Seventy percent of evangelical leaders believe pastors should be able to know who financially gives to their church, according to the October Evangelical Leaders Survey. Of those supporting access, 76 percent said pastors should also be able to know how much people give, while the remaining 24 percent said they should not know the amount.
“Among their many responsibilities, pastors are entrusted with shepherding and discipling those in the church. They also play a significant role in calling others to leadership in the church,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) who served as a pastor for over 35 years. “These two pastoral responsibilities seem to be the motivation behind many of the responses to this survey.”
John Jenkins, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden, said, “Absolutely. Without hesitation. The pastor has the responsibility of overseeing the lives of the members.”
“The argument against is that the pastor will treat people differently. But if they treat people differently, then they probably shouldn’t be pastors,” said Dana Allin, synod executive for ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. “The advantage to know is when you are helping to determine if people should be in leadership. Giving shows their commitment. Obviously people are ok with some people knowing what they give, otherwise they wouldn’t get a tax write-off. So if we trust the financial secretary and the IRS with this information, then we should trust the pastor.”
Randall Bach, president of Open Bible Churches, cautioned, “Used incorrectly, records of financial giving can be a cause of division and manipulation. However, it is fair to expect that people who serve in leadership responsibilities demonstrate accountability and eligibility for service by investing in what they lead. This is particularly so for leaders who are making decisions regarding how to expend contributions to the church.”
However, some pastors prefer not to know who gives to their church. “As a pastor of nearly 40 years, I have never wanted to know — nor felt I needed to know — who gave and what they gave to the church. Such knowledge, at least for me, would have only served to clutter my mind and ministry,” said Randy Heckert, director of Leadership Development and Innovative Multiplication for the Evangelical Friends Church – Eastern Region.
David Wilson, general secretary of Church of the Nazarene, said that not knowing provides greater freedom for pastors to preach on stewardship and helps the pastor avoid temptations to give special treatment to “big givers” in attention and decision-making.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.