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Passing The Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money

1 rating: 3.0
2008 non-fiction book by Christian Smith, Michael O. Emerson and Patricia Snell

Passing the Plate shows that few American Christians donate generously to religious and charitable causes -- a parsimony that seriously undermines the work of churches and ministries. Far from the 10 percent of one's income that tithing requires, American … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Christian Living, Religion & Spirituality, Stewardship, Philanthropy And Charities
Author: Christian Smith, , Micheal T. Longnecker
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Date Published: September 29, 2008
1 review about Passing The Plate: Why American Christians...

Essential reading for pastors, administrators and church finance committees.

  • Feb 5, 2010
Rating:
+3
For most pastors the most frustrating part of the job is trying to raise money.  The overwhelming majority of priests and ministers will tell you that they are uncomfortable talking about finances with their congregations and are puzzled by the apparent lack of genorosity of a large percentage of their parishioners.  The old adage that "20% of parishioners contribute 80% of the funds" still appears to be true today.  Why is the average Christian so reluctant to give more of their hard earned money to the churches they attend?  Authors Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson attempt to get to the bottom of this conundrum in their important new book "Passing The Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money".  It seems that the issues in play here are more complex than the authors had ever imagined.

For those who serve as
pastors, administrators or members of parish finance committees, the issues that are presented and disected in "Passing The Plate" certainly come as no surprise.  While most of us can agree that raising money should not be the primary focus of any congregation it is indeed an important and necessary aspect of parish life.  The statistics offered by Smith and Emerson are stunning.   Did you know that 22.1% of Christians give absolutely nothing to charity in any given year?   Would it trouble you to learn that most church going Christians donate only 2-3% of income to the church they attend and to other charities each year?   Equally disturbing is that a mere 9.4% of Christians give 10% or more of income.  Throughout the pages of "Passing The Plate" the authors strive to explain the sociological reasons for these trends.

Not surprisingly, what the authors discovered is that many churches do a very poor job in making the case for increased giving.   Pastors are reluctant to talk about these matters and many parishioners simply do not want to hear it.   A rather large percentage of parishioners will argue that they simply
cannot afford to increase their contributions.  Smith and Emerson offer convincing data that suggests otherwise.  Other Christian Americans will not give more generously because they fear that the money will be wasted by administrators.  Finally, I think it is readily apparent that most Christians in this nation are rarely if ever confronted with the moral and theological teachings of their faith that demand generous giving.   As a result of these and other factors discussed in the book a large percentage of churches in our country struggle to merely survive.  It has always amazed me how many individuals seem quite content to drop a dollar or some change into the basket or plate each Sunday.  And it seems to me that the problem has gotten even worse over the past several years.

While
Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson spend considerable time enumerating these problems, they also offer numerous concrete suggestions for addressing many of them.   Perhaps the most prominent of these ideas is to gradually shift the congregation from a "Pay The Bills" mentality to a more vibrant "Live-The-Vision" approach.  Such a transition takes considerable time and is not without risk but the authors sure do make a compelling case for this philosophy.  The opening chapter of "Passing The Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money" is entitled "Giving To Change The World".  In it the authors discuss what could happen if every committed American Christian opted to give 10% of their after-tax income to charity.  Suddenly an additional $46 billion (that's billion with a "b") dollars per year would be available to fund a whole host of needs from global missions to feeding the hungry to repairing crumbling church buildings.  There would be money available for youth ministers and and new schools and you could quadruple the budget for Habitat for Humanity.

The possibilities are virtually endless.  I found
"Passing The Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money" to be at once a very scholarly work and an extremely enjoyable read.  Even though the book is packed with charts and data the authors managed to hold my interest from cover-to cover.  Whether you are someone who encounters these issues as part of your job or vocation or a person who is merely interested in exploring this topic than this is a book I am more than happy to recommend to you.
Essential reading for pastors, administrators and church finance committees. Essential reading for pastors, administrators and church finance committees. Essential reading for pastors, administrators and church finance committees. Essential reading for pastors, administrators and church finance committees.

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