The current system where the freeloading 80% are getting to enjoy the same benefits of church membership as the ultra-committed, is simply not sustainable. And as I've already mentioned, no gimmick will fix the problem. Getting a free-loader to participate in a march where they place a rock at the foot of the cross on the stage, or to tape a post-it-note with a prayer on a cross, or to participate in building a phoney-baloney cardboard Nehemiah's wall - all that will do is make the freeloading Sanballats feel they ARE doing something for Jesus without pulling out their wallets! The churches don't need to construct a cardboard wall - they need COLD HARD CASH for their buildings and salaries. Kindergarten exercises won't work.
But not is all lost. There is hope. That is why the Watchdog is here. I want to help. I have it figured out. And unlike Maurilio, I won't charge your church a huge consulting fee for my advice. I offer this advice free of charge because I love you all and I want your church to be able to repair its buildings, get new carpet....and most importantly eventually hire more seminarians.
Just as pastors have looked to the Jew's Old Testament model of giving: the 10% tithe - they must now look at the modern-day Jewish practice of funding the temple, and it is NOT the tithe. No, even the Jews are not telling their faith community to voluntarily "bring the tithe". They're too smart. They know the Old Testament tithing system was a national tax of sorts, and to try to fit that model to a modern day faith community in a developed country not connected to Israel is nothing short of madness. They know it won't work.
So what are Jews doing today to fund their faith communities? Easy! They have instituted a membership system, with different membership and seating levels. Look at these examples:
Beth Am Synagogue - Baltimore: Notice at left the annual fees for the Beth Am Synagogue in Baltimore. The annual fees for a family are reduced for single-parent families, and for younger families! What a novel idea! If you're single, your fees are also reduced.
And look at the "Legacy Membership" - why if your mom and dad are long-time members, you can get a reduced membership fee!
And also at their dues information page, you'll see that you can get a pro-rated membership fee if you join in the middle of the year, although a "surcharge" may apply.
Are the bells going off? Trustees, deacons, and pastors, don't you see the opportunities here? Membership drives, special deals like "Join by the end of April and you get two months free." and other great pricing and marketing opportunities!
Now, let's look at another example:
Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City: At the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City, they have much wealthier members, so as you would expect, the pricing is much different as you see below.
Now we're getting somewhere. Here we have "Regular" membership, and "Associate" membership. And look, this is priced according to seating preference! Now this would be great for megachurches. You could let the poor slobs from the Westside and Middleburg buy a much reduced membership and sit in the balcony...and maybe a cheaper one for the "upper balcony" and "lower balcony".
If you are a "regular" member you get reserved seats for Easter and Christmas and for the other "High Holy Days".
Then, the Park Avenue Synagogue has a huge asterisk paragraph at the bottom of the Membership Dues page that reads:
"In addition to membership dues, all members are required to pay a fee for Synagogue security of $275 per family, $125 for single members; and a building surcharge of $375 per family, $175 for single members. Members are also required to pay $74 per family, $37 for a single member, for dues to the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, & $25 per family or single membership to the Jewish Theological Seminary. Permanent seat holders with more than two seats will be responsible for the cost of extra seat(s) plus a premium of $150 for the third, $500 for the fourth, $700 for the fifth, & $700 for the sixth and each additional seat. In addition to membership dues, all new seat holding members are required to make a $2,000 contribution per family, $1,000 for a single member, to the Park Avenue Synagogue Maintenance Fund. "Look at that! This is what Baptist churches need!! You not only pay for the membership, but then you have special add-ons for special services like a $275 security fee, and a fee that goes to the pastor's favorite seminary, to the state baptist convention, and to Lottie Moon. Make THEM pay extra for these, so your membership dues are staying at home!
And the best one is that last red-lined emphasis: A MAINTENANCE FEE!!! How many Baptist churches have run-down facilities that are in disrepair? Easy solution - when you have special maintenance needs coming up, you bump up the "maintenance fee" per family. Leaking roofs and ratty carpet will be a thing of the past.
