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Tithing Demonstration Sundayby Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
A fourth Sunday seemed right for the offering. Since it wasn't usually a high offering Sunday, it presented a worthy test. It would also force people to save and set aside ahead of time, some of the values they needed to learn.
Week One — Guessing
The first Sunday of April we passed out a "guessing sheet" on which we asked people to calculate our potential offering on Demonstration Sunday, that is, what our offering would be if everyone tithed that one week's income. We gave them information for the last three quarters on attendance, average weekly giving, and average weekly per capita giving. A few minutes later we had them tear off the anonymous "guess" portion of their sheet and pass it to an usher. Then I read each guess publicly and charted it on an overhead transparency so people could see the range of guesses. The purpose of this exercise was four-fold. First, I wanted to approach tithing as an adventure. Second, I wanted to catch people's enthusiasm, interest, and ownership. Third, I wanted people to contrast their present level of giving with an actual tithe. Finally, I wanted them to go through the process of calculating a tithe. Whereas our offering had been averaging about $750 per week, most guesses for the Tithing Demonstration Sunday ranged from $1,400 to $1,800.
An Introductory Letter
The following day I put a letter in the mail to all the members and regular attenders of our church, skipping those who were very new or just occasional attenders. I began with a paragraph or two relating to the denomination's stewardship theme. Then I talked about our church's need to pick up the difference as we ended new church denominational support. I introduced Tithing Demonstration Sunday, invited them to participate, and explained briefly how to calculate the tithe. I also enclosed a worksheet on "How to Calculate a Tithe," joking about the "higher math" necessary, and giving instructions on how to calculate a weekly tithe amount for weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly paychecks.
To provide a sense of continuity, each of the letters and materials distributed used the annual stewardship theme stationary and logos available from our denomination. Even though I photocopied the letter, I left space to write the salutation and my personal signature in blue pen. I also highlighted in pen a line here or a paragraph there to add a personal touch. In each of the letters I enclosed a theme bookmark. On the second, third, and fourth Sundays of the month I included the theme "hang-overs" in our worship bulletins.
Week Two — Principles Of Tithing
Though I believe in preaching on giving, for this emphasis I decided not to, mainly because I didn't want people to feel an authoritative imposition of tithing, but come away with a reasoned, thoughtful discovery of the concepts for themselves. Instead I used brief announcements and reminders on Sundays, and relied heavily on the mail.
The second week I sent out a letter on tithing as taught in Malachi 3. I discussed three principles: (1) tithing means sacrifice, (2) making God's tithe the first check you write when you get your paycheck, and (3) the impossibility of outgiving God. I tried to balance the need to sacrifice with the Biblical promise of blessing--I didn't want to motivate giving for greed's sake. I shared some personal testimony of our family's experience, and speculated if I didn't tithe what would happen to my spendable income (up), the church's income (down), and God's financial protection (uh-oh). I concluded the letter with a request that people mail in their check for Tithing Demonstration Sunday if they couldn't be present.
I enclosed a somewhat whimsical Bible study sheet called "Principles of Giving" which gave several scripture texts on giving, and then multiple-choice answers for each question with correct answers at the end. [See sidebar.] The idea here was to prompt people to read texts on giving and grasp the concepts.
Third Week — Reminder
The third week all I mailed was a blue "reminder" postcard bearing the theme logo. I tried to make it light and up-beat. "Now I know this may be a little scary," I wrote, "but we don't grow if we never try things that stretch us a bit. Won't you defer some things you were planning to buy so you can bring your tithe this Sunday?
"Of course, this is entirely voluntary," I said. "That's what makes it fun. I hope you'll give it a try. Let's see on Sunday morning what our combined tithe will total. I think it will surprise all of us." Then I signed each card personally.
Tithing Demonstration Sunday
The fourth Sunday of April I was amazed to see the highest worship attendance we had experienced for a year, with the exception of Easter; people had really gotten interested. We took the offering with a sense of excitement, and I assured people that we would announce the total before the end of the service. Our counters worked feverishly, and at the end of the sermon we gave the total: $1,525. Everybody clapped.
The money helped, don't get me wrong. But the purpose of the emphasis was not to get a big offering on a low Sunday, it was teaching.
I followed up on Monday with a letter asking people to fill out and return to the church a "My Giving Goal" card. Few came back. I probably should have had people return those as part of a Sunday morning dedication of themselves, rather than in a business reply envelope. I'll know better next time.
But the long-term results of Tithing Demonstration Sunday were significant. A number of people began to tithe sacrificially as a result of the emphasis, and our offerings increased by nearly 50% from that time on.
I doubt that we'll do a Tithing Demonstration Sunday again any time soon--the sense of novelty would suffer. But it did succeed in helping us teach tithing to baby boomers in a non-threatening way. And that was the idea.
Principles Of Giving
Read each Bible passage indicated, then circle the choice or choices you think best answer the question. Don't look at the answers until you've marked all the questions.
- Malachi 3:8-12. What promises does God make to tithers in these verses: a. An overwhelming blessing b. No suffering c. Protection against losses due "circumstances" d. A better job e. Material riches
- How does God look on those Israelites who withheld their tithe? a. As shrewd financial planners b. As robbers
- Luke 6:38. How does God decide whether to use a big scoop or a small scoop when he blesses us? a. He uses the same size scoop for everyone. b. If we use our big scoop, he uses his big scoop. If we use our small scoop, he uses his small scoop.
- Corinthians 9:6. Principles of sowing and reaping include: a. A single seed planted produces a plant bearing many seeds. b. Sowing lawn seeds sparingly produces a full rich lawn. c. Sowing lawn seeds generously means you'll have to mow a lot.
- Corinthians 9:7. So long as we give a full tithe, our attitude in giving it isn't important. True or False?
- Corinthians 9:8-11. In response to our generous giving, God will give us enough to: a. Purchase a new red Porsche b. Meet all our needs c. Be generous in the future
- Philippians 4:15-19 The promise that "my God will meet all your needs" is tied to a covenant of giving and receiving in God's ministry. True or False?
- Haggai 1:2-11 Why does God withhold blessings from his people? a. Just to watch them squirm b. To be faithful to his principle of sowing and reaping c. To teach them to put giving to God first
- Matthew 6:21-24. How can a person tell whether he or she is serving God rather than Money? a. By the size of the VISA bill at the end of the month. b. By the size of the paycheck c. By the amount of the gift to the church d. By the ratio of the paycheck total to the gift to the church e. By the number of cars in the driveway
- Luke 21:1-4. The lessons of this passage are: a. The poor are being exploited in giving to God more than they can afford. b. God is pleased with the love represented by the widow's gift. c. Two tiny copper coins given out of sacrifice are worth more to God than a bundle of cash given without sacrifice.
Answers: 1. a and c; 2. b; 3. b; 4. a and c; 5. False; 6. b and c; 7. True; 8. b and c; 9. d; 10. b and c.
HOW DO YOU RATE?: 3 to 5 wrong--look more carefully. 1 to 2 wrong- -good. All correct--no excuses.
Teaching on tithing in Swahili and English is available on video.
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