This is a reprint of my column from the November 2019 Carillon Notes. Read the whole newsletter here.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I think about giving a lot. And it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Mariah and I think very carefully about our own giving. We are intentional about how much we give and who we give that money to.
When we figure out our budget, we ask two important questions. First, how much of our money do we want to give away? We have plenty of things that we have to spend money on: our mortgage, our student loans, our dog, and so on. And we have things that we want to spend money on: eating out, having a nice bottle of wine, our Netflix subscription, and that sort of thing. We could prioritize all of those things in a lot of ways. But one thing we want to prioritize is giving some of that money away.
Second, what do we care about? There are all sorts of people and organizations that we could give to: Knox, Sarah Lawrence, and Chicago Theological Seminary are always asking for money; so are NPR and other nonprofits that we like; so are people who we meet on the street. We want to make sure that we are giving to places that we like and in ways that reflect our values.
So here’s how that breaks down. Together, we bring home $9,518 every month (before taxes… and clergy taxes are a whole other subject). We put $929 of that into the giving lines in our family budget: $704 to our churches, $65 to our alma maters, and $160 to general giving (which covers other organizations and people who ask for money on the street). In the end, we give just shy of 10% of our income away, and we give just shy of 7% to our churches. And that makes sense, we care about our churches a lot and we want to support them. So we give.
We all have different amounts that we are able to give. Compared to some, Mariah and I are very fortunate. Compared to others, not so much. But we all have a voice in where what we are able to give goes. And I believe that our giving—the amount of what we are able to give that we actually give, and where we give what we do give—matters. Our giving is one of the things that tells us what our values are.
It is stewardship season. We’ve already started with the stewardship moments and letters. And soon there will be pledge cards and blessings. And I know how easy it is to just write down the same numbers we did last year.
Maybe you do that. Maybe you don’t. But this year, I want you to really think about a few things. What does First Congregational United Church of Christ mean to you? What would you like to see us doing among our membership and in our community? How much are you able and willing to give to make that happen?
And, together, we can do even more to worship, welcome, serve, and grow.