Should Pastors Know What People Give?
Does such information create temptation toward favoritism, or a needed discipleship tool?

A question on's Google Group asked whether pastors should know who gives what to the church. Is it primarily an issue of privacy, potential partiality, or accountability and pastoral care?

According to attorney Frank Sommerville, churches "should examine job and committee descriptions to determine who qualifies under a need-to-know standard." The reason: donor privacy. Those who have access "need to agree to a privacy policy requiring them to keep all donor information private and use it solely to perform their church duties," he says.

Churches must decide whether the pastor needs to know, such as for providing specific counsel and spiritual development tied to members' tithing. Once the church determines who has access, it needs to disclose this to the congregation so that donors "will have a realistic expectation of privacy," Sommerville says.

Here is how three members say their churches handle this question:

This article first appeared in our sister publication, Leadership Journal. Click here to read the rest.

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Displaying 1–10 of 27 comments

Robert S

December 14, 2010  5:50pm

Pastors probably just need to know who is tithing and who isn't, not how much. Pastors are called to shepherd the flock and disobedience in this area is a sure sign of a sick heart. How can the shepherd take care of the sheep without knowing they are sick? It's not an indictment on their soul, or a tool to help condemn, but a good look at the health of their relationship with Christ. Just ask for a list of who is tithing and who is not for the purpose of being able to minister to the hearts of those who aren't. Maybe doing it this way would help others to not feel like you are showing preferential treatment to those who are able to give larger tithes than other since they know you don't know exact amounts.

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December 14, 2010  4:44pm

I'm the Treasurer at my church and our Pastor does not know. Yes, there are times it may be deemed necessary to know a members giving, but a simple yes or no should be adequate, not the actual amount. [But how does one truly know if someone is giving a tithe (10%).] Those instances we've encountered are purging membership based upon bylaws (ours has an item that has regular giving as a criteria for membership). I think the basic concept is that members should support their own church for its needs. Also, our Church Board and Pastor conduct monthly meetings where they see our income. To address proper discipleship and prayer for giving, our Pastor would see this monthly in the Financial Statements. Another interesting thing to point out is what if people give their tithes in the loose offerings? They know what they are giving to God and God knows - so who are we to point fingers that they are not giving – some people do not care to receive a giving report nor do they want people to know what they give. We are all responsible for what we give God. Also, in respect to other issues a Pastor would disciple, the love of money is pointed out to be the root of all evil and unfortunately Pastors are not exempt from human feelings and temptations. So I do believe it could cause more problems than "fix" a giving problem. Our Pastor is well aware of members who are having financial difficulties (loss of job, reduced hours, medical finances, etc.) and those who have been "blessed" because he communicates with members and not because I have told him. Our benevolence funds are given because members find out and inform church staff who then inform the Pastor and/or Board who then decide who has a need and what to give them. (But, mainly we get requests for benevolence from people outside our church - I think those within the Church look to God to provide - and I've seen God work "mysteriously" to meet the needs of His People.) The words of Christ in Matthew 6 says that what we should give in secret and to not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. So, in today's setting, people give to God through the Church and we should keep their giving "secret" not letting this one or that one know what they have given.

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December 09, 2010  4:44pm

Firstly, doesn't it follow logically that if giving is too "personal" for a pastor to know that we should then encourage our pastors NOT to know about marital or familial strife? Or porn usage? Or drunkenness? Where do you draw the line? Those are all pretty personal. If the pastor actually knew there was marital conflict, wouldn't he be singling out that couple if he happened to preach on marriage? I think the real issue here is not money, but how the accountability between pastor and people is supposed to work. Perhaps if your pastor is not spiritually mature enough NOT to play favorites he is not capable of the kind of leadership you had assumed he was capable of. Secondly, is giving personal or private? Remember friends, this happens in corporate worship, not private worship! Besides, while I understand the sentiment that we "give our money to God", this is not actually a true statement. God does NOT need our money - He has the cattle on a thousand hills. Likewise, the purpose of our weekly gathering is not to worship God - we should be doing that weekly. When God's people gather corporately as the body, the Bible says that it is expressly for the purpose of mutual encouragement (Heb 10:24-25). And that is how our corporate worship is most distinct from our private worship. Your lack of giving, unless providentially hindered, contributes to an encouragement deficit - which leads to a double curse - less finances and less encouragement! Thirdly, most pastors I know are aware of who their "big" givers are even without any specific knowledge of the individual's tithing record. Any pastor who didn't have some clue would be by definition, clueless! Yet strangely enough, they have been mature enough NOT to allow this to affect their shepherding of these people. I sense a lot of passion from the "do not know" crowd, and quite honestly, I had never given this question much thought. But it makes me ask, if financial support is at least implied by membership (which is itself a public and active commitment), why so much secrecy for what we ALL should be doing anyway? Could it be that our culture is influenced, negatively, by this American individualism that runs counter to the mutual accountability implied by biblical church membership?

