The Curse of Assessments

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  (1 Corinthians 9:7, ESV)

Mandatory assessments are a part of our AME administrative culture.  While many administrators may see this approach as a blessing for consistent, sustainable funding, in actuality, it is a curse?  Assessing authority is misunderstood, overused and undermines the foundation of healthy stewardship and wise program development.  It creates a temptation for those may be blinded by greed or the  opportunity for personal enrichment.  When poor, connectional habits become poor, local congregational practice, we see rancor among the rank and file and a root cause for the exodus.

Many posts could follow on this general topic.  Let me offer in a summary manner:

Assessments would be less oppressive if we:

  • Recognize limitations on when a mandatory “assessment” may be used
  • Make clear who has assessing authority
  • Make the assessing process inclusive of greater participation by those who are assessed
  • Provide thorough explanations/education on the necessity/validity of the assessments
  • Make assessments fairly apportioned

At present, many congregations are over-assessed because their past strength is not their present reality. There is often a lack of empathy by those who collect/receive assessments.  “Give until it hurts,” is a sad, regressive statement that suggests abuse more than charity.  But the greatest argument against the abuse of assessing authority is:  it robs the people of their blessing!

God loves the cheerful giver!  Not the fearful giver trying to avoid Ministerial Efficiency or be elected to an office.  Not the Pharisee trying to impress.  Not the politician climbing the ladder rather than carrying the cross.

Some believe AMEs will not give without being assessed.  This is not true!  We are generous, responsive Christians when we are informed and trust the cause for which we are called upon to contribute.  We need a culture shift! We resist when we are told to “check your brain and your wallet at the door.”

One thought on “The Curse of Assessments

  1. The AME Church must consider a complete budget overhaul to fairly address the needs of the local church. I have heard from many preachers who share their burdens of having to pay assessments that they could not afford. Fear of coming to the annual conference not bringing all monies because they only have ten members and only five of them truly tithe, and pastors having to “dig” in their own pockets to bring up the rear.

    The real question that should be asked is “how do we leave more money in the local churches so they can, with greater ease, do 21st century ministry?” Some of our churches do not even have technology in them and they have annual fundraisers, not to take their ministries to the next level to win souls for Jesus, but to pay assessments.

    We are long overdue to reimagine how we can faithfully create a budget that shows our love for God, and the people we serve.

    In order to do this, it will take real work and people who are willing to put the hard work in to bring to bear a fair and just budget proposal that dismantles the inequities that exist even in the way we assess districts in our Zion—we need a new approach. We need a holistic approach!

    So, the next question should be, how do we do this? Here are my suggestions:

    1. Each district should create a budget task force to review the “real” membership of each church. It is timeout that churches stop inflating their membership numbers to look good. Church is NOT a social club! The Bible clearly defines what being a true member of the body of Christ should look like. Having non active members on the rolls who are not contributing to the work of Christ is negligible. There is a process by which we can purge our roll after unsuccessful attempts to lovingly win those members who just want to sit on the rolls, and refuse to be active participants of the body of Christ. We need real data of our church’s membership.

    2. We then need to review four to five years of financial data of each church to understand the trend of income AND liabilities. This will help us better understand the financial health of our districts. Questions that need to be asked is where is the money coming from i.e. tithes and offering, special days (biblically, tithes and offering should be the way we operate our churches, and special days should be a bonus to our income to conduct capital projects) annuities, endowments, grants, etc. We then need to conduct a financial analysis to determine how financially “healthy” we really are.

    3. We need to look at salaries with a more critical eye. I know, I know, salaries are a tough subject. But how can we get to a place of justice and equity without broaching the topic of salaries? So, what are we looking for? We are looking at church size, real membership numbers, church finance, comparing other churches salaries to see if there are inconsistencies. Are the salaries commensurate to the ministry industry? What is the ordination status of the pastor i.e. IT, LCL, Lic? How many years of service to the church, do they have a degree, if so, in what? If the pastor is full-time or bi-vocational? Does the church require a full-time pastor? Pastors should get paid what they are worth! But there is a more faithful way I believe it can be done, without burdening the local churches. Pastors who work hard in ministry should not be short changed–pastors should have a base salary based on education and years of service. This also means we would need to reimagine our financial systems to do it the right way.

    There is more I could say, but we must start somewhere, and I believe starting here would help us move towards fairness, equity, and fiscal responsibility.

    Grace and Peace


Comments are closed.