Most missionaries serve through some sort of mission organization. Part of the reason for this trend is the growing legal and financial complexities to consider when receiving funds in one country and using them in another – so much more post 9/11.
Training and preparing missionaries is a big part of what mission organizations do. And there is so much that missionaries have to prepare and plan for. One of the things that we are encouraged to do was to write a ‘Last Will and Testament’ because, well some people don’t live forever – and living overseas historically increases the odds of that happening even faster.
With all the training and preparing that was done before we moved overseas, there is this one thing that stands out that no one prepared us for: tithes and offerings overseas. There wasn’t a class, and there isn’t a policy on what to do when the plate is passed in church. Here we are, American missionaries that pay Uncle Sam back in the States more in taxes than many people in this country make. The reality that we are faced with is that we are wealthier than many of the people around us. When we were asked to step in and help a near decade-old church plant who lost their pastor and was struggling, we had to make some decisions that we weren’t exactly prepared for.
Lead by example
As leader in the church, we wanted to set an example of giving, and we wanted to set that example every week (just like trying to teach our own children anything, repetition is important). But how much?
If we were to give 10% of our income to the church here, it could easily create a dependency on us – which is the last thing we desire. We want to empower and encourage the church to be self-sufficient – effectively working ourselves out of a job.
Before we even left for the mission field, we thought we had dealt with the issue of giving as we set up Bill Pay through our bank. Our tithes and offerings would be going to be mailed to our sending church. After all, that is the church who sent us to the field, and it is their authority that we continue to sit under.
So what are we to do on the mission field in our little church? How can we set the example? How can we worship weekly through our giving together if we don’t give?
The solution we found
Everyone is accountable to God for their own giving, and we would not want to suggest that our way is the only way – it just is the right way for us. We decided that apart from our regular giving to our sending church, our Compassion International child (this is a project our kids have undertaken – I will write more about this at another time), the missionaries we support (yes, we support missionaries – and praise the Lord that a number of missionaries support us too), we decided that we would give weekly in our little church what an “average national would give – 10% of the average income” (plus we would anonymously give to major one-time needs of the church).
It was at one of our elder’s meeting that I shared about how our giving as a family went to our sending church back in America. I explained our reasoning to the men. Quickly I told them that we would, however, give weekly in the offering so that we could worship through giving and to help others see and understand that giving is an essential part of worship. None of the men commented on the issues – I am not sure but I think they were all taken back that I actually shared about our family’s finances.
Continually having to adjust
In the beginning, we didn’t stick to our plan. We doubled the giving just because the church really needed the funds and encouragement to see that God’s people were giving on a regular basis – a lesson that all believers need to learn. At one point, we actually stuck with the “average plan”, and then later we began the process of tapering things off so that the church will continue to survive without our financial support.
Giving is a “touchy subject” that a lot of people do not like to discuss. Truth be told, it is something we should discuss. Money is talked about all throughout the Bible, and we shouldn’t shy from talking about it. By talking about it, we can be mutually encouraging so we all strive to do a better job of honoring God through our giving.