Yesterday, Matt Miofsky, pastor at The Gathering in St. Louis, MO linked this article from the New York Times on his Twitter account about Jewish Communities around the country offering financial incentives for families to relocate to their community and worship in their synagogue. It seems that some areas with a dwindling Jewish population are encouraging families to move to their areas- especially since the idea of moving back to Israel is becoming less and less an option.
Transferred to a Christian context- would a church (would your church?) consider paying families to move to your community and worship in your church? Is this such a far-fetched idea?
For this to truly work in the Church- I think it would have to be done for missional purposes (when I say missional, I’m talking about a move to a community to intentionally and incarnationally live out the mission and ministry of the church and of the Kingdom- and yes, I know every church should be doing that, but can we agree that not every church does?). I can imagine something like this working in an urban church where there is a congregation with some vitality left or leadership with vision for a new ministry the emerging generations to offer incentives to attract people/families to live missionally in the city with their neighbors. There are families and systems in place to provide families and leadership in church plants where families commit to a year or two of worship/leadership in the church to help get it established and then they can return to their home church or stay at the plant. This is not that much different. (Of course, this conversation depends on a church having financial ability to offer incentives, or business men/woman who can help provide jobs or other incentives)
What do you think? Should churches offer incentives for families to relocate and join their community? Would you consider relocating to be part of a church community to further the ministry there? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
How is it that many “attractional” congregations are not doing this already, if not with “funded” incentives, at least with “in kind” offers of services to children, families, “counseling,” and even some with funds attached, such as discounts on weddings (i.e., if you attend regularly or join, you get a lower rate or even no charge for use of the facilities)?
The Jewish communities in question, it seems to me, by attaching specific financial benefits (reduced synagogue or Community Center fees, etc) are perhaps simply being more up front about it than many churches.
Let me also say that in Judaism as practiced in the US, synagogue fees/dues can get rather pricey, and these are generally not treated as “free-will offerings” but rather more like “club memberships.” In other words, if you are to be part of that synagogue, you will pay, or your membership is forfeit. One result is generally higher per capita funding and a higher percentage of giving relative to income by its members than one might find among the members of a typical local Christian congregation, where giving may be treated as more or less optional– encouraged, but not actually expected. Something to learn here?
For me, the “attraction” to a missional setting like you describe in the article would be the setting and the community itself– no further “incentives” or “benefits” needed.
Taylor- thanks for your comments. Your insight on the dues required for membership in a synagogue and the expectation to pay those dues to remain in “good standing” is an interesting contrast to what happens in most Christian congregations.
Thanks again for your comments!
If I was planting a church, I’d have no reservations about using funds (if they were available) to help relocate partners. Businesses regularly do this for talented employees, why shouldn’t churches? I’d much rather spend $500 (or $15,000) to help relocate solid partners to the target community than spend that money on advertising or technology or something else that isn’t going to yield the same results as having good partners and leaders. It’s an investment.