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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