By Seth Busetti
When Alexis and I got married, we came from two very different tithing backgrounds.
Growing up, my family spent a lot of time bouncing between churches, never really finding a home for more than a few years at time. I remember my parents putting money in the collection plate, but don’t recall ever talking about giving in relationship to income. If my heart felt tugged during a service, or because of a missionary presentation, I’d reach in the wallet and see what was available (being sure to leave enough left to eat lunch out). Hmm, let’s see what I’ve got here…ah, a $5 or $10 bill ought to feed a few of those hungry kids in Haiti.
Alexis, on the other hand, grew up going to the same small town Southern Baptist church most of her life. The doctrine of New Testament tithing was very clearly spelled out. Giving was almost as much an indicator of Christian faithfulness as communion. When we met in college, she didn’t really make any money, and she didn’t have any money on hand to give, but when she had it, ten percent of it was in the plate!
Enter marriage…and a family budget…and some mutual financial accountability. Oh, man! You mean together we make X many dollars (the first year of marriage it was like $13K…yes, we were broke!), do you realize how much we’re allocating to give!? When you’re used to giving ten dollar bills, starting to write checks for a few hundred is really a shocker. It happens again when you get that big job, a hundred dollar giving check turns into several hundred or more!
That’s the discussion many of us have even if church attendance isn’t even an issue. But now add it in. One of the most common comments we hear from people is that they used to give when they were members regularly attending a church. But then they moved, took a new job (with a big income increase, perhaps), and they still haven’t found a church home. So they haven’t gotten back into tithing. Who would they give to anyway? A few months making exception for low giving turns into a few years.
If that is you, you are in luck! Here are five ways that you can fulfill your heart’s call to stay a generous giver and maintain a regular tithe, even when you are between churches.
- Give to Your Previous Church. This is what we did when we moved to Houston. Until we became members at our new congregation, we sent our tithe checks back to our old church in Oklahoma.
- Give to a Church That is Doing Good Work. Maybe while you are still looking for a home you send your tithe checks to another body that serves you, perhaps Lakewood Church in Houston, or Hillsong in Australia, or give to your grandpa’s church, or to the home church of your favorite Christian band.
- Give to a Missionary Organization. So that it isn’t burning a hole in your pocket, you could send your tithe money to a believing outreach ministry, for example Samaritan’s Purse, Youth With a Mission, or Christian Friends of Israel.
- Give to a Transitional Pastor. We have had friends who were raising funds to participate in an unpaid ministry internship, or a new position at a smaller church (maybe a youth pastor). These are often 1 to 2 year rotations or transitional periods where your tithe could be just what is needed to fund a new pastor. Then, when they get situated, hopefully you’ll have gotten situated in a church home too, and can you can transfer your giving over.
- Give to a Local Homeless Shelter, Orphanage, or Women’s Shelter. While you are displaced, why not send your money to someone who is without a real home?
In each case, you will build a bond with another ministry that can continue even when you do find a church home. When we were broke college students, we tithed on the little we earned, but we also started giving $85 a month to support a seminary student in northern India. It was a reminder to us that what seemed such a stretch for us was actually meeting the needs of someone else in the world. Over ten years later, we still support that program. What a joy it is to get letters from these pastors-in-training about how we’ve helped them fulfill their calling to reach villages in India with the gospel!
Some of you will ask if we think giving to missionaries and charities is the same as a tithe. We do hold a traditional view that the majority, if not all, of your tithe is best used at your home congregation, to support the ministry that supports you spiritually. But we’re not dogmatic about the ratios. Once you start building the discipline of giving, the line begins to blur between tithes and offerings anyways. You just learn to love to give. I like the mentality that our congregational leaders teach, that 10% is a starting place, not the final number.
If you find yourself in the position where a few life transitions have crowded your finances and left you wondering where your tithe went, we’d love to help. We can help you work through your money situation to not just make room for regular giving, but to prioritize joyful spontaneous generosity.
We offer free budgeting tools to help you keep track of your income and spending. We have a blog about how to start a budget here, and a video on getting your finances on track here, a free Excel budget template here, and a detailed video walkthrough to go with it. We know you can do a lot of this on your own.
You can set up a free coaching consultation if you want to learn how personal coaching with Alexis can help you get on top of your finances. She can help just about anybody free up at least $250-500 each month with some strategic optimization.
We also are available if you are a pastor or small group leader and would like help teaching financial disciplines and generous giving to your church, bible study, women’s group, etc. Just send as a note or give us a call to see how we can partner with you to get more resources flowing into God’s Kingdom work.
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