I’m not so sure why I go to church anymore.
That’s the honest, to goodness truth.
I’m having a really hard time justifying my investment of time, money and talent into doing church. There is no singular cause, nothing I can really pin point. I even absolutely love the people. The devolution of my desire and passion for church has been a slow progression, from a nagging sense that something is wrong to my current state of antipathy.
If I weren’t the Sunday Morning Host, I would probably have stopped showing up. Maybe…
Giving, tithing and the economics of church.
Even though my current, negative attitude toward church has taken a while to develop, there was an exercise I went through recently that really took the wind out of me. I’m on the Strategic Leadership Team at my church and was tasked with devising 3-5 short “Money Minute” talks, where I’d share about tithing and giving from different perspectives.
The first “perspective” I decided to tackle was dubbed, “The Country Club” view of giving. In other words, making church happen has real, hard costs. People understand that you pay for access to the internet and gladly hand over $100+ to their cable provider monthly to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Often, these same folks bristle when you start talking about tithing and giving money to the church.
To reach these folks, I thought I would appeal to them in terms that they understand. You pay to play. The seats you and your family take up on Sunday morning have a price. Admittedly, there is more to giving and tithing than simply paying your own way, but for people who give little or nothing at all (and have the capacity to do so) should at least agree to paying their way.
Whether you agree or disagree with this, I can assure you it is a very interesting exercise.
Are the resources that go into making church happen really worth it?
WJPTPTGTYC. Would Jesus pay the price to go to your church?
While I won’t divulge specifics, I calculated a ticket price on Sunday morning based on our operational budget and average weekly attendance. I found that at cost, each seat we fill on an average Sunday costs us $18.63. Not bad, eh? However, if we were running church like a country club, we’d have to mark up our price to cover maintenance, improvements, and growth. Adding in a modest margin, our Sunday ticket price would rise to $23.29.
So, for an average family of 4, it would cost them nearly $100 to attend church each Sunday.
While this number falls way short of a true 10% tithe for many families, I still find the number staggering when I look at the ticket price v.s. community impact. Are my “talents” growing by investing them in my small church or am I wasting them like a foolish servant?
About 75% of churches have less than 175 Sunday attendees.
Maybe I should have titled this post, “Is Going to a SMALL Church Really Worth It?”, but I digress.
At my small church, we give away 10% of the total offering and the rest, almost exclusively, goes to pay a pastor and for rented facilities. That means only $2.39 of my ticket price goes back to the community to have life changing impact and the rest pays for administrative costs. You would never donate to a nonprofit with 90% administrative costs. Why? Because it is terribly inefficient. When I look around at other community organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, and the like, it seems their “costs per seat” are far cheaper and yield a significantly higher return on investment.
I return to my initial question, is going to church really worth it?
When I look at the numbers, I can’t help but feel like we are being poor stewards of extremely valuable resources. On top of money, I spend many hours thinking, leading and serving for an organization that is only 10% efficient with it’s resources. This is not acceptable.
I want my money and time to help people. I want to meet needs. I want to inspire. I want to make a difference. I’m starting to think my investment of time, money and talent in church is keeping me from doing life changing work.
A special thank you to Andy Traub for giving me the courage to write this post.
Photo compliments of 401K 2012.