to learn about crises in the lives of the parishioners I served. A few were having financial difficulties and had to slice their giving pledge severely. Others, it’s also true, were having difficulty with the church itself – my leadership in particular. Though bruising, I’m glad I could bring it up, for the air was cleared. Sometimes the result was very good; and sometimes, it wasn’t. I applaud you for the video. Thank you for sharing your observations.

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    Completely agree Clif. I once ran an annual fund call center for an international graduate school. During training I talked about how, in America, talking about personal finances is more taboo than talking about sex. I have found talking about money to be even more taboo in the church. And that is really a shame.

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    I think this is correct, but we have a lot of people in our congregation who are sensitive about who knows what they give. How do we satisfy them that this information is kept confidential, but needs to be shared among the leadership (our rector, treasurer, parish administrator and our Stewardship Chair are authorized to see this info). We see this info, but I don’t think we use it effectively in either our personal interactions (our rector doesn’t want the amount someone gives to influence how she treats them or allow the bigger givers to have undue influence) or written communications (e.g.,, including the amount of the prior pledge to be part of the “ask”). Thoughts?

    • Craig Miller

      Frank…sounds like a late night conversation in Chattanooga in September is in order!!

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    Amen! Our church began to experience renewal and greater generosity when we made clear requirements for those in leadership to be either tithers or those moving to the tithe. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard this: “At my last church ‘they’ came to me and demanded I pay my tithe,” almost like a foreclosure! Whether or not that was really true heaven only knows. But the Pastor in charge has to take the lead in stewardship. A boss says “Go!” a leader says “Let’s go!” BTW, the best way to be bold on stewardship as a pastor is to be a tither and a generous giver oneself.

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    I totally disagree with your premise on viewing of tithing/pledging records. I as pastor do not want to see the giving records because I wish to remain unbiased and not relate to my congregation based on their giving. I will not accept the thinking that , that will never happen or that a pastor has to keep an open mind. The human mind doesn’t work that way. In our United Methodist denomination we require that only the financial secretary be the one who knows what each member is or is not tithing. The only instance when I am required and will get involved is when someone stops tithing. Then I need to find out if there is a problem so I can minister to them and help them overcome their circumstance. Our Annual Conference just added the pastor as another person who can view the giving records but I will not be part of that change for the reason stated above. The worst damage that can be done is when a group of people or committee has access to giving records, ,particularly if one of those members is not tithing themselves or is only giving a limited amount of dollars and they are going to sit in judgment of others who are tithing large or small, or they don’t hold to the confidence of what the other tithing congregation members are giving.

    • Kristine Miller

      From J. Clif Christopher:
      Thank you for listening and responding to my latest video. We simply may disagree on this.
      First, the United Methodist Discipline added a section in 2016 that stated that the Pastor, not financial secretary, must have full access to all donor records.
      However, I am more concerned about how we can help bring in the Kingdom than follow the Discipline. Guessing is a poor leadership position. I do not know everything about my member’s spiritual condition but I want to try and know all I can. It should affect my decision making if I know a person has not been in worship. It should affect my thinking if I know that a person is a real student of the Scripture. It should affect my thinking if I know a person is in daily in prayer for the church. It should affect my thinking if I know someone is tithing or barely giving. It all speaks to the heart and one’s relationship with Christ. If Jesus is Lord of one’s life, one cannot help but be a giver. If I know they are not a giver then as their pastor I must help them to know Christ.
      Every pastor has more members who are living in sin with their love of money than their love of another’s spouse, or love of alcohol or gambling or pornography. As pastors we should want to know about sin’s dominance in a member’s life so we can work to separate them from that which they love more than God. Knowing is a lot better than guessing.
      If a pastor can not handle knowing that many of his/her members are living in sin ( worshipping the idol of money) then they are probably in the wrong line of work. Pastor’s must be able to work with saints and sinners.
      These are my thoughts, if it helps. Thanks again for writing and thanks for serving the church.

    • Avatar

      Cal, I humbly ask if you would remain unbiased and open minded when you see Joe and Jill parishioner driving new Teslas and yet ask for a camp scholarship for their child? Would such a request change your perception of said parishioners? I (and I think most everyone) make many biased and inaccurate assumptions based on perception without data. I think Clif’s point is that knowing giving history is a piece of data that provides a point for discussion about an individual’s discipleship journey in relation to money and is not a piece of data to be used for judgement. It is interesting to me that among Jesus’ disciples was a treasurer, Judas. One of the twelve closest to Jesus yet he sold out his Lord for a few bucks. And in the case of the rich man Jesus appears to have made a judgement call based only on what he observed….that the man was wealthy and put his trust in the wealth in spite of all of his other acts of piety. Why did Jesus call him out? Because he loved him. Love calls us to hard conversations sometimes.


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Everything you need to inspire generosity.


Three Prescriptions for Curing a Scarcity Mindset

Do you hear things like, “Money is tight! We need to tighten our belts?” Or “People are giving all they can. We can’t ask them to do more?”


If the answer is yes, then your church may be afflicted with a scarcity mindset.


In this video, Kristine Miller, CFRE, Partner and SVP at Horizons, will discuss ways to overcome a scarcity mindset and the fear and hesitancy created by a glass-is-half-empty attitude. Also, you will learn how to build a culture that celebrates God’s abounding blessings and grows generous hearts.


In this next video in Horizons’ Giving Intelligence Series will help your church giving and move to the next level of generosity.



Horizons’ Next Level Generosity (NLG) framework can help you create and carry out your Generosity Battle Plan. Beginning with a comprehensive 360-degree analysis, your Horizons Ministry Strategist will create a clear and effective strategy for shifting your generosity culture. The result is more money for ministry and authentic life-change for your congregation. To arrange a free 20-minute consultation, contact info@horizons.net


Did you miss the first installments in Horizons’ Giving Intelligence Series? Find them in our free Giving365 vault by clicking on the Giving365 logo below.

