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 impossibility. We may preach the concept of tithing, but have a hard time living it ourselves. I know this is true, because it has been hard for me to do as well.
It is 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”
- “I am tithing! I’m giving up salary the church should be paying me.”
- “My tithe is the difference between what the church pays me and what I could make in the marketplace.”
- “What sense does it make for me to give back money to the church that it is giving to me?”
My background story
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.
I remember seeing my dad put money in the tithing envelop 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.
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 generous.
I began to ask God to give me a more generous heart and admitted my tendency towards stinginess. (I keep having to pray this prayer by the way!)
My Journey in Generosity
Here is my journey in generosity. It 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. So here is my story in bullet form:
- After college when I started getting paid, I began to give, but irregularly
- Then after a few years, 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 great tools for making a budget. They stressed the importance of giving your first 10% to God, right off the top.
- 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 then 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 and was 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.
- Since then we have still tried 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 etc. But giving is a spiritual exercise, like prayer or sharing the gospel. The Lord is gracious, and will help us get back on track.
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 is that?
- 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 right now? Are these steps realistic?
Start where you are
I believe the Lord looks at our heart. He knows what our current circumstances are. I think it is 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 in your heart and in your giving.
Jay Fowler, Executive Director of the Midwest Region of PastorServe
Since joining the PastorServe staff in September of 2014, Jay has connected with hundreds of pastors in Kansas City and beyond. He grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas, and graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science and Secondary Education in Mathematics. He received his Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary, and has been in full time ministry for 34 years. He is an ordained Anglican priest in the Anglican Church of North America. He has been married to his wife Janine for 30 years and has a son and two daughters.