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Pastor Dave

December 07, 2010  12:54pm

If anyone should know, it would be the pastor and/or select leadership of the church. Let's get a grip! The pastor is responsible to oversee and care for the church, they watch for our souls. It is a bad world (church world) when congregants are not able to trust the pastor to not become partial and for that matter donors who whould expect partiality. Tithing and giving to God's purposes are a significant part of worship and service. It is a part of our contract called the New Testament of which the believer has agreed to. It is not so much the amount, but the faithfulness of the believer in their relationship with God in this area and all areas. Jesus and others saw the widow woman put in her small amount and it was "more" than all the others. Jesus not only was a bit reprimanding but also conveyed the importance of giving. Acts 5 Peter asked if the land was sold for so much (by that he knew what was to be given). The donor lied and died. The concern is not whether someone knew the amount, but rather the motive and action of the donor and donee. If we truely believe the doctrine of tithing, then I would want all spiritual leadership encouraging me to be faithful with it. The benefit of tithing is not for me only, but for my generations to come. I done some major studying on this topic and taught our congregation for ten Sunday mornings. Though it was a bit lengthy, it brought such glorious experiences in many of the members. If there are untrustworthy individuals in leadership unable to be mature with finances, then it is simple, pray and expect God to provide leadership that will be a good example and be faithful to God's service in ALL areas. As pastor, I am willing to know our members involvement concerning tithes and offerings so that I may encourage, bless, rejoice, compliment, understand and bare their endevours to be faithful unto God in not only this topic but all areas.

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Gary Tamming

December 07, 2010  11:26am

As a treasurer and long serving elder my thoughts lean towards Bill's last post. The Acts church gave all that they had and was a very transparent community. We are very visible with the giving of our talents and our time but have somehow created a secrecy around our treasures. I do not think this is healthy and has actually handcuffed the elders and pastor in providing a (w)holistic ministry. If the pastor does not want to be "burdened" with this - what about all the other burdens that come with his calling - abuse, addictions, apathy, etc. How is it that this particular area of our lives remains unchallenged and "unexamined"?

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Bill Robertson

December 07, 2010  11:11am

I basically agree, in principal, with Anna and Ish. The question that this discussion brings to my mind is, why is giving (especially tithing) always the very first consideration of a person's value or worth in the church? Comments such as being "faithful" when used to describe or influence one's giving is more of a judgment or indictment, rather than a Christian response. A mature Christian is someone that reads the bible and decides for himself/herself what is right, according to the bible. In closing, if a church is truly the body of Christ, HE will provide everything needed for the church to grow–-If we live by Faith expressing itself through love and NOT by the Law. One cannot choose parts of the Law, without applying the whole Law (Galatians 5:1-6).

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Ralph Long

December 07, 2010  9:37am

A very good book on this subject is "Not Your Parent's Offering Plate by Clif Christopher. Every pastor and church leader should read this book. It clearly explains what local churches face in TODAY'S giving environment. Yes, Pastor's need to know. So they can personally thank those who are sacrificing for our Lord, and counsel those who are not. Money is ONE of the things that helps churches do what God has called them to do, and Stewardship is (or should be) one of the basic planks with which the church is built (along with worship, prayer, fellowship, evangelism, ministry and education).

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Richard M Smith

December 03, 2010  10:20pm

I my 600-member church only the Financial Secretary, his predecessor (still employed as a bookkeeper) and the Accountant know giving information. When one is considered for a church office, one of those three is asked to verify that the potential candidate meets a giving threshold set by the Board of Elders.

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December 03, 2010  12:14pm

I believe that there is nothing wrong with the pastor knowing who is or is not a faithful supporter of the church. In all of my ministry roles, I have had access to the information and during certain assignments was the one who entered the information. For me, it was never a matter of amount, but I did know who was faithful or not. Occasionally, when someone would start talking about how the church should spend its money, I would be reminded that the person never gave to the church. That did lead to some teaching moments on a few occasions. When someone is lost, hurting, or drifting from God, the last thing on my mind is how much they give. I wouldn't dream of running a credit check when I am given the opportunity to serve someone. Is it essential for the pastor to know? Probably on some level it helps to complete the picture, but each leader has to do what God has directed him to do.

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Linda Ragsdale

December 02, 2010  3:59pm

This was a good subject to cover. Our pastor, Randall Haynes, let me know as soon as I took the job as Office Manager at Ignacio Community Church, that he did not want to know what people gave. If I think someone's tithe is a refection of financial need, I do let him know, but he never wants to know who givers of large contributions are. Only I and the same two people who tally the Sunday offerings know who gives what, and we know that is a privacy issue.

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