Issue 259 — December 10, 2015
Tithing Flows from Prayer
The First United Methodist Church of Enderlin, North Dakota, struggles with finances -- as do many small churches. But ten years ago, church members experienced a real change. A spirit of giving emerged from their renewed personal commitment to the Lord. The renewal wasn’t a concerted effort imposed by lay leaders or the pastor, the Rev. Juwle Nagbe. Instead, it flowed from earnest prayer as the church’s fifty members sought to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ by increasing their gratitude and generosity.
All members of the congregation are encouraged to pray and ponder Christ’s calling to them. They consider: “What does the Lord want me to do? How does God want me to give of myself to the church? I love Christ as the Lord of my life, so I’m listening for how he leads me.”
Members want to make sure to give what God has asked of them. Myrene Peterson, the church organist, has worshiped with the congregation for forty years. Reflecting on this experience, she said: “Every soul has a way in which it can be enhanced in the walk with the Lord. Everyone has a different way of being filled with the Holy Spirit. When people feel that they can grow in the Lord, the rest of it (a desire to give) comes.” Church leaders don’t set a monetary goal or stipulate that people should give a certain amount. Instead, the standard is “whatever the Lord leads you to do.”
Aware that people may be hesitant to part with their hard-earned income in light of many other competing financial demands, church leaders recommend that members just try tithing. Peterson suggests, “Take your pay check and set aside one tenth in an envelope. Put it on a shelf. Do this for six months. Then see if you don’t miss it.” Church members almost always discover they have enough to share. By releasing a fraction of money, they put their trust in God. Giving becomes an opportunity to develop deeper faith. Church members have been amazed at the ways that God has provided exactly what was needed.
Since many members are on a fixed income, tithing also applies to non-financial resources. For instance, some may give ten percent of their garden’s produce. A farmer gives the proceeds of the first semi-trailer truckload of his grain. The church also hosts a harvest festival, a worship service during which a special offering is gathered for the denomination. The amount raised is announced and celebrated at a potluck after worship.
Through a weekly prayer meeting, the church stays attuned to community needs. They collect a monthly “coffee fund” to donate to anyone experiencing loss in Enderlin. Adults share a portion of their time and talents with children from the nearby elementary school at a midweek program of Bible stories and Christian songs. By learning to trust God through giving, the First United Methodist Church of Enderlin has lived into the calling of the Spirit and has multiplied its blessings for the community and the United Methodist connection.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What opportunities for group prayer does your congregation offer? Could that be increased?
- Might this be the year to challenge your church to try tithing for six months?
Produced by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
These congregations are marked by:
- Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
- Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
- Nurture in growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
- Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable—the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
- Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the body of Christ.
- Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
- Shared clergy and lay leadership.
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