General CBF / offering for global missions

Renewed Giving: Rethinking Financial Partnerships and Tithing in Our Congregations

“Fund-raising is a very rich and beautiful activity. It is a confident, joyful, and hope-filled expression of ministry. In ministering to each other, each from the riches that he or she possesses, we work together for the full coming of God’s Kingdom” -Henri Nouwen

Let’s address the big green elephant in the sanctuary… giving. 

It is especially difficult to preach about tithing for several reasons: 

Chris West
  1. The biblical model for giving, from which we derive that pesky ten percent figure, often included agriculture or land and went to cover basic societal expenses. It is not a direct analogue to our modern capitalist system that uses taxes and fees to cover social services, though not always well. 

    Our traditional giving narrative relies on questionable exegesis so that pastors are left to make sense of this act of tithing for our modern audiences, many of whom are struggling financially or who are living barely at their means. 
  1. Churches want younger people in their services; but these younger members give far less and give less often than their generational counterparts. According to some sources, general charitable giving amongst millennials has declined to about a third of what the baby boomer generation was giving.

    This steady drop in giving is a horrifying reality for many churches with pastors often left making the decision between the preaching of tithing that their church desperately needs and offending the few younger people who are either unable or unwilling to give. 
  1. Of those who do tithe, (estimated by some sources to be as low as 10 percent of church members), it is estimated that 77 percent give more than 10 percent (Health Research Funding) of their income. This means that particular individuals in our communities are carrying the weight of the community by themselves. We can’t ask them to give more. 
  1. A lack of transparency and integrity are big problems for the modern church. Where does the money go after it leaves the offering plate? Some churches are led by pastors who preach the prosperity gospel and “need” private planes to support their ministries. Other churches are fronted by pastors in $600 Nike sneakers. This phenomenon has gained public attention, perhaps changing the conversation around church giving and causing many to put up walls. It is our job to meet our members where they are and to express the importance of giving as well as our gratitude.

We are not trying to convince you of a problem of which you are already aware, but instead, to empower pastors to preach this from the pulpit and encourage them to reframe the narrative around congregational giving. 

We need to talk about giving, but we must do so in a way that appeals to younger generations, that is healthy and transparent, that creates sustainable systems, and that avoids the traps of prosperity gospel theology. This is not an easy task. 

Let’s talk about reframing the conversation. Millennials and Gen Z-ers care about social causes and in many ways are more charitable than past generations. Our current philosophies of church giving focus too much on the good of the institution and not enough on the good of the community. When we do discuss giving, we talk about helping someone who is struggling financially or stuck in cyclical poverty; but we rarely make the jump to addressing these issues. I have four recommendations that I hope we might consider: 

  1. Let’s talk about giving as what it is: a way to partner. In his “Spirituality of Fundraising,” a book that should be standard reading for any pastor or organizational leader, Henri Nouwen urges fundraisers to rethink their methods and philosophies around giving to include the space for friendship, prayer and partnership. Giving is not about keeping the doors open, but  is a means through which others can join in friendship and community, express generosity, and build character by supporting the things they believe in. If our fundraising isn’t about neighbor-love then… we may be the ones missing the point.
  2. Certainly, younger generations are less able to give; but they might still be willing to give to particular causes or to see certain outcomes. Let’s offer people a specific way to join in giving and not expect too much, but meet that generosity (as Jesus did in Mark 12:41-44) with sincere gratitude and thanksgiving! 
  3. Let’s encourage conversations about giving and get honest feedback from those that already give. This is a partnership and we want to be good stewards of resources. That means we must first be listeners.
  4. Let’s make our church spending and giving as transparent as possible, while of course respecting donor privacy. Churches should know exactly where the money goes and where funds are needed. Let’s provide a clear vision for what more funds can do and ask people to give reasonable amounts to match that goal.
  5. Let’s find outside organizations to offer an opportunity to partner. Many CBF congregations are Encourager Churches, who give to specific field personnel to make their programming goals possible (food, housing, educating and advocating for people on the ground). Many other churches support our field personnel by giving to the Offering for Global Missions (OGM) that supports the presence of our field personnel (salary, housing, travel, education, health benefits, etc) worldwide.
  6. Let’s encourage younger generations to give and let’s teach giving by creating programs where parents are able to teach about giving with their kids and also empower the youth of the church to earn and give. The church is there to teach, worship, inspire and empower… even and especially when it comes to one’s  wallet (Matthew 6:24). 

Here is one such example of an appeal for project-specific, transparent, and financially reasonable giving:   

“Our goal is to raise $3,000 to give kids backpacks full of supplies for the school year, hosting a listening session for parents who are financially struggling and a providing a follow-up with a  financial literacy program. Then we can put on a job fair for the community. While we want to raise this money, we realize many of you are already actively giving to our church and community, and this is a big ask. We are looking for 50 partners to give $60 each and who will also volunteer, by connecting to the community and local businesses and by joining our listening session. If you are not called to join us in giving right now, we are asking for your prayers and presence at the upcoming listening session and career fair.” 

Not all giving is issue-specific though. Perhaps program-specific giving at our church is great, but we worry about keeping the lights on. 

We at CBF Global Missions are well aware of how difficult this issue can be. Many churches support programming of our field personnel, but giving to the Offering for Global Missions (OGM) has decreased over the years. As we speak to congregations, we are tasked with asking people to partner with us in giving to specific missions, but also to support the funding of presence through the OGM. Reminding our giving partners what our field personnel do is of vital importance; they cannot do what they do without being present! 

The same is true of our churches. If folks support the work of the church and what God has called it to, that means they must also support its presence. This might mean facilitating a larger conversation about how money is spent and how a congregation can increase its local impact. Communication, transparency and education are the keys to navigating these often difficult conversations. 

CBF Global Missions encourages our churches to have these conversations and be open to listening to those who choose to partner with them to make what they do possible. The daunting task of reframing giving is not a solo project. It will affect and connect us all! 

As a young minister, I can attest to how difficult and scary it can be to preach or teach about giving, and the last thing I want to communicate is that I have it all figured out. I don’t; but I am hopeful that together we can all make small steps towards a more constructive, healthy and helpful model of giving. 

Touching the topic of money can be an instant detractor for people and we often can see the demeanor of a room change the minute finances are mentioned. Frankly, it should not have to be this way. All that we have—land, food, money, etc.—is from God and should be used to support our families, to love our neighbor, and to glorify the God of creation! Churches are in a unique place to ensure that this happens. 

For the non-minister reading this, be kind and open when the topic of money comes up. You are a partner with your church and a member of the community. Sharing is a gift both to the recipient and the giver, who is offered a chance to glorify God and bless others. Be a blessing with your giving but hold the institution or organization accountable. If you give to a cause, show up to support it; write the leaders or volunteers of the organizations you support to encourage them in their goals, and pray for them. 

Regardless of our financial resources, we can always join as prayer partners. In fact, this week, CBF is hosting the Week of Prayer for Global Missions, where those in our Fellowship and those blessed by the giving of time, resources and presence, join together in prayer for those that serve and those that are served. Join us in this Week of Prayer and, if you feel so led to join us as a partner to make presence possible, consider giving to the Offering for Global Missions this week. 

We appreciate you, your prayers and any amount you’re called to give to support the work of our field personnel across the globe. Learn more and support the CBF Offering for Global Missions at www.cbf.net/ogm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s