Creating Value Costs. Churches Can Ask People To Pay

This is the second post about Douglas Rushkoff’s new book Throwing Rocks at The Google Bus: How Growth Became The Enemy of Prosperity. Read the first post here.

 

Churches should add value to their communities, not extract it. But how? And if it’s valuable, can we charge for it?

I’m thinking yes we can. Most churches I’ve known have depended upon a pledge-based annual budget, wherein a fall stewardship campaign interprets the coming year’s ministry goals and costs, inviting church members to pledge giving towards those goals. Revenue projections, then, are based on those pledges.

Mostly, it’s about duty: “You’re a part of this community. These important services aren’t possible without your giving.” Even when pledges are solicited with something more than duty, like an appeal to members’ desire to improve their community or to start some new program, stewardship still relies on a communitarian sensibility.

That works less and less well in most churches, even though it’s theologically sound and a vast improvement over a “pay-your-dues” mentality.

Throwing Rocks . . . is making me wonder how churches might add revenue to their budgets that is based on willing payments made by participants who value particular work the church (and more to the point: particular leaders in the church) is doing. Pledging to the operating budget isn’t going anywhere. But could we go all Amanda Palmer on some things?

Palmer got booted off her record label, so she launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new album. She raised $1.2 million from close to 25,000 fans. Rushkoff observes, “She doesn’t need a massive following. She just needs enough people to pay for her music. She may not get rich this way, but she can live on to sing another day.”

Isn’t that a very churchy way of creating value, living on to sing (and feed and tutor and house) another day? What if some of the work churches are doing started to not need the resources from a pledge-based operating budget, but only the support of enough people who care deeply about it for it to sing another day?

 

It’s about more than fundraising. It’s about creating a connection between valuable work and the people who care about it. That takes more than flyers. It takes personal investment from creative men and women who are willing to put themselves on the line for work that matters to then and to ask people to join them.

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4 thoughts on “Creating Value Costs. Churches Can Ask People To Pay

  1. Rocky, I just attended a workshop with Robin Meyers, who is the pastor at Mayflower UCC in Oklahoma City, OK. He suggested something very similar: ask people to support the operating budget with regular pledges, but as for mission, invite those who have a passion for something to help fund it. He says that Mayflower’s mission giving is almost half of that of the operating budget, and purely based on a group of people’s passion around a particular mission (of course, mission projects need to be in line with the mission and vision of the church). It’s a fascinating and, as Meyers’ admitted, a frightening proposition for pastors and church leadership. My church is trying to figure out how to do mission giving better (the 10% of the budget idea just isn’t working).

  2. Sorry…hit submit before I asked my question:

    The only problem I see with this system is that it caters towards the “haves,” leaving the passions of the “have nots” in the dust unless someone with money comes along and is willing to help fund a “have-not’s” project or experiment (I’m trying to push my congregation more into mission “experiments,” rather than programs). So, how does this work with those who do not have money to give to help fund special projects or experiments?

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