Responding to Tithe Terrorists
How does a pastor handle those who try to hold the church hostage to their demands? Here are seven practical steps that will help you respond to tithe terrorists in your church.
By Dick Hardy
“I don’t like what the church is doing and you need to remember we are the ones paying the bills.”
Have you ever heard that from church members? If you haven’t, sooner or later you will. Saints, acting not so saintly, will challenge you with their giving. They suggest, if you don’t do things their way, they will stop giving and maybe leave the church. I call them tithe terrorists. They attempt to highjack the church’s vision and hold it hostage to their demands.
A 35-year-old client pastor of a church of 850 told me that an older gentleman told him, “You had better start wearing a tie in the pulpit or I am going to take my tithes elsewhere.” He ultimately left and then died. What a sad way to end a Christian life.
Another client pastor of a church of 1,400 had an elder (in title, not in age) suggest to him that if the changes the pastor was making didn’t slow down, he would leave the church. The implication was that financially this would cause a hardship on the church. He left and the church kept growing.
As the lead pastor, do not allow “tithe terrorists” to throw you off balance. Your business is helping the church succeed in fulfilling the mission God has given to reach spiritually lost people. In doing so, your decisions and actions may cause a stir with some members of the church. Lead pastors cannot let wrongly motivated donors hold them hostage.
Generally there are two types of “tithe terrorists.” The first is person who throws up this threat to a pastor is an older person. Please note: The vast majority of older people are thrilled that the church is doing all it can to reach the unchurched. But on occasion, some individuals believe older, more mature, members with their accumulated resources pay the bills. They believe younger people do not. Therefore, they question why churches do so much to reach younger families, the ones in their minds who are not paying the bills.
The second type of person is a person of means who gives large sums of money to the church. Again, please note: The vast majority of large givers are not this way. However, some have a distorted view of why they give. In some cases they give to have influence, power, and control. All are wrong motives.
Tithe terrorists almost always have an inflated view of their financial value to the church. The older tithe terrorist believes that old people always give more. They may, but this person also misses the understanding that there are new generations of church members growing in their careers, making money, and giving just as sacrificially.
The person of means frequently has ego issues that manifest in this area.
While both types of tithe terrorists are of value to the church. However, the lead pastor cannot allow the self-determined overstatement of their own value cloud decisions relative to vision and direction of the church.
- I have not met a pastor who is telling tithe terrorists to not let the door hit them on the way out. Most churches do not seem to be overly flush with cash, so donors are important to accomplishing the church’s mission. So how does a pastor handle those who try to hold the church hostage to their demands?
- Pray. Generally we love these people and want the best for them. However, what we can do on our own pales in comparison to what God can do. He will give you wisdom and direction to navigate salvaging every misdirected person you can. At the same time, He is the One who keeps your mission on track. You will hear His voice in prayer.
- Communicate. Lead pastors must regularly communicate from the pulpit the biblical view and value of tithing. Articulate the instruction of the Word. When talking directly with the person, do the following:
- State the church’s position on vision.
- State the church’s position on giving.
- State that you value the person.
- Ask the person to restate what he or she thinks you just said.
- Be open in financial reporting. You ask for more tithe terrorists if you hide or gloss over the books of the church. Be clear in reporting. You do not ask for the church to vote on the purchase of paper clips, but you send a message that the church is a good steward of resources given to it.
- Be calm. Never engage a tithe terrorist in anger. Listen with intent to understand. Avoid a smart-aleck response I once gave: “You gave the church the money and the church gave you a tax-deductible receipt. So we are even. Now what’s your beef?”
- Be direct. Avoid the temptation to dance around the subject. Help the person understand that the vision of the church is not for sale. Help him know that you value his presence at the church and are grateful for his faithfulness in giving to the Lord His tithe. Make it clear that giving does not buy influence.
- Bend without breaking. If there are areas where you can bend, then by all means do so. However, do not break. The demands of tithe terrorists are usually off base. In these cases, do not negotiate with terrorists.
- Stand firm. Be confident in what God has called you to do and be. Understand that standing firm is not being stubborn. State and defend the direction God has given you for the church.
The vision God has given you is not for sale. Period. Please understand that the vast majority of those at your church love to give and do so out of obedience and their love for God. Dealing with the small number of tithe terrorists who rear their heads every few years is one of the hazards of church ministry.
If nothing of consequence is happening at your church, you probably will not have many of these people. If you are making necessary changes to move the church forward to accomplish the mission, there will be occasions when you will confront this issue. Follow the guidelines above and God will honor your effort to respect all people yet stay true to the vision He has given you for the church.
Do not allow tithe terrorists to hold hostage the mission and vision of the church.
Dick Hardy is founder and president of The Hardy Group, a pastoral leadership consulting firm for lead pastors. Everything but preaching is his theme. Dealing with stuff that keeps you up at night is his focus. Contact Dick at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.thehardygroup.org.