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Church Spending: Should We Call It Excellence or Wastefulness?

by | Jan 21, 2013 | Stuff I Thought About | 0 comments

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When I was pregnant with my oldest boy, I was bound and determined to nurse him for a year. Then I birthed him and discovered that my body does not produce milk like Coke from a soda machine. The poor thing was angry that whole first month before I started supplementing with formula because he was just hungry.

Then I became pregnant with my second boy. And I was bound and determined to nurse him for a year. So I bought fenugreek and drank lots of water and rented one of those hospital-grade pumps. It looked like I was on the right track, but my youngest child eventually started letting me know that all was not as it should be by pummeling my body with baby punches the minute my milk ran low. So I started supplementing with formula.

The formula packaging demanded distilled water, and we usually complied. But there were times that we’d run low on distilled water, and I’d panic. Panicking that my child might not have safe drinking water was one of the most primal emotions I’ve ever felt.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that there are mothers that truly don’t have access to safe drinking water for their children. My heart aches for them. I know that a day will come when they will no longer thirst, but today, thirst is a very present problem. Not nursing my children birthed in me a desire to someday provide funds for the drilling of a water well.

These thoughts float around in my mind when I see a baby drinking from a bottle or an advertisement for an organization like Water for Life. And then I drive past a church’s* decorative fountains and think, “No no no, this can’t be. They can’t possibly have spent thousands of dollars on gallons and gallons and gallons of water being thrown into the air for our amusement when mommas need water for their babies. This just. can’t. be.”

I don’t know how budgeting decisions are made for that church* (which we’re visiting, by the way). Are they trying to draw people to the church by having the most beautiful church in the area? Are they trying to show that they do everything with excellence? And where do we draw the line between excellence and wastefulness?

If I were responsible for making those budgeting decisions, I would quickly and righteously veto decorative fountains. But other areas would get a pass from me. Am I willing to be wasteful only if it benefits me?

  • A large church we used to go to had restrooms that hadn’t been updated in 20 years. They smelled and looked dingy and dirty. The stall doors were in bad shape, and one even came off its hinges and was left to lean against the wall for weeks. Not that it mattered much, because the doors didn’t provide much privacy to begin with. I tried to avoid using the restroom, but it was unavoidable and always left me feeling disgusted and a little angry. Meanwhile, the lobby was beautifully decorated and contained comfy furniture. I fully believed that good money should be spent on those restrooms. And they were updated eventually. Was that money well-spent? Or should I happily use what I deemed to be a disgusting restroom so that church funds could instead be funneled to improving hygiene in a community truly needing it?
  • Many new churches are going without education areas (for things like adult Bible study classes) and opting instead for home groups. But I hate that. I prefer attending a Bible study class at church on Sunday mornings so that we can take advantage of the child care provided by the church. Is that wasteful? Should money spent on church buildings used for educational purposes be funneled instead to providing Bibles and educational resources to pastors that can get them no other way?
  • The church* with the fountains also has a glorious child care area. There are indoor playgrounds, rooms dedicated to different activities (like music and art), toys a-plenty, and quality caretakers. I feel like I need that child care area. I simply couldn’t do church or Bible study if I were worried about my children, wondering if they were scared or bored or crying for us. I’d rather stay home, thankyouverymuch. But is that wasteful? Should money spent on facilities that keep my children busy and entertained instead be funneled to save the life of another child?

I don’t have the answers. But I need to ask the questions.

* From what we understand, this church does give significant funds to missions.

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