For the past 3 years annual giving has steadily declined for Park Hills Church of Christ in Memphis. Although the number of church members has grown slightly, the church's giving has gone down almost 25% since 2004, which has pastor Drew Morgan both confused and concerned.
"I'm not sure what's going on." Stated Morgan. "Our membership has gone up as well as our attendance. I'm not aware of anyone in our congregation having any particular financial struggles. People just haven't been giving like they used to."
Since the beginning of this year, because of the drop in giving, the church has been running into some financial struggles, unable to meet a number of requirements. The church's facilities currently need work in a number of areas, but because of the lack of funds the repairs have not yet been made.
"I started preaching on giving and tithing back in February to try to encourage people to start giving more, but nothing seemed to work." Said Morgan. "No matter what I've said giving keeps declining."
Morgan, as well as the church's deacons, recently agreed that something must change if the church was to continue to function. So in a recent meeting of the deacons board, the deacons and Morgan devised a plan to help "boost" and "encourage" giving.
"This may sound strange, but we got our inspiration from the government." Said deacon Mike Hall. "This is the time of year that everyone is thinking about taxes, filing their returns and such. So we came up with the idea of our members filing 'tithe returns' to see who needs to boost their giving."
"We have lots of people in this church who are taking advantage of goods and services that we provide, but do not contribute." Said Morgan. "They're drinking the church's coffee and eating the church's donuts before Sunday School. They're eating the food on family nights, going on missions trips, and relaxing in free air conditioning, but they're not giving to the work of this church. It's time this stopped. This will encourage them to do their part."
So this year the church will require each member to file a "tithe return." Each active church member will be given a form that he or she must fill out stating his or her gross income, how much tithe he or she paid, and any other gifts or offerings he or she made to the church. If the total number of offerings do not equal at least 10% of the member's adjusted income then he or she may owe the church money. Failure to do so may result in church discipline, loss of membership and possible refusal to transfer membership to another church.
"Once we get these returns then we'll know where the deficit is coming from, and which members aren't doing their part to help." Said Hall. "If they owe, all they have to do is pay by cash or check. And if they don't, well, we'll just have to deal with that. I can guarantee you this though, they won't be drinking our coffee and eating our donuts next Sunday."
The plan was announced this past Sunday after the morning worship service. Members were given the forms, which they hesitantly accepted, as they left the church. All members will have until June 15th to file their tithe returns, unless they file for an extension.