Bartley brings up the issue of Government funding the church to carry out welfare services. This is a hot topic for many missions of the church including youthwork.
Whilst there are many considerations around the matter, I would like to merely ask: Who is doing the giving?
This is a hard question, but we all need to be careful that we consider it and are aware of it in our own situations.
As Christians, God has asked us to give our lives, as a sacrifice, to put others first. We show love in what we do, because it is our resource that we are giving.
If I give and in my giving I employ someone else to do the work, is it me who is giving or is it my employee? Well, it is me – surely. Sure, there may be the case where my employee is adding his giving on top of mine, perhaps putting in extra hours. That would be the his giving, not mine.
Our love needs to consist of giving of what we have got. Being a ‘professional Christian’ doesn’t mean that you are giving anything – it is only when you go beyond your job that you are giving, or when you receive ‘tiny pay’ (I knew that there was a good reason for such low pay! 🙂 ) – just the same as a shelf-stacking job down at Tesco’s, it is only when you go beyond the requirements of your job that you begin to give.
(note: how fantastically tax efficient it is to be a low paid youthworker and to make your giving your time rather than your money! Alternatively you could give money, but be taxed on the extra income you would need to receive before giving the money away. There isn’t a rule on this though – we just individually have to know God’s calling, and sometimes that can be to make money, possibly…)
When we think about giving let’s start by looking at what we have to give. It doesn’t need to be ‘silver and gold’ of which you may ‘have none’, but it does need to be something that you have.
Don’t seek merely to be an unloving, ungenerous, ungiving conduity of someone else’s love or giving. Don’t seek to merely be an paid arm of the state, or a paid arm of other Christians.
Sure, join with others who want to give, join with those who want to fund (as long as they have the same ultimate aims and wish to use the same methods as you), but don’t forget where your giving ends and someone else’s giving begins.
Ultimately it is giving what God has freely given us that matters.
Youthwork is a fantastically important thing to be doing – do make sure that the youth can see that you are not just giving other’s resources, but that you are giving your own too. It is that that gives you authenticity.
As an aside, I’ve just come across a case where (non-church) parents were given a letter by the youthwork explaining that as so much money went on upkeep of the church building it would be useful for parents to contribute to the youth activities. I was a bit bemused that the church felt it worth saying that the building was a higher priority than the people and that, whilst the church was willing to spend hundreds of pounds a week on the building, it wasn’t willing to spend a much smaller amount on people…