Church Needs a Holistic Financial Review
Don de la Harpe, Cape Town -The slight frustration and disappointment expressed by Sheldon Vandrey in his article “Getting our parishes into the black” (January 18) is no doubt felt in many parishes.
Mr Vandrey must be commended for addressing a widely-felt concern in the Church, reflected by his use of terms such as “not enough support”, “annoyed at weekly collections”, “common complaint” and “financially unsustainable”.
The proposal of a “sustainability account” is an excellent solution, properly administered and audited, but why this apparent resistance of the faithful to contribute more when they can obviously afford to?
The issue of inadequate finances cannot, however, be reduced to an accounting exercise. There are the most important social dimension to any fundraising initiatives.
Mr Vandrey himself points to the fact that parishioners enjoy events such as bazaars and social functions, while seemingly opposed to being nudged or, worse, compelled into making financial contributions along “biblical tithe” lines.
This calls for a holistic look at the situation, with finances just one aspect of the question. An article in Time magazine showed the importance of the social dimension of spreading the Word: millions of Hispanic immigrants in the US found social refuge away from home in Church organisations that warmly welcomed them, even laying on transport.
Having enough funds will certainly take the worry out of the situation, but the overall wellbeing of the Church will still have to be looked at to motivate members to give gladly and joyfully. This, in my view, would need a development plan as against a business plan.
In this regard, it is encouraging that the Church is reaching out to her laity. With so much talent, skills and experience, the laity is in a position to contribute a great deal.
It might be instructive to look at the minutes of a recent ward meeting. Members came up with some very practical suggestions.
Among others, the following were suggested:
- A debutantes’ ball where each debutante generates a set amount of money to level class-income differentials.
- Retaining skills and institutional memory.
- Parishioners kept informed through a quarterly news sheet.
- Parish unofficial documents and other materials archived as a reference source.
- A library with donated books, magazines and newspapers.
- Contacts and exchanges with neighbouring parishes.
- Workshops and talks by invited speakers and volunteers on various topics of a practical nature.
- Learning from the best practices of other faith organisations.
As for myself, I would not wish to see the parish reach a state of full financial self-sufficiency as Mr Vandrey hopes, “to provide services to parishioners free of charge”.
Simply so that the necessary balance can be maintained between complete economic self-sufficiency and the true mission of the Church.