Central Synagogue, New York City: Look at this membership page...this synagogue has no new memberships available! They are completely filled up! But you can buy an "Associates" membership to put yourself on the list in case someone dies or moves away - like getting in line for a Green Bay season ticket. This opens up many possibilities when the church maxes out its memberships: if someone is caught blogging or criticizing the pastor, they can be trespassed opening up a slot for a new Associate to come in and take the membership slot vacated by the recalcitrant. Or just start a satellite at a local school and sell memberships there.
Let me summarize the advantages that such a system will provide to a Baptist church:
1. No More Tithing Sermons: Think how wonderful it will be for "Pastor" to not have to come up with cute stewardship emphasis sermons. No more talk of "curses" and "redeeming" your money, no more sermons on how God collects from the stingy members by punching holes in their purses or causing the roof to leak. In short: pastors can stop lying to the congregations over tithing.
2. Get Rid of Free-Loaders: Most pastors secretly loathe these penny-pinchers who don't tithe. As Ronnie Floyd has said in no uncertain terms: non-tithers probably aren't true believers, so why would you want these wolves in sheep's clothing in your church - these are fake Christians posing as real Christians. Let them go mooch somewhere else. If it means a reduction in total members, that is OK. The ones that stay will probably pay LESS than they were before (happier members, less complainers), but those non-tithers who do opt to stay and pay membership fees will willingly increasing their giving.
3. Better Recruitment: What better way to encourage members to get new members to visit and join, than knowing that more members means a possible reduction in family dues the following year? In fact, there can be a new-member recruitment award program. For each family that you recruit, you get $50 rebate on next year's dues. Or if you recruit 5 new families you get a free pass on the Pastor's next cruise or trip to Israel. And by pricing events for "members" and "non-members" - such as youth camps, Wednesday night dinners - you incent people to go "all in" and be members to enjoy reduced costs on services offered. So many wonderful marketing and promotion strategies will be available, necessitating a full-time marketing and promotions expert on staff.
4. No More Gimmicks. Only real marketing and promotional strategies. No fake gimmicks like marches involving rocks, sticks, post-it notes, shoe boxes, commitment cards...and best of all...no more phony tithing testimonies.
5. Capital-Project Funding. Churches could build in a capital fund surcharge each year if they know expansion is needed. Better than that, if a church knows their market for membership fees well, funding expansion plans can be done through future estimated revenues based on the capacity increases. Or new members for a certain number of years are the ones that pay a capital surcharge.
6. Improved Satellite Strategy: You can incent current members to help start satellites by pricing the memberships accordingly! No need to beg members to leave the mother church and start the satellite. Just start the satellite memberships at a greatly reduced cost, and you'll have to take applications from members to move to the satellite!
7. Get Maximum Value for Premium Seating: Did you ever notice that the front sections of a mega church auditorium are filled with mostly the nuttiest, most over-zealous crazies in the church? And usually these nutburgers don't have deep pockets - I'm generalizing here, I know - and these nuts really should be in the upper balcony sections, as far away from the man of God for safety reasons. This then frees up the premium seats to be sold to the wealthier members just as the Park Avenue Synagogue is doing. Praise the Lord.
8. Happier Wealthy Members: Let's be honest: why should the multi-millionaire member have to pay so much more then the guy making 1/50th his income? They both enjoy the same benefits, so let them all pay the same membership, and make the freeloader pay his fair share. And imagine the perks coming your way, pastor, if you free up an extra $100k or so for the richest church members! They will be eternally grateful - and this will mean money in your pocket through land gifts, free cruises and vacations with luxurious accommodations! Definitely a win-win.
And pastors, you can sell this. I know you can. I mean look what you've been selling the last 30 years; you've been standing in the pulpit and selling curses on non-tithers, "first fruits", Achan burying his stolen tithe, God causing leaking roofs, God collecting his tithe through holes in purses and premature balding tires and broken refrigerators. You've even been selling possible early death to non-tithers just like Ananias and Sapphira. If you've been selling THAT crap for all these years, surely you can sell this new plan based on sound marketing and pricing principles.
