I like the idea of startling visitors to church events, such as childrens school holiday programs, by not charging money. It makes a bold statement. The unconditional salvation of the gospel has inspired us to be generous in running this event, to bring the gospel to you. We should stand out with our generous activities we put on for children and youth in the community.
But combined with this we actually need ways of telling people how we do resource what we do. Transparency is needed to show people the mechanics of how peoples voluntary generous giving provides for church staff/buildings and their voluntary time provides for amazing events. Resurrection affirms redeeming creation aka ‘the small details’. The details point to the gospel more than a gnostic “Jesus provided all this, no more questions”.
A great way to do transparency in public services is by taking a cash collection – ‘there go the money bags’, swoosh. Put basic financial stats in the handed out newsletter. Make it clear how people give, and how much they are giving. Have AGM reports always on the noticeboard for people to look at the church budget. Spend alot of time publicly thanking people for hours of hard work put into ministries. The apostle Paul is thanking people all the time.
Part of the gospel-transparency ought to be to do with who the “paid guys” are. Knowing this you can then infer who the real volunteers are. Every time I take my kids to a new sport I’m always thinking, who are the paid guys here? The paid guys have the power, responsibility and authority in an organisation. If there are too many paid guys then I get worried. Why do they need paid guys to do everything? If there are too few paid guys I get worried. Why are the paid guys hiding?
I once heard a pastor proudly state that in his Sunday services, because of his great lay leadership and blendy-in outfit, it was extremely hard for visitors to tell “who the minister is”. That seems weak to me. The Lordship of Jesus redeems and affirms human hierarchy and authority structures, not flattens them. And to the outsider, the great event you are enjoying is probably the fruit of wonderful volunteer labour AND a few paid guys sweating it out full-time. Lets not deceive people by pretending it was all volunteer driven.
Somehow we need to combine perplexing generosity with real gospel transparency, that allows outsiders to follow the money. The more brilliant and polished our events are, the more transparent we need to be. Otherwise our “free” events will just feel like Amway free lunch seminars, or cult events where you know there is some BIG financial gotcha around the corner. And that is plain creepy.