Should Pastors Know What People Give?

A temptation toward favoritism, or a needed discipleship tool?

Aquestion on XPastor.org's Google Group asked whether pastors should know who gives what to the church. Is it primarily an issue of privacy, potential partiality, or accountability and pastoral care?

According to attorney Frank Sommerville, churches "should examine job and committee descriptions to determine who qualifies under a need-to-know standard." The reason: donor privacy. Those who have access "need to agree to a privacy policy requiring them to keep all donor information private and use it solely to perform their church duties," he says.

Churches must decide whether the pastor needs to know, such as for providing specific counsel and spiritual development tied to members' tithing. Once the church determines who has access, it needs to disclose this to the congregation so that donors "will have a realistic expectation of privacy," Sommerville says.

Here is how three XPastor.org members say their churches handle this question:

"Our senior pastor has access to the giving records and ...

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