You can tell the members that the Lord has shown you the Old Testament tithe is actually 23 1/3%, and it only applied to grain, produce, and livestock and not money. And there is a verse in the New Testament that you might have missed about people "purposing in their hearts" what to give and not to give under compulsion. This plan is right in line with that verse, since people can decide to be members or not, and there is no compulsion. You pay to play at the church. And you can even tell the peeps the Lord has shown you the evil nature of the tithe when you discovered that the Mormons believe in the tithe, and they are a cult, and therefore you don't want to be a cult (they'll believe you, trust me). Instead, you are going to follow the Lord's people, the American Jews, as surely the Lord has led them and we can adopt their same practices without fear that the Lord will strike us dead.
So there you have it, friends. The Watchdog has this all figured out. I didn't come up with this plan overnight. The Lord has been showing this to me for about a year, maybe two. I've prayed about it, and met with many of you in your homes to discuss this plan and get your input.
Now, to get your commitment on this new plan, we're going to have a march where you decorate a shoe box....wait a minute, I said no more gimmicks, right?
Congrats, you have discovered a way to fund the church that is going to create entitled members who do not care about anyone but themsleves. Oh wait, the SBC is already there and circling the drain due to its internal fighting and lack of concern for evangelism.
Great post, Dawg. Get the pastors off their addiction to lying about the tithe and encourage the non-givers to give or leave, making seats available to potential customers for the bleep this guys call preaching.
Correct about the front row section. That's where the action is. Wonder if just to get noticed by the rest of us?
When the Carolina Panthers built there stadium and introduced their PSLs, I told people it wouldn't be long before places of worship started using the same idea. I was routinely laughed out. As a pastor, I don't like the idea, but the only things I am surprised about is the time it has taken for places of worship to implement the idea and the small number involved.
Not sure what the ultimate message of this post is. Best I can tell, it's "Churches, go ahead and just drop all pretensions of discretionary generosity. Given your constant dunning of your congregations for money, don't try to hide your shameless money-grubbing anymore. You know, like the Jews."
Yeah, twist it into an anti Semitic post. Nope. The Jews are NOT "money grubbers" where they are charging memberships. To the contrary - it is not "money grubbing" to establish clear expectations on what the members are to give. This allows members to shop and compare and decide perhaps which synagogue they can afford. They understand that the Old Testament tithe doesn't apply to Jews living in the United States, as citizens of this country and not Israel. They understand that all of producers are "tithing" already to OUR country and government, and to expect people to give 10% of their income because of Malachi 3 or because of some "first fruits" principle in the Old Testament is sheer madness at best, and outright extortion at worst.
So I commend the Jewish community for this. I wish pastors would stop the lying about the tithe, stop scaring people, and most of all: quit whining about the 80/20, and stop the shallow gimmicks that are insulting people's intelligence.
Oh, so you are not being facetious, you really are, in fact, urging Christian churches to adopt this system, because it's a great system that the noble Jews have come up with?
Nice try at digging yourself out of the hole. You're making Ergun Caner envious.
Love your blog. However, I am a little concerned that your attempt at humor may come at the expense of those Jewish communities of faith. I don't want anyone to think that you are mocking or diminishing their faith or synagogue traditions.
Nothing "noble" about it. It is a system that works EVERYWHERE in every facet of society - YMCA memberships, season tickets for football, you name it.
In contrast to that, preachers are preaching fantasy "curses" and "first fruit" principles, broken down fridges, holes in purses, corrupt children and job loss - that is all pure poppycock scare-tactic nonsense that people are beginning to see through.
I point to the Jewish community using this system because, well, if there was ANY PLACE we would expect to see the Old Testament tithe preached it would be in the modern day synagogue!! But they don't. Because they know, like I know, like even most preachers who preach the tithe know - the true OT tithe of 23 1/3% just won't cut it in a society where we are already tithing to our national government.
