Reboot-10: Tithing and Giving

From XFamily - Children of God
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Tithing and Giving

The Reboot Series - Part 10 of 20; May 2010

Introduction by Peter

Dear Family,

God bless you! This document contains information and details about the changes in the finance-related responsibilities of Family membership.

Maria and I want to express our gratitude for all that you have given to the Lord's work, to WS, to fellow Family members and missionaries over the years. There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from giving, knowing that we have given unto the Lord. But, still, tithing is a significant commitment. Giving costs in practical terms; it means we have less for ourselves, for our needs and our family's needs. It's genuinely a sacrifice.

You're familiar with the principles of giving and why giving is an important practice for God's children. You're experienced givers, and know what it means to give, sometimes even to your own hurt. You also have experienced the blessings of the Lord in return, both material blessings and blessings of joy, peace, safety, contentment, and that sense of personal well-being that comes when you know you've done what the Lord wanted you to do, even though it was difficult. You know what it feels like to make the difficult choice to give some of your hard-earned money to another, and yet to experience the satisfaction of knowing that the Lord has used you as a conduit of His blessings and grace toward someone else.

We thank you for giving to Jesus, for giving to the Family, out of the goodness of your heart, even when you were financially short or in difficult circumstances. Family members have not often had "an abundance" to give from, which has made giving even more of a sacrifice; you have often given from the little or just enough that you've possessed. But the fact that you've given as you have—cheerfully, faithfully, for so many years—shows us that you have been blessed with an abundance of something that is much more precious than material possessions or money—and that is an abundance of love for the Lord, faith in His never-failing ability to supply, and trust that He will take care of His Own and keep His word to supply all your needs, to never leave or forsake you, to restore to you a hundredfold, to reward you openly for all you give to Him, and to bless you with all spiritual things.

We continue to need financial contributions from Family members in order to maintain the Family structure and services and to minister spiritual feeding to you. As you read in "Membership," the only requirement that will be in place in relation to finances is that members either tithe or give a monthly contribution, whether to WS or to another member who is tithing to WS. Whatever you decide to give, whether you decide to tithe or to give monthly, is between you and the Lord.

Whatever the Lord lays on your heart to give, putting yourself in the position of giving to God and giving to others is a wise choice. There are special blessings that come from giving to others, which we all know well. "It's more blessed to give than to receive." "He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." "Give and it shall be given unto you. … With the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." We've seen it proven true time and again that "you never lose by giving," and "you can never outgive God."

In discussing and praying about what the financial requirements for Family members should be, Maria and I and our counselors took into account the input from many of you via the survey that was conducted last year on Family services—what you felt was worthwhile to give toward, what you wanted to keep giving toward, what options you would like to have, etc. The thoughts and questions you sent in factored into our discussion and prayer and helped toward the conclusions we have reached. One main reason for examining our financial requirements and making changes is to bring all facets of the Family in line with the reboot changes, so that our requirements and procedures are in sync with each other.

Some have asked whether it's scriptural for Family members (and Christians in general) to tithe 10% of one's income. Tithing was part of the Mosaic Law, which those saved by grace are no longer held to, and the majority of scriptures that talk about giving 10% are in the Old Testament.

Since we're free from the Mosaic Law, we're also free from the Old Testament requirement of tithing. As Christians, we are not bound to giving 10% of our income to the Lord's work. Nonetheless, the concept of giving a percentage of our income to the Lord's work, the principle of giving to God, is sound, and is brought out clearly in the New Testament as well.

In many ways the Scriptures in the New Testament that talk about giving put forth a higher expectation than giving 10% of one's income. In the book of Acts, we see that the disciples' practice was that "they had all things common," "neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own."

The early Christians supported those who were responsible for ministering to them spiritually. Many sold possessions, houses, and lands, and contributed the proceeds to the church, and "brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them at the apostles' feet." As a result, not only were the needs of the church met as distribution was made to all, but the apostles and deacons servicing the church were also supported.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians: "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." While the Mosaic laws concerning tithing 10% were no longer in effect, the early Christians still gave cheerfully and out of love, to the Lord's work, to others in need, as well as to those caring for them spiritually. Judging from the New Testament, it seems that many gave much more than 10% of their income or possessions.

Throughout Christian history, both in times past and recently, many churches have asked their members to tithe or give financial contributions. There is scriptural precedent in both the Old and New Testament for supporting and giving to those who are spiritually caring for and servicing the church, which is brought out in verses such as "Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches." And, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?"

