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.”