Church Pays Congregation to Do Good Deeds
Church members at the LaSelle Street Church were happily surprised when their pastor announced that all active members would be receiving $500. The money would be coming with no conditions aside from the modest request that it is put towards a good deed.
The site of the small church in Chicago in the US was bought out of a residential development that it had helped fund in the 1970s. This buy-out led to an unexpected windfall for the struggling church of a staggering $1.6 million (£990,000).
After spending months deliberating on how to use the money, church elders agreed that they wanted 10% to go upfront to the congregation, and they would work out how to spend the rest later.
Describing it as a “faith experiment”, Pastor Laura Truax admitted she was nervous that they might be being frivolous with the money when the church had its own monetary issues. “We say we trust the Gospel, we say we trust each other,” she said. “But I was wondering, ‘Is this going to be a waste of money?’”
However, it isn’t the first time that the pastor has put her faith in her flock. Two years ago, she used her own money to tape $100 notes under ten pews in the church, to illustrate a parable about undeserved grace. She found out later that most of the recipients had used the money to help someone else.
The church wrote out a total of 320 cheques for this “faith experiment”. These were given to congregants who were considered to have been “actively engaged” in the church with either their “time, talents or treasures”.
As soon as the cheques were handed out, church members started talking about how they could use their portion to make a bigger impact on the world, paying forward the church’s kindness. Half of them decided to pool their money together and started plotting ideas on whiteboards in the basement of the church.
“A few guys want to start a credit union after seeing the poor get hurt by predatory lending; another group is looking at a programme for LGBT youth,” Pastor Laura explained. “If you can dream it up, it is down there on the board.”
The congregation is a diverse mix, ranging from homeless people to those with money. But the pastor pointed out that those who needed the money could use it for themselves and would not be violating the spirit of the experiment.
For example, one woman could have used the money for her rent and felt sheepish about not wanting to give the money away. “I assured her that sometimes these are the blessings we are seeking,” the pastor explained.
The church members have nine weeks to cash their cheques, with the hope of the funds being used in time for the Christmas holiday season. The church elders are also hoping that other churches will be encouraged to carry out similar exercises and that their congregations might also pay it forward, in the true spirit of generosity.