A non-traditional church in Rochester, New York

Ask Caritas: “Why Doesn’t Caritas Want My Money?”

Ask Caritas: “Why Doesn’t Caritas Want My Money?”

There are a lot of things that set Caritas apart from traditional and contemporary churches. But for some reason, we get a lot of questions about why we don’t ask for tithes or donations.

Honestly, it’s kind of sad that people are skeptical about a church that doesn’t ask for money. Maybe we’ve grown so accustomed to churches that constantly ask for money that we can’t conceive of a legitimate church that doesn’t want our hard-earned dollars.

But at Caritas, the absence of a collection plate is intentional. In fact, there are several reasons why we’ve decided not to rely on tithes and offerings.

#1 We don’t need your money.

When we formed Caritas, a group of ex-churchgoers got together with a pile of sticky notes. We filled one wall with descriptions of the things we love about Christianity; we filled the other with the things that drove us out of traditional and contemporary churches.

The number one reason why people left the church? They were tired of being harassed for money to maintain church buildings and fund programs that generated little or no meaningful outcomes.

So, when we designed our church community, we intentionally eliminated the need for offerings. We’re lean. We’re flexible. Our pastors aren’t paid. And we have hardly any overhead.

#2 We would rather donate to nonprofits that help the poor and marginalized.

If you know your Bible, you may have noticed that the Old Testament describes not one tithe, but several tithes – most of which were collected to support the poor and needy, not to fund elaborate stage shows and mega-pastor salaries.

Although we’re not a house church, Caritas gatherings happen in homes. Instead of collecting offerings to pay for a church building, we encourage community members to contribute to local nonprofits on the front lines of serving the poor and disenfranchised in the Rochester area.

If an opportunity arises for us to hold gatherings in an extremely affordable common space, we’ll welcome it. But we want the bulk of our charitable dollars to go to deserving organizations and programs that help the needy in our community.

#3 Money problems usually lead to bad theology.

In our experience, churches with budget concerns frequently promote bad theology. From the prosperity gospel to connecting faithful Christianity with contributing a certain amount of dollars to the church’s annual or capital fund, money and twisted theologies seem to be natural bedfellows.

At Caritas, we preserve theological freedom and moral integrity by not having budgetary concerns. Heck, we don’t even have a budget. Instead, we’re free to honestly talk about the challenges of faith and do the things that Jesus actually cares about without worrying about whether or not it will irritate big givers.

#4 We believe less is more.

In the U.S. and other developed countries, we’ve bought into the notion that bigger and more are always better than smaller and less. A lot of churches have bought into the same idea – even though consumer culture is anathema to the gospel.

At Caritas, we’re committed to the idea that less really is more. Although we constantly struggle with the challenges of raising families in American suburbs, we recognize that materialism and excess are incompatible with our quest to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

As much as possible, we try to wean ourselves from a consumer mentality and reduce our economic impact. That’s a philosophy we carry over to our church community. We could pressure people to give financially and create a huge space with a sound and projection system on par with U2’s Joshua Tree tour. But by doing so, we would move farther away from our understanding of who Jesus is – not closer.

#5 Your perspectives are more valuable to us than your checkbook.

Whether it’s intentional or not, churches sometimes treat attenders like dollar signs. When people miss a Sunday, they’re encouraged to send in their tithes and offerings. But there’s little concern about what’s actually happening in their lives or what prevented them from attending church in the first place.

We’re a church community that values relationships. At the end of the day, we’re more interested in the perspectives you bring to our community than the contents of your bank account.

If you can’t make it to a gathering, we’ll miss you – not because the offering plate will be light, but because we care about you and won’t be able to learn from your thoughts and experiences.

Our perspectives on money are unique and we understand that there are a lot of great churches out there facing really difficult financial realities. We get it.

But to become the kind of community we’ve been called to be, it’s important for us to leave your money out of the picture. Maybe other churches would do the same thing if they could. Maybe not.

At Caritas, it’s just who we are.

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