Monday, 14 November 2016
Needs vs Wants | A discussion in a church …..
By Tim Swann
I had the privilege of being part of a conversation that doesn’t happen very often. It was in a very traditional pacific island church, with a group of young people, their parents and some youth leaders and a pastor.
And it was about money.
Firstly, money is a very touchy subject for pacific islanders, we’re hesitant to talk about it, don’t really have as much as we like and it’s often linked with a whole bunch of different stresses and emotions. So any money discussion in a church is tricky at best. But what was more interesting was the conversation wasn’t just about money in general, but we were discussing needs versus wants, and whether church donations were a need …. Or a want.
It’s a discussion that anyone who is considering making a donation needs to have at least with themselves. As a Pacific island young man, I grew up in a church and tithes and offerings were part and parcel of my life. It wasn’t until I left south Auckland to go to university that I had to interact with people who didn’t think like that.
And it’s a big question for many people, particularly pacific people.
Are church donations a need or a want? Is it the first thing that gets paid or do we prioritise other expenses first – particularly when there’s not a lot to go around?
In that church one mother said it was a want. She was quickly met with a loud ‘excuse me?’ from across the room …. from her daughter. Her daughter had been raised to view it as a need and so I got to watch this amazing conversation between mother and daughter about whether offerings and donations to a church were a need or a want.
The pastor provided a view and many shared their personal opinions. I sat and watched the people in the room. Some had very strong opinions one way or another, others were quiet and just watched and observed. Some people thought they were a need but how much came down to a personal choice.
It was energising, and everyone was genuinely interested in exploring the issues. It’s a complex weave of culture, pre-colonial values, Christianity, obligation and the dichotomy of being Pacific in a non-Pacific country. Everyone needs to make their own choices in this space and explore these issues that are part and parcel of many Pacific people’s lives.
For Pacific people who need to live in a modern world with cultures and cultural values different from what our parents were exposed to, it’s an interesting question. It’s a journey we all need to take and I’m glad I have people around me that know what I’m going through. The challenge for many is who can I talk about this with? Who will understand? You might think it’s not important or that your too young or that you should just do what your elders tell you … but you’re not the only person thinking these things and you’re not the only person who has questions.