You are answering the question! Pete Linforth @ Pixabay
Last week I posed the question – "Should clergy tithe to their congregation?" If you haven’t had a chance to read that blog post, you can catch it here. It will provide you with the context for the post and why some people responded the way they did.
I asked and you answered. Thanks to all of you who took time to write – sometimes quite passionately – about this topic. Clearly, you have thought deeply about it. There were so many thoughtful responses that it’ll roll over to next week as well.
So, drumroll please:
Should clergy tithe?
In a word, a resounding “YES.”
Should they tithe to their congregation?
Well…that’s a little more nuanced.
A clergyperson from Southern California simply said, “I wish you had answered this question for us.”
Sorry. I wish there was one simple answer.
If anything, there isn’t a clear response. The majority who wrote to me see tithing as a spiritual response to God’s call on their lives. How that gets done practically is where people differ.
I’m sharing responses with you in this post and next week as well. I’ll identify people with initials, whether they are clergy or laity, and location. Some of the responses will be edited for length and clarity.
SR, clergy, Oregon:
Brave to raise this! Goodonya.
I didn’t tithe, to the church or anywhere else, until I had already been a pastor for about five years (I was like 36 years old at the time I first made a decision to grow to a tithe). Up to then we always considered “giving” as something to do “when moved” and out of excess. Needless to say, student loans, small family (three kids) and low pay meant we literally never had any excess. In fact, when we first committed to tithing, we still needed help with emergency expenses and were taking no vacations, driving really old worn-out cars, etc.
But then I learned about tithing as a spiritual discipline. It means committing first fruits to God’s projects. We started at 1% and it took us about 8 years to ramp up to 10%.
We always gave it to the church I was serving, but honestly, that’s not really relevant. It’s the commitment to tithe for whatever one may see as consistent with God’s good will toward the world. We found that, unlike the constant feeling of poverty we struggled with before we committed to tithe, we felt more and more financially free as we moved towards the 10% tithe.
Once we reached 10% baseline, we found ourselves “moved” to donate from excess beyond that. Many years we were closer to 15%. Clergy should not be compelled to tithe, and certainly not to their appointment (rules are anathema to spiritual discipline).
But honestly, I’m not sure someone could be “going on toward perfection in love” without the spiritual discipline of proportionate giving.
KF, clergy, Washington:
I think clergy should tithe to their church for a number of reasons.
I believe that tithing like prayer, study and service is an important spiritual discipline.
It is truly disingenuous to preach to our people about giving when we are not giving ourselves.
If we believe in the ministry of a church and its programs, we should be excited to help cover its expenses.
It is one of the most powerful statements we can make about who we trust and who is our true master. When we place our offering in the plate whether physically or electronically, we are quite literally saying “Yes” to God and “To Hell” with stuff.
Finally, and somewhat sadly, our churches notice when we do not give. I have had church treasurers and others express to me their frustration over staff who talk about giving and don’t give themselves.
Thanks for bringing up the hard stuff.
EC, laity, Idaho
Tithing is not the same as donating. This concept is learned and takes years to develop and becomes a deeper concept as one becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The pastor should tithe and some of that tithe should go to the ministry the pastor works for. If the pastor believes that the ministry is doing the work of Jesus Christ in the world, it should be financially supported – along with all the hours of work and prayers.
BS, clergy, Oregon
I started with about 6-7% of my salary to the church I currently serve with a commitment to try and grow that until I hit 10%.
I'm almost two years in and am around 8%. I can say that I was super anxious about money while working a full-time job and doing ¼ time pastoral ministry (and not tithing). Ever since making a practice out of it, and committing to give more as my family is able, I have not been as anxious about money. The church culture is a generous one, the previous pastor emphasized generosity and tithed a full 10%, so I am stepping into something I didn't make up and am finding it has certainly helped me in my relationship with Jesus. And I'm only 2 years in.
Thanks for this post.
CD, clergy, Eastern Oregon
As far as tithing (or pledged giving) is concerned, I’m with [Chick] Lane. If part of a clergy person’s theology of giving includes giving back what God has given you and leading by example (especially lead pastor or only pastor), then the answer has to be yes. How can one ask the congregation to participate in a spiritual practice that costs them (literally) if one does not also participate in that practice? Otherwise, any ask phrased as giving back to God or giving as worship is disingenuous or even fraudulent.
Yes, maybe pastoral compensation could take the expectation of tithing into consideration, but regular, consistent giving (whether it is 10% or not is another question) should be done. I suppose if the clergy person didn’t feel comfortable giving directly to their own local church, they could give to another or something else church related.
When it comes to church staff or even part time associate pastors, that’s a different story. Then I’m totally with [Vu] Le. I would hope they were part of a faith community, even if it not ours. I would hope that they are giving as a spiritual practice, but I would not require any staff to give to the church they work for. In fact, I would try really hard to make sure it is not even implied.
JL, clergy, Kentucky
…While it might be that giving to a non-profit organization for which you work is as described, there is a difference for pastors and congregations. Your agreement with Chick Lane reflects my understanding as well. There is a theological reason for the gifts we make. And, in reference to the quote from the bitter one, we would contend that even if it is “my hard-earned money,” it ultimately belongs to God. I am also a firm believer in what someone once said—that we don’t give to the church but as the church.
Whew, Cesie here. That’s a lot to take in – and thanks for reading thus far. It’s clearly an issue that you feel strongly about. More to come next week. If you want to pitch in your opinion, it’s not too late.
I’ll leave you with Henri Nouwen from his book The Spirituality of Fundraising:
What is our security base? God or Mammon? That is what Jesus would ask. He says that we cannot put our security in God and also in money. We have to make a choice. Jesus counsels: “Put your security in God.” We have to make a choice where we want to belong, to the world or to God. Our trust, our basic trust, Jesus teaches, has to be in God.
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. It’s best if some pastors skip the golfing…even putt putt. You can reach Cesie at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.
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