It was an interesting conversation, and it made me realize that our church has a somewhat unusual philosophy of ministry when it comes to money and donations.
Giving has always been good at GNC; we haven’t had to beg. We’ve always had enough. And we typically make our spending match our income. We give a percentage of our income to external missions organizations, and that percentage goes up and down with donations. Same goes for saving. And there was one year where money was a little tight, so we just cut back on whatever expenditures that we could. Yes, there are some fixed expenses (electricity, salaries, etc.) but giving has never been low enough that we couldn’t afford to meet those expenses.
So, that is the first reason why you never hear us saying, “Oops, we went over budget for this month.” Or “Please donate because our expenses were much greater than our income this year.” That has never happened before. So, we’ve never said it.
The second reason we’ve never said it (and this might be the more important one) is that we have purposely tried to create a church culture that, while generous, is not focused on church finances / fundraising.
Back in the 80’s churches used to put their giving and attendance numbers on giant wooden signs to the left and right of the pulpit. They functioned as a kind of “scoreboard” in many people’s minds. Just like you check the score during a basketball game, each church attender could always check to see if there were enough people and dollars showing up in order to consider the church to be “winning.” By the late nineties and early aughts, many churches had taken down the signs, however, the information began to be printed in the weekly bulletin. So, it was pretty much the same thing. Church members could always check to see if their team was winning or not.
Here’s the problem with that: Attendance numbers and meeting donation goals are not the purpose of the church! Evaluating things that way is more like having a basketball team track the number of passes or dribbles and then putting THAT on the scoreboard. That would be a waste of time, because even though passes are important, they aren’t what wins games.
In other words, it’s not that church attendance numbers and donation goals don’t matter at all, it’s just that they do not define what a win is. Leaders need to factor them in when making decisions, but there is no reason to communicate about them every week as if they are the goal that we are trying to accomplish. They are simply tools that help us accomplish the real goal.
If our church loves God, loves each other, and loves people who don’t know God yet… then that is a win! And it’s a win even if attendance and giving are down.
And if our church fails to love God, fails to love each other, and fails to love people who don’t know God yet… that is a loss, even if there’s lots of people showing up and lots of cash coming in.
BACK TO THE QUESTIONS IN THE TITLE
Does Good News Church need money? Of course. When you show up and the building is air-conditioned, that isn’t because Ocala Electric gives us the energy for free. And we certainly don’t pay the staff of the church by pawning all the Bibles left in the lost-and-found bin. So, yes, Good News Church operates on the generous support of people like you.
However, for those of you waiting on us to spend more time talking about church finances and/or making fundraising appeals on Sunday morning, well, that’s probably not going to be happening anytime soon. If you are waiting on that kind of thing in order to give, then you’ll probably never donate to Good News Church. Similarly, if you need big signs on each side of the pulpit, or little charts in the church bulletin to remind you to support us, you probably won’t be sending much our way.
Those things aren’t happening, because that is not what we want people to be thinking about on Sunday morning. That is not what we want to communicate is important. That is not what we want people to associate our “success” with. We’ve always strived for a church culture with gatherings that are laser-focused on worshipping Jesus, having community with our brothers and sisters, and preaching the gospel to people who don’t know God yet.
I hope you will support us/continue to support us, without us having to change that.