What do you think? JeffJacobs1990@pixabay
To all you United Methodists out there: Happy Annual Conference season. And…this Sunday, don’t forget to recognize Juneteenth. Still unsure of what Juneteenth honors? Well, it’s your lucky day! Find out all you need to know about this new Federal holiday here.
We’re back to reading more of your comments on “Should Clergy Tithe to Their Congregation?” If you missed the first post that started this conversation, you can read it here. If you missed last week’s responses, you can find them here.
Clearly, this topic has touched a proverbial nerve. Thanks to all of you who took time to write such thoughtful responses. With such meaty content, a few of you should write a chapter in a book. Really. Am I surprised that my readers are so full of wisdom? Of course not.
I could use another week to share these but I think it’s best to make this post extra-long. I have edited responses for length and clarity. Without further ado, here are more responses to the question: “Should Clergy Tithe to Their Congregation?” _____________
SP, laity, Oregon
On the question about whether clergy should tithe to their congregation - firstly this is two questions. One; should a person, any person, tithe? and two; should clergy give to their congregation.
The first question/answer is, I believe, between the individual and their God.
The second question, however, I believe, is phrased wrongly; the question should be "should clergy give to their God?"; not "should clergy give to their congregation.” When I pledge to "the church" it is to God, not to the congregation as a whole or individually. And, yes, clergy should, as much as anyone should, give financially to God.
EM, clergy, Oregon
My answer to your question is absolutely!
I tithe not because I am clergy or employed by a local non-profit that happens to be a church. I tithe because I am a disciple of Jesus Christ (and have for the last 20 years!). Ordained or not, I would tithe, and I have gained so much joy living a life of generosity and faithfulness. Offering my first fruits to God is like putting my money where my mouth is, and I want to model to my children how important it is to have our money follow our convictions and our priorities. Life in Jesus is about life in abundance, why should I withhold my money in fear?
Also, I want to invite other believers within the community to know the joy of tithing, and I would never ask someone to do something I am not willing to do myself.
JW, laity, California
If a pastor tithes should depend on his salary, perks like housing and utilities, travel (work) expenses, golf fees when he is playing with the church men’s group, etc. [If this is what the clergyperson is receiving], then by all means he/she should pledge. Unless everyone in the church is tithing, they should not be singled out to pay 10%.
GP, clergy, Oregon
As of this month, I've been retired for three years. Looking back on my career which involved working with/for at least a dozen congregations and one governing body I have thoughts on this topic.
I believe as followers of Jesus, if we are serious about following Him and growing in the faith, then we need to give, even more than God and by extension, the church, needs our funds. We also believe that God will take care of our needs (not our greeds) if we are seeking to be faithful in all things. Therefore, we should tithe to the cause of Christ.
Whether we tithe to the same congregation which we serve on staff may be a different question. In my case, for the last ten or so years of my career about half of my tithe went to a para-church organization…The other half of my tithe went to my local church, which was where I also worked. Looking back, the outcome is that God always out-gave my ability to contribute. When they say you can’t outgive God, my story supports that motto.
DA, clergy, New Hampshire
While as the pastor at at my former church, I gave my gifts to the church because I believed in what God was doing through us. It was an exciting time for ministry. As one now removed from local church ministry for 12 years, I would not expect a pastor to give to their church exclusively because some pastors aren’t serving in a faith community where God’s work is being done. We give in thanks to God’s presence in our lives and to support God’s work. If a church is just hanging on and not focused on moving forward, is it a gift of thanksgiving to put all of your tithe in that church? Where else might God be leading us to do divine work with our finances? In that situation, how then might the pastor connect the church and this outside area of passion? A good question.
As I say that, I also realize that for some pastors, as much as it pains them, they might have to give their tithe to the church for appearance and perceived commitment. In other words, they don’t have a choice. In that case, they need to inspire and create reasons to give that serve God. I am guessing if they do so, that church will grow in healthy and exciting ways.
DC, laity, Idaho
Clergy should pay tithe:
1. Tithing is a mark of being a part of the church; it is a symbol given throughout scripture…
2. Not paying tithe is one of the reasons clergy are easily separated from their congregation. Tithing creates an investment and solidarity with the congregation.
3. Clergy are not a marginalized community.
4. It is to be a voluntary contribution; therefore, it should not be seen as a reduction in salary.
5. How many congregants work full-time and invest their time and energy into the necessities of the church without seeking monetary compensation?...
6. Clergy are to be an example, to preach, and teach which includes teachings and sermons on tithing. It would be an easier topic to broach if the clergy practiced it.
KH, clergy, Idaho
Here are a few disjointed thoughts that this brought to mind for me:
- YES, give to your own church!!
- I grew up in a "do as I say, not as I do" household. That's terrible leadership, and it lacks integrity; I can't in good conscience lead like that. If I'm asking people to give, then I'm already giving and intend to continue doing so.
- I give to organizations that I believe in, that I want to see succeed, that I believe are capable of building the kin-dom. If I work for an institution that doesn't meet those criteria, then I may well be in the wrong place...
-...and yet, I think some of us find ourselves in really hard seasons when our confidence in our own institution may waver. In those seasons, I give in ways that I believe can help my own organization succeed. For example, when I was frustrated about circumstances in my own local church, I supported General Commission on Race & Religion and United Methodist Committee on Relief. I looked to these United Methodist organizations to help my church be better by utilizing their resources, drawing upon their vision, etc.
