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Sacred space or party place: How do we fund our churches?

Matt Holderness Portrait Matt Holderness
5 min

England’s storied cathedrals are struggling. With costs for some reaching £11 million annually to cover upkeep, repairs, staffing and operations, many rely heavily on grants, donations and revenue-generating events. With little government assistance and minimal Church of England funds available to make ends meet, there has been an ever-growing move to host silent discos, food markets and external events.

Some pragmatically argue that events like this are a financial lifeline to keep the cathedrals open and available to the public; in the absence of alternative funds, they are a necessary evil for keeping things going.  

But not everyone approves. A recent online petition opposing the ‘desecration’ of these holy spaces drew over 2,400 signatures. Some see the so called ‘raves in the naves’ as putting consumerism before sacredness. They believe that these spaces are sanctuaries designed for worshipping God, not dance clubs to be filled with drunken revelry.

A wider picture of difficulty within churches

It's an increasingly familiar tension – how do you fund ministry without compromising spiritual integrity? The debate around the use of England’s cathedrals is in the spotlight right now, but it also speaks into the financial situation of many smaller churches and ministries who are also trying to stay afloat. The size and type of expenditure may be different, but the principal question remains the same – how do we meet the gap in making sure that our churches, big and small, are sustainable?

magnifying glass heart

As uncomfortable as it may be, the financial stability of our churches is inextricably tied to the generosity of us as believers. The Bible speaks abundantly on stewarding resources and giving back to God. The default posture is one of radical generosity – the understanding that all we have comes from and belongs to him. We’re essentially stewards of God’s money, but the question of how good we are as stewards firmly rests with us. 

Giving to church as a biblical principle

In the Old Testament the three tithes mandated to the Israelites funded civic services, religious festivals, the care of priests and Levites and compassion for the poor. Additional laws dictated how God’s people were to also care for the poor and dispossessed (e.g. gleaning, jubilee, etc), and special fundraising from God’s people built, maintained and repaired the temple. 

As we move into the New Testament the prescriptions are less clear, but the practical examples are abundant. There’s the corporate generosity: from the first group of Christ followers, who maintained a shared economy that distributed resources as any had need (Acts 2:44), to the Macedonian church that gave out of its own poverty (2 Cor. 8:4). And there are the individual acts of giving: from Barnabas, who sold family property to support ministry work (Acts 4:36–37), to Lydia, a later convert under the apostle Paul, who eagerly supported the missionary team from her own business profits (Acts 16: 4-12).

Underlining all this evidence is the biblical emphasis on financial giving that transcends the pounds and pence. Generosity stems from gratitude and genuine care for others. Paul told the Corinthians that cheerful giving always pleases the Lord . The believers in other churches, he said, ‘begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem’ (2 Cor. 8:4). For them, generosity through giving was a sure proof of God’s grace.

money bag love

What lay behind such giving was joyful gratitude for God’s provision – the ‘bubbling up’ energy and passion they had to invest in others hearing the good news for themselves. Paul notes that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ and promises reciprocal blessing to ‘those who sow generously’, but Paul cautions against giving reluctantly or under compulsion (2 Cor. 9:6–8). The motivation clearly matters. Sacrificial generosity mirrors Christ’s selfless compassion to meet human need. It sees funding ministry less as an obligation and more as a privilege.

Embracing a joyful and compassionate type of church giving

Imagine if church members and attendees embraced this same attitude of privilege when contributing to needs and initiatives. What if we saw funding God’s work not as a burdensome obligation but as an act of worship? Just as visitors admire the soaring architecture and stained glass of England’s cathedrals, perhaps we’d gain a new admiration for the church by how generously and selflessly it gives. Perhaps a wider question to ask here is how many in our churches have sure enough proof of God’s grace at work in them that they’re moved to give from a place of gratitude and thanks?


Beyond gratitude, generosity also reflects genuine concern for the welfare of others. Paul emphasised this to the Ephesian elders when he noted Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). The joy found here is in lifting burdens, meeting needs and empowering ministry. And for the corporate work of the church, it’s all about modelling the compassion of Christ. We give because we care deeply about carrying on his work in the body to seek and save the lost.

It's more than just keeping the church lights on

England's cathedrals showcase nine centuries of architectural history, creativity and craftsmanship dedicated to the glory of God. The soaring pillars, intricate stonework and stunning artistry leave viewers awestruck. While silent discos might help keep the lights on, they arguably detract from sacred spaces designed to turn hearts heavenward.

In a similar manner, funding gimmicks without underlying spiritual purpose can erode the influence and integrity of church outreach. Generation after generation has sacrificed, laboured and given to build local congregations for the sake of proclaiming Christ. Good gospel stewardship in our day should strive to continue the legacy of giving generously, not under compulsion or with mixed motives, but simply from a place of gratitude, privilege and care for the spiritual welfare of others.

Ironically, silent discos have encouraged us to start making a noise about the need of the church. Maybe it’s time for our actions to be louder than our words. We can spark conversations about funding God’s work in the right way, and we can inspire others to the solution through our own cheerful and generous giving. 

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Written by

Matt Holderness

Matt joined Stewardship in 2022 with over twenty years of marketing experience from roles at Kendal College and Capernwray Bible School. He has degrees in Business and Marketing, Theology, Management and most recently a Masters in Hermeneutics. 

Through raising awareness of Stewardship’s services, Matt helps people explore the impact their generosity can have on the church and Christian charities. He’s passionate about supporting Evangelism and Bible causes, and has a particular interest in charities that are helping people in Poverty and Debt in the UK.