church economics

Undercover unbelievers

An article from Freakonomics has caused a bit of a stir. A family from the Bible Belt confessed to feigning Christianity in order to fit in. It’s sad. If the church is pressuring people – either overtly or covertly to conform behaviourally without a change in beliefs first then it is not doing its job. The church should be loving and seeking the welfare of non-Christians – and Christian parents should be encouraging their kids to play with the non-Christian kid next door. If they’re so worried about their kid being converted by the friendly neighbourhood atheist then maybe they should reconsider their parenting strategy lest the kid make up their own mind when they reach his/her 20s only to discover a big and scary world of ideas beyond their sheltered milieu.

Here’s a quote from the article…

We found by experience that if we were truthful about not being regular church attenders, the play dates suddenly ended. Thus started the faking of the religious funk.

It seemed silly but it’s all very serious business down here. We don’t go to church or teach or children one belief is “right” over another. We expose them to every kind of belief and trust that they will one day settle in to their very own spirituality.

I know we Christians want our children to grow up just like us (and I’m not a parent – though I have been a child) but surely we can be just as confident that our children will make the right choice as the agnostic is about theirs… I wonder if there’s a correlation between the parents who don’t believe in vaccination and parents who don’t let their children play with the scary atheists.

This was not the most interesting part of that particular Freakonomics post. Oh no. The most interesting part was this study of the effect of using an open collection plate rather than a closed bag thing – this further demonstrates the hypocrisy inherent in the system.

In these churches, the collection was taken up in a closed bag that was passed along from person to person, row to row. Soetevent got the churches to let him switch things up, randomly substituting an open collection basket for the closed bags over a period of several months. He wanted to know if the added scrutiny changed the donation patterns. (An open basket lets you see how much money has already been collected as well as how much your neighbor puts in.) Indeed it did: with open baskets, the churchgoers gave more money, including fewer small-denomination coins, than with closed bags — although, interestingly, the effect petered out once the open baskets had been around for a while.

Church sharing financial misery

There’s been a bit of online chatter about the impact that the financial crisis is going to have on churches – the Sydney Anglican Diocese is perhaps going to wear the consequences more than anywhere else – which is sad, given that they train and resource most evangelical ministries in Australia in some capacity.*

“THE world’s richest and largest Anglican diocese has lost more than $100 million on the sharemarket and is investigating ways to cut programs and ministries across Sydney.”

According to the SMH the losses have been compounded by the fact they borrowed to invest.

“The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has written to clergy warning that the global financial crisis has caused significant losses. He said the diocese had borrowed money to invest and used the profits to build churches in 2007.”

In hindsight it’s easy to throw stones at that strategy – but is this ever “good stewardship” – the SMH headline makes accusations of “gambling” – which would seem inconsistent with their approach to investment in the business section.

*Though in my opinion too much stays in Sydney (this is purely to preempt accusations of backflipping following the discussion with Izaac a few weeks back…

Economies of scale

You may have missed it… but friend Izaac and I have been arguing the merit or otherwise of Sydney’s oversupply of evangelical churches and full time ministry workers back at this post of links – where I threw in a little comment that a densely populated map of Anglican churches in Sydney was a cause for concern not celebration.

This is what I said…

To me, this pretty much sums up the problems with the Sydney Anglicans – so many churches in such a small geographical space. It’d be interesting to plot the number of evangelical churches around the rest of the country in comparison.

It has sparked an interesting discussion. I think. Check out the discussion (and join in) here… Should church planting and/or evangelism be considered in the framework of economics? I think so…

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