How Much Should You Give to Your Church?—18 Questions to Help You Plan Your Giving Next Year

Lon —  December 23, 2013 — 2 Comments

How much money should you give to your church next year?

Good question.

photo of hand carved offering plate

You could tithe if you wanted. There’s an appealing simplicity to tithing. Just do the 10% math on your paycheck and you’re done, ✔. That was the basis of my personal giving formula for many years:

10% of income for Church general fund (mandatory)
+x% for missions (semi-optional)
+x% for building fund (optional)

Not anymore.

I’ve written several posts explaining why Jesus and the Apostles did not lay the Old Testament tithing command upon the Church. Briefly, the explanation goes like this:

  • God established the tithe as part of His covenant with Israel to support the sacrificial requirements of the Law (Levites, Priests, a sanctuary, festivals, animals, the harvest, etc.) which foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice for sins which God Himself would provide.
  • Jesus, God’s sacrifice, offered himself once for sins, thereby fulfilling and ending Israel’s sacrificial system. In doing so, He replaced God’s covenant with Israel with a new covenant that includes both Jews and Gentiles.
  • Since the commands to offer sacrifices were abolished, so was the system of tithes and offerings that supported it.
  • Neither Jesus nor the Apostles reinstated the tithe as a new covenant support system for churches or church leaders.

Instead, Jesus and the Apostles enjoined believers to give generously according to their conscience, out of their riches or poverty, in obedience to the Great Commission (preach the gospel) and the Great Commandment (love your neighbor).

As I said, you could simply tithe next year if your conscience so directs. It’s not forbidden; though it isn’t commanded either, and isn’t necessarily the best approach to Christian stewardship, charity, or support of the worldwide gospel mission.

So, how much should you give to your church next year?

It depends. (Sorry, it does.)

I’ll explain that in a moment. But first, let me suggest that each year you take time in December/January to plan your giving annually with your annual budget. In old covenant Israel, giving was planned seasonally to coincide with harvests. But you probably think of your income as coming in annual, not seasonal, cycles. Raises, bonuses, income tax payments and refunds are annual (or quarterly) events. Therefore, now is the time to pray, think and plan what you will give to your church next year and how you want that money to be used.

“Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.”—Psalm 62:10 ESV

What things should you take into account when you plan your financial support for your church? Here’s a helpful list of questions Dawn and I consider when we plan our annual giving.

GOD’S PROVISION FOR YOU

  1. Do you anticipate a stable or unpredictable income?
  2. Will your income be higher or lower? by how much?
  3. How much of your increase could you give away?
  4. Will your expenses be stable or unpredictable? Can you reduce them?
  5. Do you have debts (whether foolish or unintentional) that will come due?
  6. Do you anticipate large, irregular expenses (medical bills, new furnace, etc)?
  7. Can you frugal-ize (yes, I just made up a word) your lifestyle in any way (meals out, non-essentials, etc)?
  8. Can you give a higher percentage of your total income? Can you increase the dollar amount? Can you make non-cash donations?

NEEDS YOU’RE CONCERNED ABOUT

  1. What human needs concern you? (poverty? disease research? mercy and justice ministries? orphanages? education? elder care?)
  2. What ministries or charities address those needs? Does your church?
  3. Are they trustworthy? Are real needs being met?
  4. Do the secular charities that meet needs you’re concerned about promote messages and use methods that harmonize with the gospel?
  5. Should your focus on needs be local? global? both?

YOUR CHURCH’S FAITHFULNESS

  1. Does your church’s general budget prioritize the local and/or worldwide proclamation of the gospel?
  2. Does your church have specific outreach or mission ministries you can support?
  3. Does your church’s general budget prioritize caring for the needs of the local and/or worldwide poor, hungry, oppressed, exploited, infirm, etc?
  4. Does your church have specific ministries funded to meet these needs?
  5. If your church is having a building fund, do you believe it will enhance your church’s ministries of gospel proclamation and/or care for those in need?

FOR EXAMPLE

That’s a lot to think about, I know. But you probably get the gist. Every year review your finances and plan how you can increase your giving, prioritizing financial support for the Great Commission and Great Commandment.

For example, here’s what Dawn and I did last year:

  • The bulk of our giving went to our church’s general fund which we feel is faithfully focused on the Great Commission and Great Commandment. We give with each bi-weekly paycheck via our bank’s auto-pay system. We don’t support a building fund at this time.
  • Next, we support an elderly family member. Also bi-weekly.
  • We also make small monthly contributions to these Christian ministries and charities:

We are making plans now to increase our contribution to most of these next year, including our church. We also plan to add another ministry: Joni and Friends, which serves the needs of the disabled community.

We hope this post has motivated you to plan your giving annually and to look for ways to increase your financial commitment to the Christian callings of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

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Hi, I'm Lon Hetrick, an average guy who believes God is great, even when (my) life isn't. Grace mingles with our griefs in this life, so I write about spiritual life, emotional health, and being average to encourage you hope in God today. When I'm not putting my theological degree to good use on Average Us or writing Christian education and discipleship material for churches, I work as an interaction designer for a prominent automotive website. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+

2 responses to How Much Should You Give to Your Church?—18 Questions to Help You Plan Your Giving Next Year

  1. 

    Lon,

    In his book “Brothers We Are Not Professionals” John Piper has a chapter entitled “Brothers, Tell Them Copper Will Do.” As I remember the thrust of the chapter is the foolishness before God in spending excess money on self-comforts rather than laying up treasure in heaven. You a re right in your posting that we should be very aware of where our money (time, talent?) goes on a personal level. And as we support our churches we should be aware also. When we look at an annual church budget, what is the ratio of money spent on real ministry vs. money spent on ourselves, meaning enhanced comforts, means of entertainment, updates to stay current technologically, etc. As with personal expenses, a church must maintain safe and sound facilities, pay the utilities, pay the payroll, but should not a church as well do an annual ministry audit (what is effective, efficient, necessary in celebrating and spreading the Gospel) as well as an annual financial audit? A ll of that to say that I agree with your post!

    Dick Thurston

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