This past week at Nativity we preached a tough message, at least for most Catholics: Giving. And not just giving, but we dared to call it by its biblical name: Tithing. Everybody knows churches, like any organization, need money and resources to function, but for any number of reasons, giving and tithing have become a huge elephant in the sanctuary, at least in our Catholic community.
After some practice and learning, we think we’re finally, slowly, finding our way back to a culture of giving and actually achieving some consistent and measurable results. And not surprisingly, it all comes down (like pretty much everything else in church it seems) to having a clear and well-communicated, gospel-centered vision and strategy. I’m more and more convinced that preaching and teaching about money isn’t all that different from most other tough topics, and the main reason we fear talking about it isn’t because it will offend people (there are better options for that), but because we proceed without a confident vision and strategy.
Here are five points to keep in mind as you evaluate your approach to giving.
Quite frankly, most people don’t know how to give. Many would like to, but don’t know where to begin, and it becomes a completely arbitrary transaction. Others are skeptical the Bible has any relevant or healthy principles to offer. We beg to differ. Far from a “prosperity gospel” that will make you rich, there are plenty of ways to communicate Jesus’ teachings concerning money in a way that adds spiritual value to one’s life.
Implement your teaching in your own life and be prepared to share the spiritual fruits. Like any other tough teaching, you have to practice what you preach, or else no one will even consider it. You don’t have to get into specific amounts- often people just need to be assured you tithe and lived to tell the story- and it isn’t so bad after all.
Seems obvious, but make sure money is being allocated places where it will be most effective and valuable for the community. Don’t let it get tied up in private parish interest groups who waste it on club-type functions. Similarly, people need transparency. They need to trust the money is going to the right places, and people will greatly appreciate being upfront even when things aren’t going great.
In your church, as it was for Jesus, the way we communicate about money has to be about more than just paying salaries and keeping the lights on, although that’s important too. It’s really a vision for life change.
Have you ever asked people to give more, or even start giving? If these other points are in place, what do you have to be afraid of?
For another take, see Dan Reiland’s post at churchleaders.com