As annual budgets are reviewed and planning for the coming year begins, this is the time of year when every pastor and finance committee member is feeling challenged to help the members of their church increase their giving. Through all the noise of “fixed incomes” and “high inflation” and “expenses of living,” the real issue is that very often we have not helped the folks in our church become the givers they want to be. This is not a financial issue – it is a discipleship issue.
If you talk to people in your church about the ideal biblical giving measure, most will say that tithing (giving 10% of their income to God’s work) is the biblical directive. If you ask those same folks if they are in fact tithing themselves, they almost always admit shyly that they ‘are not yet able’ to attain that lofty goal. Again, this is not a financial issue – it is a discipleship issue.
The sad truth is, that a very large number of people in our pews give out of their wallets and not out of a plan to be faithful stewards. The church receives what’s “left over” from all the other expenses of life.
Here are three simple steps you can take to shift the way your congregation thinks about tithing:
First, ask your most significant givers and those who openly say they are already tithing, to speak periodically for three minutes or less about how they became tithers, how they have supported ministry through their gifts, and the blessings from God they have received because of this spiritual discipline. This will motivate many who truly desire to become tithers, and they just need to know it works.
Say Thank You
Second, thank all your givers for their gifts no matter how large or small. If you have an “offering” moment during your worship services, shift the emphasis from “asking” to “thanking”. Use the offering moment to share highlights from the ministry of the church in the previous weeks to demonstrate how the congregation’s gifts are making a difference in their church and in their community.
Encourage Financial Planning
Finally, ask your people to no longer decide what to give while they are sitting in the pew. Ask them to actively plan their giving and to commit to including their gift in their regular household budgeting. Ask them to calculate the percentage they are now giving, based on their take-home income. And then encourage them to step up just one percentage point per year from where they are. If every giver takes this step, within 10 years everyone will be tithing!
Showing how generosity is funding mission, thanking givers for their gifts and making the increments of giving more manageable, will fulfill the church’s need for growing givers, and it will help those in the pews realize that tithing is an achievable goal and a fulfilling spiritual practice.
Rev Dr Bruce Jones
Pastor, Concord UMC, Seaford, DE