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Rethink Church Generosity Through the Lens of Kingdom Giving
What this has to do with budgets and tithing
Anyone who has spent significant time in a church community is familiar with the terms "budgets" and "tithing." Budgets are essential tools that help churches plan the allocation of resources and ensure responsible stewardship of what God has provided. Tithing, a biblical practice rooted in reverence, involves giving back to God a tenth of what He has given us (Deuteronomy 14:22-23).
These are good things!
But what if our discussions around church budgets and tithing inadvertently hinder the growth of our congregation's giving journey? Are these topics mistakenly treated as destinations rather than stepping stones along the way?
Let me explain.
Giving, like many aspects of the Christian life, is a journey. We begin at a particular point and progress over time. Some individuals may advance faster, while others require more time. But the key is that we are all on this journey. It is akin to progressive sanctification—a continuous encounter with God concerning our money and possessions that transforms us.
As followers of Christ, our journey does not conclude at a specific stage of life but continues until we are reunited with Him in eternity. Therefore, our goal should be to keep growing and aspiring to new levels of faith, including our journey with money and possessions.
So, what issues arise with church budgets and tithing?
Church budgets are undoubtedly necessary for planning and stewardship. However, too often, budgets restrict our ability to envision greater possibilities for our ministries. We become fixated on our current income and hesitate to step out beyond certain percentage increments for the following year.
Over the past 31 years, my experience in consulting with churches has shown that many congregations possess a much grander vision than their current funding level allows. However, if we only discuss a 6%, 8%, or 10% increase, we inadvertently communicate that once the budget is met, we are content. Consequently, this unintentionally allows people to believe they don’t need to give more, turning funding the budget into a destination. And a mindset like this obstructs the growth of individuals in their giving journey.
What if we set aside this limited thinking and cast a vision that far surpasses our expectations for the upcoming year? Instead of merely suggesting a slight increase based on current trends, what if we proclaimed, "Here is what the giving trend suggests for next year. HOWEVER, we believe God wants to do something far greater through our church."
Additionally, when we place too much emphasis on funding the budget, we overlook God’s purpose of our giving, which is to transform and sanctify us. Inspiring our people to a level of giving that necessitates a genuine move of God in our church encourages them to continue seeking God for growth in their giving.
Now, let's discuss tithing. How can it possibly pose challenges within the church? After all, if everyone tithed, wouldn't our church have significantly more resources? While this may be true, let's examine a couple of perspectives.
One of the main challenges is the lack of understanding surrounding the term "tithe" within the church community. Often, we assume that people know what it means, which leads to misconceptions. In other words, tithe begins to just mean giving. “Whatever I give is a tithe.” It may sound absurd to church leaders, but this is what many of your people actually believe.
In reality, tithing is a spiritual discipline wherein Christ followers offer 10% of what God has provided for them to manage, acknowledging He is the ultimate owner of all things. It is not just an act of worship; it can be one of the purest forms of worship—giving back to the One who gave all for us. To dispel misunderstandings and prevent commoditization, it is crucial to repeatedly and clearly explain tithing as a spiritual discipline and a form of worship, not just a simple act of giving. And the weekly giving moment is a great place to do that.
Another obstacle arises when tithing becomes the ultimate goal for givers. When people give less than 10%, they may perceive reaching the 10% mark as the ultimate target, which contradicts the essence of giving as a journey. In the Bible, tithing served as the foundational standard for giving in the Old Testament, with any offering beyond the tenth considered a freewill offering from the heart.
The New Testament elevates the standard, encouraging generous, consistent, and joyful giving. Generous giving is exemplified through the Apostle Paul's encouragement to the church at Corinth, citing the Macedonians' sacrificial giving (2 Cor 8:3). Consistency in giving is emphasized when Paul advises setting aside funds regularly on the first day of the week (1 Cor 16:3). Finally, giving joyfully is highlighted as a matter of the heart, not a compulsory obligation (2 Cor 9:7).
If the tithe is viewed as the goal in one’s giving, then it is hard to hit any of these markers. Giving is a journey -- a life of progressive sanctification as it relates to our money and possessions.
So, if we want to embrace the idea that giving is a journey, how do we avoid these unintentional limitations? Here are three ideas.
1. Reframe the conversation around church budgets
Instead of merely presenting budget information, make it an inspirational discussion. Explain how the budget aligns with the church's God-given mission and vision. Encourage conversations about what the church could achieve with increased giving, inviting people to explore their next step in giving and generosity, not for funding the budget but for their own spiritual growth. Steer away from portraying the current budget as a goal and, instead, foster a sense of wonder about “what could God provide?”
2. Openly discuss giving and your own giving journey
Senior and Lead Pastors, your giving journey serves as the foundation for cultivating a culture of giving and generosity in your church. Share your experiences openly, normalizing conversations about money in a positive light. Focus on God's work in your heart, not the specific amount of percentage you are giving.
When a pastor talks openly and freely about their own giving journey, it frees up the culture to have the conversation about money without it feeling awkward or weird. It normalizes the conversation. Your giving journey sets the standard for the congregation, prompting them to contemplate their own giving journeys.
3. Teach about tithing and your church's beliefs on giving
This one may seem obvious but the reason we are including it here is that so few churches do this. There is an assumptive view that people in our churches understand what the tithe is and they know what we believe about giving. Let us say this, based on our work in thousands of churches. No, they do not know.
If you are going to use the word “tithe” in your conversations about giving and generosity, then regularly remind your people what that means. Younger givers in particular do not understand the word. And make sure you explain it as a spiritual discipline, not a financial exercise.
And clarify what your church believes about the tithe and giving. Like baptism, there can be differing views among Godly people. Be clear about what your church believes. It helps your people understand how you view giving in light of their journey to become a better giver for God’s glory.
So, let’s make an effort to keep church budgets and tithing as good things in our churches. Being careful that we don’t give the mistaken impression that when the budget is funded, your giving to the church is done for the year. Or, when you reach the 10% marker, you can relax and quit growing.
Let’s keep the journey alive. For our people’s sakes. And for God’s greater glory.
As always, I am available for further conversation on any of this if you’d like to talk. You can reach me at email@example.com.