Trying to figure something out…about giving to the local NT church

A lot of this post may or may not make sense…. I am thinking out loud

Recently, we have heard a lot of news about how charitable giving is down, churches and other charitable organizations are having trouble meeting their budgets.  Educational institutions are closing, cutting back, or merging with other institutions.  Invariably in all of this, the economy in general, is the reason for these things.  I do not doubt the veracity of the statements, but I am trying to figure something out here.

I can see that because of price increases in (mainly food and fuel, although fuel has gone down considerably in recent days)  that it would lead to people have less available for charitable contributions (outside of the local NT Church)

What I am trying to figure out is why giving is down in our churches in general?

I am reminded of the verse found in Proverbs 3:9 (NKJV)

Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.

The first check I write when I get paid is to my local church.  My intent here is not get on a discussion of the validity of tithing,etc.  For our family, we have used 10 % of our gross pay as a base and increase it 1% or so a year, but we never go below the 10% base.  I understand that there are those who have lost their jobs, etc.    What I can’t figure out is why people would be giving less, if nothing has changed.  They are still working, they are still doing the same things they are doing that they always have done, in spite of the economy.  Then why are our churches struggling financially?

Are people making arbitrary decisions regarding their giving?  I do not know.  I am looking at the weekly financial report from our local church from 12/14.  Our Weekly budget is $23484 but our actual giving is $20,941 – a difference of about $2500.00    Could this be that our attendance is not what is used to be?  Could it be that people who once gave have stopped giving?  I do not know.

I am also reminded of a passage in 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 (NKJV)

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:  that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.  For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing.

These people gave in the midst of  deep poverty.  They exhibited a spirit of generosity and giving in the midst of extreme difficulty.

I am not directing a rebuke at anyone, I am just trying to figure out or understand why things are the way they are in our local churches today.   Maybe I am missing something as to why people are not giving like they have in times past?  Instead of rebuking me in the comments section (which I am prepared for) let me know what I am missing and enlighten me and the rest of the readers.

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9 responses to “Trying to figure something out…about giving to the local NT church

  1. General comments (not about 4th Baptist)

    Take a retired person. Their income is presumably derived from social security (that probably has not decreased) and withdrawals from investments that perhaps have decreased by 40%. For the sake of an illustration: A person formerly had $ 400K in investments. They withdraw 4% per year as income. Their annual income from that investment stream would be $ 16,000. Now the investments have lost 40% of its value … now worth $ 224K. Their annual withdrawal is now $ 8900. Tithe on the previous year’s withdrawal would be 1600. On this year’s $ 890.

    Also consider retired people whose stocks pay dividends. Dividends (generally) have dropped … thus real income has also dropped.

    In the above scenario the same retired couple could still be tithing but giving less.

    In a church with many retirees .. this multiples.

  2. Additionally: Take a church with perhaps a dozen people unemployed. Lets say that each previously made $ 35,000 per year.

    $ 35K x 12 x 10% = $ 42,000 is less giving.

  3. Re: “Educational institutions are closing” …. I presume you are referring to Pills.

    Pills had 60 -65 employees and a student body of 160. That ratio was unsustainable.

    Go to Guidestar.com and look at the 990 form for Pills and their balance sheet. They were also carrying debt that did not help them.

    (By the way … I am sad to see it close and have friends there that I hurt for and pray for)

  4. Jim,

    I forgot to include that I also understood about retirees on fixed incomes. Maybe the retirees are the ones doing the bulk of the giving.

    I knew about Pillsbury’s debt and their staff/student body ratio along with the debt. I am also looking at Central, they have laid off two professors (end of the school year in June) and laid off two staff members. Administration is taking pay cut. We had 20 some new students and are not carrying any debt, even though we are in a different position, I am still concerned.

  5. Some ministries are ripe for consolidation.

    Pillsbury should have been looking at some kind of a merger with Faith about 5 years ago.

    Central could merge with Faith: think how cool that would be. Someone could get a education from Faith and still live and work in the Twin Cities. (or Maranatha or Northland). Or the 2 Centrals could merge.

    Corporations merge to leverage synergies and achieve efficiencies.

    • I do not think that a merger between Central and Faith is a good idea. Faith is heavily intertwined in the GARBC and we are not. Not sure if that would make for a good fit. The two Centrals are where they are because of where they are located geographically. Not always sure if mergers are the solution. I have seen where mergers have gone woefully wrong…

  6. How about Central and Maranatha or Northland?

    • Good places to recruit students…. not good merger candidates. Central has its own niche as a seminary. Maranatha just cranked their seminary up and has cheaper tuition than Central, plus allow undergrad students to be dual-enrolled at their seminary, completing both degrees in four years… That will give Central some competition. I do not think that mergers are always a good idea. Sometimes, institutions have to fail, go through the rough times, not always looking for someone to bail them out or assume their liabilities. I think that this will be a good thing for Central to go through and hopefully they will survive and be stronger as a result.

  7. Good post.

    What Jim is saying is true. We have that phenomenon going on in our church, which is mostly supported by retirees since many of the younger people have left our state (MI) looking for work.

    I do just as you do; I write my check to the church first. Some don’t because they see that as a step of great faith while some haven’t yet learned he grace of giving. Others, sadly, just don’t make giving a priority.

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