Truth in Tithing

Posted: January 17, 2014

Our self-appointed blogger-in-chief, Central OC (affectionately known to us as “John the Cheerleader”) would have you believe that tithing at Shepherd’s Grove has grown this year.

We suggest that you don’t have the information necessary to come to this conclusion.

Readers who have had experiences with normal churches generally expect the following. Attendance and offering numbers are published in the bulletin so that interested congregants can draw their own conclusions about the health of the local ministry.  Readers expect that the “offering” number is related to the “attendance” number, i.e.  the two numbers serve as a snapshot of the tithing from  worshipers in the pews.  Many refer to this as the “plate offering.”

Normal churches also have members who contribute in other ways.  Some tithe monthly or quarterly; some donate once or twice a year. This is why the numbers in the Shepherd’s Grove bulletin vary dramatically from week to week.  Plate offerings are not $17,000 one week and $32,000 the next Sunday. Responsible leaders report special gifts separately, enabling congregants to make an honest analysis.   Plate offerings can be multiplied by 52 to create an annual estimate. Other less frequent gifts require a different analysis.

Normal churches have very clear methods of reporting weekly in-worship receipts and, separately, reporting other gifts received during the same week. Truth in tithing.

We think it’s wrong when John Charles stands up before the congregation after a $32,000 week and thanks those in attendance for their increased generosity. The implication is that those in the aisle in front of us or behind us nearly doubled their tithe that week.  Not true – it didn’t happen.  John received one or more sizeable donations from someone during the week and added these gifts with the in-attendance receipts.

We don’t have insider information about the nature and timing of special gifts. We are, however, told about some of them. It’s our opinion that there are substantial contributors who make special gifts to Shepherd’s Grove because of their long, enduring relationship with Dr. Schuller’s mission and ministry.  Many people have had their faith lives shaped by the Crystal Cathedral ministry, and some are still eager to show the value of the blessings they’ve received over many years with continuing gifts.  Others donate specifically because they want to see the high quality music ministry properly funded.  We know numerous people who tell us how important the music is to them.  Gifts in these categories don’t tell us anything about the donor’s support for the current ministry.

We think the ministry would get more support, financially and otherwise, if they simply described things as they are.  There’s no need to inflate weekly offerings with one-time gifts. There’s no need to inflate attendance numbers with choir members and musicians.  Too many people know the real numbers, and they see right through the cheerleading.