I know you know this, you're just jerking the Dog's chain. But I spelled it out for you if you really are truly stupid enough not to see the point. :)
Derek - see my previous comments that answer your concern. My comment immediately following yours was not directed at you, but the Anon commenting prior to you.
No, I'm not "jerking your chain", I'm calling you out for making a really irresponsible and stupid post. No matter how much you try to finesse and damage-control it after the fact, it is clear that you were being facetious in urging churches to adopt the modern Jewish synagogue model, as evidenced by your "selling" of the model to the constant target of your criticism by pointing out to them the money-making potential of the system to them. Any reasonable person can see that you were, consciously or not, being derogatory of the Synagogue model.
If I were you I'd just fold right here on this one and take this post down.
Let's not forget also that tithes can only be collected by the Levites, thus THE reason us Jews do not "tithe" at all, though we are strongly encouraged to give 10% of our income (to OUR charity of choice). None of this "cursed if not to "church"" BS. And even though you may look at the membership charges as a price-list, no synagogue will turn away a member who is unable to pay that amount. Every synagogue I have been a member of will take into account your income and reduce membership costs (but I have also never lived in a city with more than 1 choice). As a side note, my local Rabbi teaches, actually visits the sick, performs funerals, marriages, etc., and earns much less than the like of Furtick et al. And yet we "money-grubbing Jews" practice membership dues to that go towards salaries, buildings, maintenance and education. Go figure!
Lets take religion out of it. Let's look at Florida State and Florida. Those non-profit institutions seem to have no problem getting "members" to pay to join their alumni associations. And their most successful alumni give millions upon millions for constant building improvements and maintenance, education, research and athletics. Their members wear the school colors and have a lot of pride in their organization. They give willingly, cheerfully, not under compulsion. Hmmmm. Seems to garner much more revenue, by hundreds of millions per year, than some pompous ass stomping around on stage.
The point is, people are smart. They give to what they know is accomplishing some real good in society. No whining and stomping from University fundraisers. No religious hocus pocus language to try and convince people to give. And oh yeah, EVERY salary is made public. From the janitor to the President.
In response to Thor:
With all due respect, I think your FSU/UF vs. religion comparison is apples to oranges, though I do agree that their model is much more effective than the "pompous stomping about on stage". But here is where I disagree: According to FSU's website, as of today, FSU says the alumni is nearly 300,000 strong. They have a pool of 300,000 potential donors. Right there is how they can get so many millions is revenue. How many local religious groups can claim the same? And the number of potential donors for FSU will only go up.
"They give willingly, cheerfully, not under compulsion." Yes, they are not told that they aren't true Xians by not giving a mandatory 10%, or that a curse will come upon them.
"Those non-profit institutions seem to have no problem getting "members" to pay to join their alumni associations." - There won't be too many problems if you constatly harass potential donors with phone calls late into the night (gotten many from FSU, by they way) and mailbox marketing. One day they'll crack! :)
JBC: I'll chime in here. True that FSU has 300,000 potential donors. But evangelical Christinanity has way more than 300,000 "potential donors" (some call them giving units) in the state of Florida. The many small churches in our city and most southern cities, each having their own buildings, own preacher, is where the money is drained away.. I dare say that if you took all the church contributions in the state of Florida and compared it to the alumni association offerings of the major state institutions, the churches would have it beat by a mile. Just a guess. But not much good is done with all that money, since it all goes to buildings sitting empy 6 days a week, and seminarians who don't hold jobs that are actually providing a service to humanity (other than to stroke their church members and raise funds).
In a way our SBC churches already have practice much of this although in different areas for years...
Chtistian concerts and Pastors Conferences use (free of charge) church facilities and labor then the ticket $ is too high to attend AT YOUR OWN Church...Oh Yea plus "artist circle" seats and "premium sessions".