- I agree with Vu Le about the problem of staff (or volunteers) feeling the need to absorb expenses rather than seeking reimbursement. I am strongly opposed to this, and I speak to it at every opportunity! Turn in the receipts. Expect the reimbursement that's owed. Doing otherwise is bad business and fosters resentment. Churches, etc. need to have a clear understanding of the cost of doing business. If a staff member, clergy person, or volunteer chooses to endorse the reimbursement check and give it right back, that's fine (though NOT expected!)...but go through the process of reimbursement!
BS, clergy, Oregon
In answer, I say yes.
From a leadership standpoint. The pastor, as leader in the organization has a responsibility to model this aspect of the life of a follower. Giving is a calling and a gift. It is not for the benefit of the church, but for the heart of the giver. I believed I was called to give into the church just as I called others to do so as well. My wife and I have continued to follow this practice through the years of my ministry and hers. I cannot imagine not giving or holding onto an attitude of "They owe me, so I am not giving them a cent."
VW, laity, Montana
I was introduced to tithing before I became a member (at 11 years old). It made great sense. I got a dollar and gave ten cents. What easy math. That worked all the way through my first three years of teaching, but entering the military we could not make our budget work, so we decided we would tithe a lower percentage of money and raise the amount of time we donated. That worked well because we got to know others in the congregation more easily since we were only in those churches one or two years.
When I became a youth and camping ministry volunteer, we also made some adjustments. Since we were paying for food for most of the youth riding in our car, I usually did take reimbursement for miles and that allowed me to afford to help out the youth who did not have money, but did have great faith and enthusiasm for the ministry. Our car died and we had to buy a newer one and somehow that had to figure into the tithe as I was driving many miles.
I think my main point here is that the tithe has always been a measure we have held as important and if we were not able to do it all in money, we increased the percentage of time given to the church to above a 10% amount. I always thought the pastor would be tithing too. If that is what a disciple does and the pastors are leading us toward true discipleship....it just stands that they would be doing the same prayerful thinking that we as lay people were doing.
JD R-S, clergy, Idaho
I was raised in a Methodist pastor's family and knew from hearing him say in that church that he tithed. And I strongly remember him saying at the offering time that for the Hebrew people, to worship was to bring an offering to God. As a child I was taught to tithe from my allowance, so I pledged, and I remember putting a coin in the offering envelope that he helped me learn to fill out.
When we (a clergy couple) entered our first congregations - and began earning a consistent salary, I taught my husband about tithing, and told him why I believed in it. I told him I would tithe to my church from my salary, and encouraged him to tithe from his salary to his churches. We talked it over for several weeks, and then he did. We still debate whether we should tithe before or after taxes. I believe in tithing from the gross salary, and I don't worry about money. He – a business major in college – still worries about our finances, but he tithes – from the net salary.
For me tithing is a no brainer. It is part of what it means to follow Jesus. I give to the church because "to worship is to bring an offering to God." I learned that as a young child, and it still rings true today.
You’ve made it this far. Congratulations! Here’s the last and one of my favorite reflections:
KS, clergy, Pennsylvania
Thanks for your asking this question. I'll add to the conversation, I hope.
1. First, a pastor is a Christian disciple. Therefore, the fruit of the Spirit Paul describes should be continuously taking shape in her/his life. The NRSV rightly translates what was previously translated "goodness" as "generosity." In the Greek, it means "doing good" rather than "being good" (which is the way I traditionally understood it).
2. I'd change the word "tithe" to "contribute." Since the pastor is a principal vision-caster for the congregation, the answer is "of course." The pastor is "in the fight." S/he is a believer in the church's mission. A leader cannot lead without investing her/his "prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness."
3. Tithing is not the Gold Standard. It's only mentioned three times in the New Testament, and the two times it was used by Jesus were disparagingly about the Pharisees. Tithing is a stepping stone – you work to get there, and then you grow to exceed it. Tithing, for lots of us folks, is not an end-point, but a stepping stone. At the same time, tithing may well be an impossibility for some people who are financially insecure.
4. The core issue, after all, is generosity. In Wesley's terms, "are you being made perfect in love – with regard to your generosity?" That's a question we ask our parishioners and ourselves – "Are we growing in generosity?"
5. Years ago, when we were in a parsonage and I was urging Church Council members to tithe, a lay Council member said to me afterwards, "Pastor, it's easier for you to tithe. You get a free house and utilities. Your income base (on which you calculate your tithe) is far lower than mine." My wife and I determined that he was right, and we started that year to add "the fair rental value plus utilities" of our parsonage to the income base we used for tithing. My friend illuminated my view of tithing.
6. A pastor cannot get bogged down in "how tough it is to be generous." We are witnesses to "the joy of giving to great causes." Take 1 Timothy 6:17-19 in The Message as a life verse. The goal is "extravagant generosity." Keep working at it. My best example is my dad, a man of average, middle-class means all his life. In his 90s, he lived simply and regularly gave away 50% of his annual income. His compelling question to me, as his Power-of-Attorney, was "Why can't I give more?" (I think that question means he was very close to what Wesley called "being made perfect in love" with regard to generosity.)
I'd say that the answers to the question are two - personal spiritual growth and leadership mean that you are contributing generously (maybe even extravagantly) to your congregation. Both issues are not private; they can be evident to your leaders and in the congregation. A leader leads by leading.
And with that, I say, “Amen.” Is your congregation asking – like KS above suggests –
“Are we growing in generosity?”
Tithing, although it’s an individual act, is even more powerful when done in community. That means everyone contributes to the good of the whole.
Thanks again to all of you who contributed to this very stimulating conversation. May we all grow in generosity.
Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.
1 Timothy 6: 17-19 (The Message)
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. Did you know that you can find anything on the interwebs?! If you’ve not worked with cash for awhile, she wants to share the “Get Your Money Right” tune. 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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