Christmas celebrates the time God initiated His greatest gift of all time; His son, The Word in whom is Life itself becoming a human; fully flesh and blood.
In response to this generosity, His people extend their generosity to others at Christmas. Under most circumstances, this is nothing but good and is to be encouraged. However, there are a few occasions, when the way that we do this does bring unexpected problems.
These issues normally arise when we want to show appreciation to staff and volunteers, and do so with money. Showing appreciation is absolutely to be encouraged, but to do this with monetary gifts can bring complications. Here are just a few:
- Charities can’t just give money to people because they like them (or want to ‘bless them’). There are legal restrictions from their status as a charity operating for public benefit.
- When gifts are given to staff members, it is nearly always a payment that needs to be put through payroll, with all the normal tax and National insurance deductions, because it relates to their work as staff members.
- If monetary payments are given to voluntary workers, there is a serious possibility of this changing their ‘status’ from that of a voluntary worker to that of a ‘paid worker’, with significant legal implications and changes in obligations and rights.
- If the recipient doesn’t have the right to work in the UK or is on benefits, there are also implications if they receive a monetary gift.
We do appreciate that Christmas is a time when there are extra needs and pressures. We are not advocating that the church should stop being generous to those in need or helping people through difficult seasons. This is something that we encourage. However, we are advocating that churches think firstly, “What are we trying to achieve?” and secondly, “Is money the best way of doing this?”.
For more detail on issues of giving to staff or church members, please see the following briefing papers: Church: a family, a charity or both? What that means when giving gifts to members (stewardship.org.uk) and Gifts to pastors (stewardship.org.uk).
God is generous and giving in His very nature. As His people, we are to reflect His nature in this world, and this Christmas is no exception. As His church, we should ensure that we do this without unexpected problems that, when giving is done wrongly, can detract from the heart of generosity that is good news in this world.
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