A Chicago church came into some money following a decades old real estate deal. What to do with the extra dough weighed heavily on the pastor's mind. Then she decided to do something crazy.
She wanted the church to tithe and give 10% of the money away. That may not sound so crazy, but here's the hitch, she gave it back -- all $160,000 of it--to the congregation. Anyone who is "actively engaged in LaSalle Street Church" got a sizable check. Not $5 or $50 - we are talking $500 a person. Personal checks made out directly to the parishioners to go forth and spend, invest or give away as they see fit. No strings attached.
Pastor Laura, as she's known, is beaming--ever since she announced to her congregation of 300 back on Sept 7th that they would all get $500 from the church.
"Some started to cry,” she said. “Their mouths started to drop. I started to sweat because it sounded so crazy."
Sweat she did because this unconventional tithe approach by the church for the people could be easily misunderstood, the pastor says.
"In that moment, I was worried this is stupid, silly. People will think I'm squandering $160,000. But this is a place of faith."
It's also an act of courage for Pastor Laura and maybe other church leaders who are watching and waiting to see what happens.
"My real hope is that other churches will swallow and jump. Find some way in some place and jump with their people."
She and the church board have already cut the checks. Parishioners have nine weeks for checks to clear.
This is only phase one. There is still $1.4 million dollars for the church to collectively donate or invest in some way. Some are suggesting ebola clinics, college funds and for some of the homeless and hungry here--that money might be spent on them.
All this from a church with a $50,000 budget deficit itself.