"Young families can't give." Twice recently I've heard exactly the same statement from church leaders. I believe what they meant was "young families with mortgages, daycare fees and mouths to feed can't afford to give to the church." I surely hope it wasn't a theological statement! Let me start with a story:
Once there was a big family with lots of kids. They arrived in Canada as refugees, supported by a small-town church. This family settled in and worked hard. Then something surprising happened: this family started giving more than some of the regular donors to the church. They had learned tithing back home and they actually did it - they gave 10% of their income to the church. No one had expected them to give; they did it on their own.
Yes, this is an exceptional story. I heard it on my church basement tour of Canada during my D.Min. research into Christian giving. It was a privilege and an honour to hear from so many faithful stewards. I recorded and transcribed these conversations. Here's a sampling of their wisdom:
- as our kids grow up, there’s so many voices calling for their dollars, except the church
- Don’t feel bad the time that you can’t give, because you also give in time and talent, and that’s part of giving
- 10% a good number but if you can give more, give more. If you can only give 6,7% that’s okay
- in 1961 we were just married a year and the baby came along. I had just got laid off, I worked in construction. The church had a fundraiser and they were asking for money. We made a commitment by faith. That Sunday the Ford motor called me...and I got the job. God is faithful
If someone in church said "I don't have enough time to pray", the church would find creative ways to respond. Maybe the family needs some caregiving help, networking support for job-hunting. I doubt that "you can learn to pray later when you have more time" would be the response.
Many of the faithful stewards I talked with learned to give when they were young. They saw their dad get paid in cash and count out the church pile on the kitchen table. Some generous folks learned from their employers or other role models. And so I think it's important that churches talk about giving. Not as a guilt trip, but as a joyous spiritual discipline. Don't assume people can't give - talk about how they can give. Model generosity. Tell stories. Here are more quotes:
You can’t outgive God, it’s a little game we have [laughter] that’s certainly been very influential.
“I don’t notice that it’s gone...it almost seems like I have more money when I give it away”
“we run on a pretty tight budget and we make it through every month”
for some people budget is tight, but instead they volunteer more
“it’s hard to figure out”
“if you’re just pleasing yourself... it’s a lot harder to give away because it feels like its yours but if you approach it as it’s not mine... it’s a lot easier”
“it’s not your stuff, it’s God’s stuff - once you make that leap, it changes everything”
“if Jesus puts something on your heart, then you should support that thing both in prayer and financially, and both are just as equally as important”
I think it's more important to be faithful or to use what we do have..that’s more important than the amount
try to find that balance – don’t want to be living on the last of every paycheque “but you still want to have that giving heart”
I can't say it better - "you still want to have that giving heart." May we lean into God's abundant grace.