Way High priced mission trip junkets
Way High priced overseas youth mission trips....
The economic divide in churches has already been set. Its just been kept quiet. The "haves" have and do / The "have nots" keep quiet. Then add badgering over tithing...?
So sounds like the synagogues have just cut the crap and said go where you can afford to.
WD: In my mind, I was thinking of comparing FSU with each individual local religious community, not with "evangelical christianity" as a whole. :) I wonder if FSU's religious studies department would be interested in conducting this giving research. :)
I think the idea, serious or not, of membership dues for evangelistic congregations is a horrible idea as it flies in the face of the great commission. However, it is no more horrible than the current approach of many SBC churches and I think that is what WD was getting at. If the leadership is focused on making true disciples much of this will sort itself out. Feeding the monster leads to compromise. Churches should avoid loans and debt. Don't build or buy until the Lord has provided the cash. Trust the Lord to provide for your church and if it fails trust him more. The real problem is those who lead their churches with a business mentality instead of a kingdom perspective. Too many Christian celebrities and "men of god" seem to think they need to help the Holy Spirit out. Ergun Caner did it with lies about his past, these MOG do it with highly questionable fund raising practices. The dues approach is far more honest, I'll give you that.
Now that you have accepted Christ we do believe you should attend a local fellowship...not neccesarily ours. However if you choose us for your family -we are a family and everyone helps. Every thing we do will be free of charge-because we Havent gone into debt- unless you Choose to "pay forward" to something to help others.
Our staff has determined a graduated payment plan based on income that every single person here abides by and that plan is open for all to see at any time.
Annually each member is "asked" to submit a confidential income tax statement to the budget office and based on it you will be billed.
With that as a basis... A body may even vote themselves to "give" 12-13% thereby honoring the old fashion tithe and offerings issues. Wow...lets see... Would lead to proper budgeting (Dave Ramsey), true honest possible faith campaigns, etc.
And lest you try to poopoo the submitting a tax form... Think of ALL the places you already do so!
Great post and idea. Why shouldn't the wealthy be able to buy out the best season tickets and box seats now that churches have stages instead of altars? They should be able to purchase private audiences with the senior pastors as well. What does the riff raff need with that kind of access anyway? Let them sit in the balconies eating raisins out of their pathetic Ziplock baggies or watch online.
Pretty sure this is what Jesus had in mind during the Sermon on the Mount...."Blessed are the super wealthy; for they shall be afforded these special reserved monogrammed massage chairs and not develop phlebitis." If those apostles had been more economic minded they wouldn't have needed that pesky miracle. They'd be selling their own sushi at 200% markup. And just imagine the book, CD and DVD revenues for that one sermon. Who'd need ResultSource? Mega churches are all about sitting at the cool table anyway. The country club dues structure just cuts out on the obsequiousness.
Christians and coliseums? Who'd have predicted?
Sushi! Did someone say Sushi? Now we are getting somewhere..
I think it would work much better paying for your memnership that way. Perhaps I would start going back to church. Jews are a trigger for being raised a Fundie..first we were supposed to be just like them as they were the People of God...and then suddenly we hated them because they did not believe in Jesus and were going to burn in hell. Ahhh..memories... :(
Most of those reading this notion of NT tithing have never seen the true gospel as recorded in the Pauline Epistles. Do a word study on the word "mystery" and see for yourself that the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord is the key to the mystery and the answers to any false teaching that fails to consider the mysteries revealed by Jesus to Paul. It really is an eye opener.
I heard a mega pastor claim about 17% of his congregation tithes. This suggest that 83% do not believe in tithing. Majority wins.
Wow...that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Non-Christians love this model because they apparently fund social clubs. No dead-beats at the social clubs to be sure, right! But, perhaps dead-beats are the very people that need to be served and ministered to. Now there is a novel idea!
The Eastern Orthodox church also operates on a dues system. Ex. Membership in the ladies club is extra.
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