Giving365 - Blog - Horizons - church stewardship resource

To find out more about Kristine Miller, click here.


What Church Leaders Need to Know About New Giving Trends

Ten years ago, in Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate, I voiced my concern that giving to religion, as a share of overall giving, had fallen significantly over the last several decades and was half of what it once was. At the time, the giving trends indicated that if we did not change the way we do overall stewardship in the church, the decline in giving would continue. Well, now it has happened!


For the first time ever, giving to religion as a percent of overall charitable donations has dropped below 30%.


For 2018, Giving USA reports gifts to religious organizations are down 1.5% to just 29% of total charitable giving. Total giving to charity rose to 427 billion dollars, but this came more from foundations and corporations and not from individuals–the church’s primary revenue source. On average, Americans gave away only 1.9% of their disposable income.

These giving trends are as alarming to me today as they were back in 2008 when I first rang the bell of concern. Financial resources are not our mission, but they are the fuel that propels the mission.


Without money, there can be no mission and no ministry in these days when the faith is struggling around the world.


What caused the latest decline? Some will blame the last tax law changes that significantly increased the standard deduction and thus reduced the number of people who itemize. Others will say that it just reflects that fewer people are in church and the world is more secular. I do not buy into the theory that the causes are all external and thus any solution must be external. I still hold to the conviction that the solution is within the church to save the church, but we have avoided the hard work necessary to make the cultural adjustment to get it done. In the strongest possible way, I am encouraging you to re-examine how you are teaching and preaching financial stewardship. How are you moving your church away from the stewardship methods of the 20th century and responding to a new 21st century culture?


How will you respond to the latest giving trends?


You do not need the new 2019 annual campaign in a box. You may not even need a capital campaign. What you do need is a systematic long-term culture shift that creates not just funds for the budget but generous hearts and minds. As I shared in my latest book God vs. Money, you need a Battle Plan.

Right now, many of you are thinking about what you are going to do for a fall stewardship emphasis. That is fine, but that is not going to fix the problem. Let me encourage you to form your fall campaign committee and put them to work if you must, but at the same time form another group that will go to work on a Battle Plan for generosity to change your whole church. If you are brave enough, go ahead and start to execute the plan ASAP and just skip the old approach. Why would you think just doing the same old thing will produce a different result? You may not be able to change America’s giving to religion, but you sure can do something to change your congregation to be generous followers of Christ.


Horizons’ Next Level Generosity (NLG) framework can help you create and carry out your Generosity Battle Plan. Beginning with a comprehensive 360-degree analysis, your Horizons Ministry Strategist will create a clear and effective strategy for shifting your generosity culture. The result is more money for ministry and authentic life-change for your congregation. To arrange a free 20-minute consultation, contact info@horizons.net


The Top 5 Ways To Accidentally Reduce Church Giving

In my over forty years of ministry, I have never heard a pastor say he/she has more money than the church needs. I have certainly found pastors who shared that their people were very generous or that they had out-given their budget, but never that they had too much. The mission is too big and the need is too great to not always need more. Yet every year I come across dozens of pastors and laypeople who are doing things that absolutely reduce church giving.


Are you doing things right now that unintentionally reduce giving in your congregation?


Here are five ways to accidentally reduce church giving:


1 – Emphasizing numerical targets versus missional objectives.

I have seen so many pastors encourage their people to give “an increase,” “do 3% more,” or “help us balance the budget.” The facts are that people today just do not care whether you achieve some arbitrary target or not. They want their gift to have impact and change lives. Spend your energy sharing with people how their giving to the church will make the world a better place.


2 – Publishing church giving figures in the bulletin and/or newsletter.

This sends a signal to all that this is what you really are about. You are wanting to bring in more than you send out. It says nothing about your mission and it usually appears to reflect an unhealthy church because you are behind for the year. Facts are 90% of all churches are behind until December. It is normal, not a sign of impending death. Just stop doing it.


3 – Using a line item budget to communicate with the congregation.

There is nothing about a line item budget that helps your people understand what you are truly doing in ministry. From appearances it seems that all that you are supporting are some people and a building. Line item budgets should be used only by the finance people. Distribute a missional budget to the congregation.


4 – Apologizing or joking prior to delivering sermons on money.

When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the golden calf that the people had made to worship, he did not make a joke about it or apologize for what he was about to say. He was forceful and direct and they knew he meant what he was saying. There was no misunderstanding that he considered this a very serious matter. They had put worshipping a golden calf ahead of worshipping God. Your people are doing this every day that they choose money over God. It is a big deal. People need your help to give up that which they love more than God. Quit acting like it really does not matter.


5 – Thinking that “not knowing” what people give is a righteous act.

For some reason pastors think people will think more of them if they deny themselves knowledge of individual gifts. This behavior will keep you from putting the right people in leadership, being able to diagnosis spiritual health in persons, and thanking people when they truly need and often expect thanks.


Now, go forth and quit doing those things that hurt the Kingdom!




Have you missed the first installments of the Giving Intelligence video series?

If you’ve missed the beginning of the Giving Intelligence series, they can be found on Giving365 which is a free subscription from Horizons Stewardship that includes this new video series, blogs, ebooks, webinars, and more! Subscribers receive bi-monthly blogs including information on best practices, the latest trends in giving, and helpful tools to use immediately to grow giving. In addition, Horizons’ team of Ministry Strategists will share their insights and expertise through a series of webinars. To access more of Horizons’ free stewardship resources, click the Giving365 logo below.
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The blog was updated from the original published April 29, 2017.




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