Here comes the offering plate. Is it panic time?
Last week, I ran a series of polls soliciting reader votes on topics pertaining to the Church and money. This week, and part of next, I’ll be unpacking those results and commenting.
The first poll dealt with the tithe, and I’ve got say that the results surprised me. See, I’ve talked to a wide range of people, and my experience has been that you get people talking about tithing and inevitably the conversation turns negative. I’m not sure I’ve ever talked with peers or younger who were completely happy with their church’s position on tithing, the amount of money they themselves gave, or the way in which tithe money was spent (which will be covered in the Church Finances commentary following later this week).
But Cerulean Sanctum readers appear to be largely satisfied with all those factors.
Let’s take a look at the final results and I’ll offer some commentary
Right off, I botched the wording on this question since the one answer that garnered no votes was supposed to be “free will offering” option, but the words obligated and anything made it sound too restrictive. I should have said, “…no one is obligated to give a specific amount or percentage of income.” Oh well. Plenty of readers wrote to tell me that their Other vote meant to encompass that position.
I was shocked at the outcome that got the most votes since I can honestly say that despite being a part of seventeen churches in the course of my lifetime, not a single one formally taught that position. And those churches ran the gamut of denominations, too. So color me surprised.
This surprising result is a good thing, though, in that perhaps more people are willing to go the second mile on helping others no matter how much it might inconvenience the giver. If more of us held that position, I suspect our churches would function more like the early Church in our largess.
I thought that the 10 percent tithe position would run away with this one.
As for my position (and the one I think is biblical), tune into my next post as I unpack it for you. Needless to say, I’m sure I’ll cheese off a few people.
But we’ll have to wait and see!
With nearly 70 percent of people saying they at least mostly agree with their church’s position on tithing, I’d venture to say this supposedly contentious issue of giving must not be that contentious after all. In fact, I’d suspect that we’d all be hard pressed to find a topic within Christianity that has 70 percent buy-in.
I guess few are writing letters to their church’s leadership on this issue. Knowing also that Cerulean Sanctum attracts a large number of people who are looking for a deeper church experience, I must contend that tithing is not the issue that has them wondering or searching for something deeper.
Given that a majority said they believed that their church gave more money than most other churches, yet a similar percentage said that their church leaders only talked about giving once or twice a year…well, those must be highly persuasive messages, even if rarely given!
I’d love to see the denominational and income factors behind this answer, too. When I was a member of a prosperous Presbyterian church, I never once heard a message on tithing or giving. Never. That church always had great gobs of money, too. On the other hand, I was part of an enormous Third Wave charismatic church that appealed to the same demographic as the Presbyterian church (and was, in fact, made up of a large number of folks who left that Presbyterian church). That Third Wave church didn’t appeal for money much either, yet it also struggled at times due to poor giving response.
My current church is definitely not as wealthy as either of those previous churches, yet it gives very generously. Major difference? I get an elder-delivered message each week on giving 10 percent. My experience has been the more blue collar the church, the more likely it is to have a regular message on giving, and if the church also happens to be Assemblies of God, Pentecostal, or another Azusa Street revival offspring, the likelihood goes up even more. Of course, YMMV.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Though most people seem satisfied with the frequency of messages on giving they receive, I’d like to hear from the people who feel they don’t hear this message enough. Why do you feel that way? What is the financial health of your church?
As for people who hear the message too often, I understand, especially if that message is not as biblical as it should be.
I’m encouraged that people felt that they gave a satisfactory amount. I know that I never feel perfectly comfortable on this issue. I commiserate with Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler near the end of Schindler’s List as he laments his inability to do even more than he had.
A couple in our church had their house burn down this week. That’s about as critical as it gets. A young man who was recently baptized in our church had his house burn down about three months earlier. You hear that kind of need and no dollar amount seems large enough on that check you write.
For the 1 out of 4 of you who share my feeling, what’s going on in your head on this issue? I’d like to know. Thanks in advance for being willing to comment.
Again, the positive or neutral feelings outweighed any negative ones. I think that’s great. For those in the positive column, would anyone be willing to share what approach the leadership of your church employs when talking about giving? I’m sure any pastors reading this who struggle when speaking to their church about giving would like to know how others are communicating that message effectively.
Another positive response. Almost 70 percent of you feel you are giving as much or more than the average person at your church.
I’m not surprised at this, though. I think the people who read Christian blogs are more highly attuned to issues facing the church and are probably a cut above average on income and intelligence. I suspect readership is mostly white collar, and thus higher-earning.
I also know that people come here because they share some of the concerns I raise on this blog, and I talk about financial issues more than most other Godbloggers, so readers are more attuned to that need than average—at least I would guess that would be the case.
I don’t know too many churches north of the Mason-Dixon Line that still publish personal giving numbers for public consumption. I’m aware that a few true fundamentalist churches still make this a practice, but I’ve got to believe in this age of seeker sensitivity that having a church publish the amount a person gives would be akin to being coerced into giving the morning’s message on the spot, and in the buff, too. Not something too many of us would be willing to endure.
That said, most of you have clear consciences.
On the other hand, I feel for the folks who said they didn’t feel like they gave enough. It’s a guilty feeling, though no guilt should ever be associated with giving what one can. The widow had two mites, but she outshone the rest of the temple. When we consider that the outer temple was capable of holding 200,000 people, she did some seriously outshining. Enough for Jesus to notice and praise her. For those who feel they don’t give enough, I pray you can know the Lord’s praise on this issue. Every little bit counts. And if we can’t give money, God knows that some of the best gifts are either free or a big investment in time.
That magical almost-70-percent showed up again here as that number felt their church gave as much or more than most churches. Again, that’s a comforting number.
And yet, when I think of the homeless, the unadopted, and the vast need out there, I have to wonder if we’re really as generous as we say we are.
No doubt, Americans are more generous than most of the world’s people. A few years ago, Americans gave $280,000,000,000 in charitable contributions. That’s close to a thousand dollars for every American. That’s not bad. Of course, it can always be better.
I don’t know how Christians figure into that number. I certainly hope we are more generous than the general public, but the stats on this can be conflicting. Last time I talked about this with some servers, they universally hated the lousy tips they got from church people who visited their restaurants right after church.
I certainly hope we can do better, especially considering the majority answer on that first poll question.
As I promised, this issue of tithing will be a two-part commentary. So come back for the follow-up post as I talk about what I see as the Bible’s standard for giving.
Thank you for all who voted. I’m grateful.
Got your own commentary on these poll results? The comments are open. Fire away!