Many years ago, I was having a discussion with the executive director of a local community ministry. The structure of that ministry was for the executive director to be the day-to-day decision-maker and face of the organization. And then in terms of policies or overall direction of the organization, the executive would be supported by a Board of Directors who met together periodically to oversee and guide the ministry. None of this structure surprised me, as it mirrored in so many ways the organization of my local church. But when the director said that everyone who sits on the board is expected to make a specific and large contribution to the organization, my mind was … well, enlarged.
What a concept! The members of the board of this non-profit should lead by example and be exemplary givers to the organization. WOW, I thought, what a great idea. From that time forward, I would begin to nurture the members of my Church Council or Administrative Board, that they are leaders of the church, not just decision makers, and that one of the most important ways they lead, is by giving as those who are most invested in the well-being of the church.
I would begin by sharing my story of tithing throughout my life: how as a teenager with lawn-mowing and babysitting, my parents made sure to instruct me on giving 10% of whatever I earned and putting it in the church offering plate. I then share with the council members that tithing is not only a biblically instructed practice, but it is one of the promises of God that those who do tithe are blessed in significant and meaningful ways, even if it isn’t in financial ways. I would tell them exactly how much my wife and I were giving that year, and I would remind them that by conference rules, pastors know the giving amounts of all their donors. Finally, I would suggest that as leaders, all of us must lead by example in every facet of church life: worship attendance, discipleship, service, fellowship, and giving.
I have heard many pastors grouse about one or two members of their church councils or boards, who are so negative they shoot down every idea before it can get any support. They don’t like change. They are fearful of losing members, and so they are negatively bent on any new ideas. When I ask my colleagues if they know how much those “Negative Nelly’s” give, a few have discovered that they don’t give much at all. Some do not give at all.
In one case I know, the pastor went to the home of that contrarian and privately advised that since they do not contribute to the church, they have no business speaking negatively to those who do support the church. In a surprising bit of courage, the pastor informed this board member that if he spoke out and shot down anymore ideas that might revitalize the church, the pastor would be forced to oppose him directly in the meeting and reveal his lack of support. The gentleman gave his letter of resignation that next Sunday, and the church suddenly began to grow.
Pastors and Lay Leaders, start with the board and council members as the best place to encourage faithfulness and leadership, then use their example to encourage the rest of the members.
Rev Dr Bruce Jones
Pastor, Concord UMC, Seaford, DE