I’ve been a pastor for 34 years in a variety of settings, but mostly as an Anglican Pastor of a local congregation. I love the people of the church. I love non-Christians as well. And, I’ve always had a heart for pastors, knowing how challenging the work can be.
In September of 2014, I came on the full time staff of PastorServe, a ministry dedicated to serving pastors and encouraging them in their ministry. I am the Executive Director of the Midwest Region of PastorServe and I connect with hundreds of pastors, mainly in the Kansas City area, but also all over the country.
One ongoing challenge for many pastors is in the area of generosity: their own generosity and the people in their church.
For some, generosity is an easy thing. Their love language is giving. They feel great when they can give something to someone else, and see the difference it makes in their lives. For others, giving and generosity are hard. Interestingly this can be the case for pastors. There are several reasons for this.
One reason is obvious: most pastors aren’t paid enough. They work as hard if not harder than the people they serve, and yet their income is often below those they serve. As a result, sometimes, being financially generous as a pastor is a challenge. Tithing can seem like an impossibility. They may preach the concept of tithing, but have a hard time living it themselves. I know this is true, because it's been hard for me to do as well.
Another reason is that it’s easy to rationalize away tithing as a pastor. Here are some thoughts I’ve had or have heard from other pastors over the years:
“I am generous with my time and my gifts. I definitely tithe those.”
Or, “I am tithing! I’m giving up the additional portion of my salary the church should be paying me.”
Other pastors might think, “My tithe is the difference between what the church pays me and what I could make in the marketplace.”
One more line of reasoning, “What sense does it make for me to give back money to the church that it is giving to me?”
These rationalizations probably come into every pastor’s mind at some point. As a result, generosity gets threatened.
My journey in generosity
I'm stingy by nature. I was raised in a household with very little money compared to the suburban standards, where I was raised. My parents were very in debt when I was young, so when I was growing up, I always felt like money was tight. I remember lots of family arguments about money. My parents drove older model, rusty cars. My dad had been a mechanic, so what mattered to him was that we had cars that were reliable. But I remember feeling embarrassed sometimes when I got dropped off at school, because our car wasn’t as nice as my friends’ cars.
In those years, I remember seeing my dad put money in the tithing envelope for our church. It made an impression on me, because my parents always talked about how we didn't have enough money. I knew he didn't give a lot, but I remember thinking it was cool that he did give. I was not a Christian at the time, so I didn’t understand what the Bible said about giving.
When I became a Christian, I continued to be careful with money, even stingy. But as I read the Bible, and heard teachings about money and generosity, I got convicted that I should be more generous. I began asking God to give me a more generous heart and admitted my tendency towards stinginess. I have to keep praying that prayer by the way!
My journey in generosity took a long time, but I believe it is a journey most people can take. In fact, I saw many people in the church I pastored take this journey towards tithing.
After college, when I started getting paid, I began to give to the church, but irregularly. Then after a few years of earning an income, I made a commitment to give regularly, but it wasn't anywhere close to 10% of my income. After getting married, my wife and I went to an all day seminar on how to manage money in a biblical way. We learned helpful tools for making a budget. At the seminar, they stressed the importance of giving your first 10% to God, right off the top. That was a new idea to me, but it made sense. If a sum is already committed to God as a gift first, then the rest of the budget would take shape without neglecting the gift. My wife and I decided that we would like to eventually give 10%, but it just wasn't realistic at that time. I was in seminary so we just kept trying to give a little, but sporadically.
Then after I got out of seminary and got a job, we figured out what we could afford to give at the time. We committed to give regularly, because we had a dependable income. Then we calculated what percentage our giving was of the net income we were making. We had a good starting point from which to grow in generosity. I think our starting point was around 2-3% of our net income. Maybe even lower! Each year we tried to increase our giving by one percent. Our goal was to get to 10% of our net income.
One year I got a new job. I would be paid much more than I had been. We decided to see what our budget would look like if we gave 10% of our net income. It turned out that even if we gave 10%, we would still have a little more spending money than we had before I got the job. So we decided to do it. We started giving 10% of our net income, budgeting that first, and then making the rest of our budget.
Since then, we still try to grow towards 10% of our gross income. But we tend to fluctuate between 10% of net and gross. Sometimes we have had setbacks due to job changes or other life events. But giving is a spiritual exercise, like prayer or sharing the gospel. The Lord is gracious when we struggle in our giving and He helps us to get back on track.
Questions to ask yourself about giving
If you are serious about wanting to grow in generosity, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Where am I now in my giving? How much do I currently give? What percentage of my income does it represent?
- What is my current attitude about giving?
- Where would I like to be in my giving someday? What percent would I like to be giving?
- Why do I want to give? What is my motivation?
- What keeps me from giving more right now?
- Are there any steps I could take right now, to increase my giving immediately? Are these steps realistic?
Where to start
First, take a look at what the Bible has to say about generosity. Do a word search for these ideas: money, riches, possessions, give, giving, generous, generosity. Ask God to speak to your heart as you read His word. Write down things you learn and share them with a friend or your spouse. Answer the above questions as honestly as you can. Discuss them with someone that can help you process your answers. Then ask God for a plan of action. Possibly follow the steps the Lord led me through.
I believe the Lord looks at our heart. He knows what our current circumstances are. I think it’s ok to grow in our giving and generosity, just like we grow in prayer, sharing our faith, and living for Christ. The best thing to do is start where you are and with what you can actually do. Then, let the Lord help you continue to grow until He gets you where He wants you to be.