You’ve probably heard the one about the £10 note. You know, the child who reluctantly places a portion of her month’s spending money in an envelope and drops it in the offering bag at church. Her parents tell her she will be blessed by her offering in ways she can’t foresee. The next day she receives a card in the post from her great aunt, who decided to send her £10 as an early birthday present…
Most likely, you can replace the main elements of this story with other parts of stories you have heard Christians tell. Often when these kinds of stories are told in a group, there is a collective gasp at the end and somebody says softly: “Amazing!”
However, the vast majority of you have never had this exact experience. Perhaps some of you give to your church on a regular basis while struggling to make ends meet. Others of you give sporadically to your church when you’ve got some extra cash at the end of the month. Still others have never thought about tithing – maybe you give to your favourite charity, but flinch at the idea of giving to your church on a regular basis.
Or worse, perhaps you’ve had bad experiences with churches spending money unwisely and want to be more choosy in where your income goes. Or you’ve seen one too many televangelists solicit funding for an opulent building or bloated salary, so hearing any church leader ask for your money makes your stomach turn.
Whatever your story, there are a number of reasons why it’s important to prioritise giving regularly to your local church, even if it doesn’t always feel like a good idea at first glance.
1. Regular giving is something the early Church did.
In the New Testament we find a model of the early Christians giving to their local churches on a regular basis so that none among them would go without. They set the “template” as it were, and we follow their example to this day. While well-meaning Christians disagree on whether it is biblical to tithe (give 10 per cent of your income to the local Church), it’s clear that Paul taught the early Christians that all of their possessions came from God, so “each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Ultimately, it’s not about what percentage we give; 100 per cent of it is God’s and whatever we keep for our own use or give away should be for His glory.
2. Regular giving from members helps churches plan their budgets for the following year and beyond.
Like all organisations, churches plan their budgets, however small. If there is low or erratic giving one year, then a wise leadership will plan a low or flat budget for the following year. This can have a ripple effect on programmes and ministries that churches long to do. Indeed, there are many grant-making organisations that churches can (and do) apply to, and even the government provides funding to repair Church of England buildings. But applying for grants takes up a lot of staff time and energy with no guarantee of success, and the grants are usually for very specific purposes. The best way for church leaders to plan their budgets is to have a reliable source of regular income from their congregants. On top of that, if you are a UK taxpayer, you can donate to your church through Gift Aid, which gives them an extra 25p for every pound you give, at no extra cost to you.
3. Regular giving shows that we prioritise the local Church.
Hear me well: if you are already giving regularly to a charity you are passionate about, do not stop! However, I encourage you to consider the importance of supporting the mission of your church. The local Church is a key signpost of God’s kingdom here on earth. It is the primary place you are fed spiritually, partake in community, and meet with God and other believers on a regular basis. Think of the power that comes from your whole congregation giving toward the mission of your church together. Rather than lots of individuals giving to individual charities, you actually commune with your fellow givers regularly. What an example that is of trusting God as a church.
4. Local churches are on the frontlines of kingdom work.
The money you give is not just being used to keep the doors open and lights on. It could be going toward anything from printing flyers for an outreach event to helping a desperately needy family in your church. Local churches have the unique advantage of being embedded in their communities. They are flexible enough to respond to rapidly changing situations and are well-experienced with their neighbours and surroundings.
So if you’ve never given to your church, why not start? Like the child who gives the £10 note, the amount does not have to be large. Start small, and make it a regular practice. It is perfectly normal to worry about money – that you won’t have enough if you give it away, or that it will not be well-spent. Don’t allow these worries to get in the way of trusting God, who calls the Church His “bride.” Rather, agree with Paul as he says in 2 Corinthians 9:8: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”