Plain Talk About Churches and Money

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By Dean Hoge, Patrick McNamara, Charles Zech. (Bethesda, Maryland: Alban Institute, 1997), ISBN: 1566991854, 138 pp., $15.75 US

Book review by Jerry Dean Weber, a development officer for the PCUSA Foundation

This book by Dean Hoge (professor of sociology, Catholic University of America), Patrick McNamara (professor of sociology, University of New Mexico), and Charles Zech (professor of economics, Villanova University), is based upon the extensive research for their earlier work, Money Matters (1996). Both works wrestle with important issues about faith and money within North American congregations at the end of the twentieth century. This new work, however, goes beyond the previous book in its importance, because the issue of money in the church is talked about in a manner accessible to everyone.

The authors have outlined for us the major issues about money in the church:

  • Why are pastors afraid to talk about money?
  • Why should anyone give money to the church?
  • What motivates giving to the church?
  • What is the difference between stewardship and fund raising?
  • What do we make of pledging, tithing, and budgets?
  • And what are the pros and cons of endowed and invested funds for the church

Each topic is granted a chapter and is addressed in a straightforward manner. The end of each chapter has a helpful list of questions for discussion in a variety of settings. In a final chapter, Loren Mead, founder and former president of the Alban Institute, places this work in the broader context of the overall life of the church.

This book is eminently readable and will be helpful to both pastors and lay people. I have used this book in seminars with pastors, and I recommend as wide a readership as possible.

Where Money Matters, a more technical work, failed to engender a broad readership, Plain Talk will prevail. This first book in the Money, Faith, and Lifestyle series planned by the Alban Institute, succeeds in cracking open the major issues before the church. With anticipation, I look forward to subsequent works.

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