Inspiring Generosity


Should Clergy Tithe to Their Congregation?

                          Where should it go?          HeatherPaque@pixabay

Big news in our family! We are the proud new parents of “Scout,” a 95-pound rescue, three-year-old lab mix. He’s a super-slobbery (emphasis on the slobbery) mush of love and we are thrilled. Check out his photo at the end of this post. In the midst of hard things, good dogs can brighten your day.
So, to the question of the hour: Should clergy tithe to their congregation? This has been ruminating in my head ever since I read Vu Le’s Nonprofit AF blog post, Why Non-profit Staff Should Not be Asked to Donate to the Organizations They Work For. Le comes from a decidedly secular viewpoint. Even so, his comments are thought provoking.

Le outlines several reasons why non-profit (let’s substitute the word “church” for “non-profit”) staff should not be asked to give to the church they work for. I’ve covered the three that seem most relevant:

  1. It’s inequitable. Le begins, “The people most affected are the staff who are paid lowest and have least seniority, and they are more likely to be from marginalized communities: people of color, people with disabilities, etc.”
  2. It is insulting. Again, Le states, “Many nonprofit staff are underpaid. In addition, many of us save our organizations money by not seeking reimbursement for meals, parking, overtime, etc.”
  3. It is weird and disingenuous. Here’s the takeaway: “So you’re paying me, but then you expect me to give some of it back? Why not just reduce my wages by whatever amount you expect me to donate? Why the charade?”

I strongly urge you to read the post in its entirety and some of the 150-plus comments that follow. Maybe you feel like this person:
Personally, I've never donated money to an organization I worked for and I never will. What I've given them is 1000s of hours of work, time sacrificed that I can't spend with family and friends, the prospect of a good, secure retirement, the ability to take vacations, and much more. They don't get my hard-earned money as well.
There’s a tinge of bitterness in those words.
Then again, here you are – a clergyperson. A person of faith. Do these points resonate? Does your understanding of tithing-versus-donating differ from Le’s? Should it?

I went back to one of my favorite golden oldie stewardship books, Ask, Thank, Tell by Chick Lane. In the chapter, “Discipleship, Not Membership,” Lane says, “The role of a disciple, then, is to grow deeper in Jesus and to tell others about Jesus.”  He lays out three marks of discipleship:

  • Doing the Ministry.
  • Giving as a part of a growing relationship with Jesus.
  • Living life in community.

Let’s say that you believe in tithing. You also believe in tithing ten percent. Does that mean you should be tithing to the church you work for?
If your primary area of ministry is your congregation and if you believe Lane’s right in his three marks of discipleship, I am voting “yes.”

  • Doing ministry comes at a cost that can’t be covered by just time and talent.
  • Giving financially is a response to all that God has given us.
  • Being a part of a community – living life in in your congregation – means sharing your resources.

But I am willing to be persuaded otherwise.
I would love to hear from you on this topic. Should clergy tithe to their congregation?
Send me an email with your thoughts. I know that this topic can be touchy. You may want to express some feelings that are less than acceptable in church circles. That’s OK too. If you want your comments to remain anonymous – they will not be attributed to you. I really do want to know what you have to say.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. And…as a bonus (at least in my little eyes), here’s a photo of the sweetest Scout in Salem, OR.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. Not that she’s biased or anything like that, but check out how happy this shelter dog is on adoption day. Thankfully, Scout is a tad more mellow. You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.
If someone has forwarded this to you and you would like to subscribe to "Inspiring Generosity," click here.  Miss an issue?  Click here. Want to see more stewardship resources? Click here.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.