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Ethics and Religion Talk: Does Your Congregation Require a Financial Commitment for membership?

What financial investment (if any) is required to be a member of your congregation/religion?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

To be a Roman Catholic requires only baptism. Once baptized, there are no financial requirements to be members. The Church teaches a member’s “vocation to eternal life does not suppress, but actually reinforces, his duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2nd Edition, p. 676). The giving associated with membership is considered sacrificial. Sacrificial giving is “returning to God a portion of the gifts God has given the individual” (,to%20share%20with%20your%20parish).

The focus of financial contributions is the Church’s ministry.

Linda Knieriemen, a retired pastor of the Presbyterian Church (USA), responds:

No financial requirement necessary! I made an assumption that parishioners would want to show gratitude to God and make a financial contribution to their congregation as a demonstration of that gratitude. I encouraged proportional giving as part of our church stewardship programs. That is, give a percentage of your income, chosen by you, and work toward the goal of tithing (giving 10% of your income to church). I’m well aware that in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and many of our mainline Christian denominations, tithing is a rarity. 

It was the policy of several of the churches I served for the pastor to be kept in the dark about what parishioners contributed to the church. This always struck me as artificial and raises the questions of either distrust of the pastor (that I would show favoritism to those who give the most) or protecting the embarrassment of those who contribute less than they are able. 

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

Each congregation in our faith dictates their own expectations of their member’s financial contribution. We hope everyone contributes their own fair share to sustain our congregation’s financial health. We do not have a set dollar amount per member. We suggest somewhere between 2-5% of our overall income as a yearly pledge amount.

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

There is none that is required. Of course, we encourage devotees to be generous in supporting our temples, societies, and social justice initiatives. But there is no set financial responsibility.

Rev. Laurie Crelly, Senior Pastor at East Congregational Church UCC, responds:

In the United Church of Christ, the criteria to being a member is decided by the local congregation and is listed in their bylaws. My congregation counts membership by participating in the life of the church, supporting the work through financial gifts and giving of time and talent. Many congregations seek an annual pledge, but I don’t know of any congregation that requires a certain amount. The congregation also pays dues to the conference they are part of based in part on the membership numbers.  

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

Presbyterianism teaches that, "Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; and also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities" (Westminster Confession, Ch. XXVI, "Of Communion of Saints," Sec. II). In other words, Presbyterians are expected to participate fully in the life and work of their church. They are also to put their time, talents, and wealth to work for the good of others, especially fellow members of the church. As to their giving, Presbyterians are enjoined only to give of their substance as the Lord prospers them.  

No Presbyterian church has power to tax its members, impose any dues or charge a fee for services rendered. Christ's law is, "Freely have ye received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). Some churches promote the practice of tithing, or giving 10% of your income to the church; but the tithe was a tax imposed by lawful authority, since church and state were united in those times. In former times, the expenses of building and maintaining a house of worship were funded by renting pews to members of the congregation, but the renters had to arrive in time to claim their seats. Those who could not pay were not turned away. Churches with a long history often display the seating charts indicating who had rented each numbered pew in the sanctuary before the custom was given up.

The apostolic rule is found in II Corinthians 9:7: "Everyman according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." In other words, the only gifts or offerings required in the church under the gospel, are freewill gifts and offerings. Shaking down people for money is no part of the work of a Presbyterian minister. If the cause to be supported does not commend itself to our people, or if the need indicated does not enlist their compassion, it does no good to coerce, shame or inveigle them to contribute. In former times, no collections were taken during public worship. Members dropped their gifts in a box provided for the purpose as they left the building. The elaborate ritual of ushers or deacons taking up the collection, and the minister presenting it as an offering to the Lord, was entirely unknown among Presbyterians.

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

In our denomination we do not "require" contributions in the forms of tithes or offerings, but we teach about the importance of honoring God with all that we haveand that includes our money. We also preach about something that the Bible emphasizesthat the root of all evil is the love of money. "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10).


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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