Likewise, throughout our history, tithing has been our policy, in order to fund the spiritual feeding that all members receive, as well as to support the organization of the Family and the administration this entails. This enables us to provide services that further the mission worldwide.

While TFI members are responsible to either tithe or give a monthly contribution, it's your choice as to which of those options you will take. You have been tithing for many years now, not just because it's been a requirement, but for many of you, because it's also part of your personal faith; you know that it glorifies the Lord and is pleasing to Him. You understand the scriptural premise for giving, and that what Jesus taught—not to mention Jesus' example of laying down His life for us—sets the bar much higher than giving 10% of our income. That's what you've been doing. You've not only given 10% monthly (and more in many cases, toward the regional common pot and FAF), but you've given your lives, your time, your service to Jesus and others.

Ultimately, whatever you give financially should be a freewill offering. You should give as much as the Lord lays on your heart to give, based on your knowledge of what God's Word says on this matter, and according to your faith in the Lord's promises to bless your giving, and to bless others through your giving and use it to benefit His work. Many of you can personally testify to having experienced those blessings in your lives.

Our request is that you continue to tithe your income. But it's up to you to ask the Lord what He wants you to give to TFI monthly, and whether you will tithe or give. He might even inspire you to give more than 10% monthly. In addition to whatever you give to WS monthly, the Lord might also lay it on your heart to give offerings above your regular giving at times, as well as to give to others in need, as so many of you have faithfully done throughout the years.

As the Lord told all of us, "The God factor means that if you will put your trust fully in Me, you will lack nothing. It means that if you preach the Gospel, you will live of the Gospel. It means that all things are possible to you. It means if you are trusting Me and doing what I tell you to do, I will never fail to support you, even if I have to drop the support out of the sky. It means witnessing always pays. It means if you are obeying Me, I will take care of your needs. It means if I promise bread, I will not give you a stone."

We have faith that the Lord will provide for each one of you who are so faithfully fulfilling His commission and giving to others in His name. We also have faith that the Lord will supply what is needed to continue to minister the Word to you, and to keep Family administration, structure, and services going.

Since the Family is being affected by the global recession, reducing WS' income from tithes/gifts as well, we are continuing to look for ways to reduce expenses and maximize the use of our resources. We realize that you are placing a great deal of trust in us and those working to service the Family to wisely manage the finances you contribute toward the Family's operations, and that it is our responsibility to minister to you spiritually. We don't take your giving for granted. We consider your tithes and gifts as the Lord's money, and we do our best to be good stewards of it, praying often for wisdom and anointing in the task of managing these funds. Those who are supported by your tithes, whose job it is to service you, take that responsibility seriously as well. We plan to give you more information on a regular basis about how tithes and gifts are used to benefit the Family.

Most of all, we are praying that the God factor will make all the difference for you during this time of change. We know that the Lord wants to open the windows of Heaven to you and pour out blessings so plenteous that they overflow. We pray fervently for the Lord to meet your every need, so that you have good, comfortable, affordable housing; stable financial support whether through mission work, holding employment, other means, or a combination of these; supply of all that you and your children need; good educational and social and recreational opportunities, etc. We pray that the Lord will put people in your path whom you can minister to, share your faith with, and build bonds of friendship and trust with. We pray that as you are able to minister to them, they will also be able to help to support your work. We pray for miracles and for the spiritual blessings that only Jesus can give.

Dear Family, you have our deep admiration and respect. We know that you will be faithful to give whatever the Lord lays on your heart to give to support the Family structure and services, and also that you will be faithful to give to each other, to Family missionaries around the world, and to others in need, as you are able to—whether through your prayers, financial aid, material assistance, or the gift of your time.

Our desire is to give you as much as we can—spiritual feeding, aids for the mission.—And we pray that, as the Lord multiplies our resources, in time we will also be able to give to you, the missionaries, in material and financial ways.

May we continue to be known as a giving Family—a Family that gives to each other in whatever ways we can, and, most of all, that gives to Jesus and the lost. We love you!

Love, Peter

This document outlines a number of financial points that pertain to Family membership. While much of this will be familiar, there are some important changes being made to better align our financial policies with the changes that are taking place in the Family at this time.

Overview of how tithes have been used in recent years

The Family's tithes and gifts are used to provide services to TFI members as well as to further TFI's mission worldwide. Here is an overview of the types of services your tithes have helped to make possible in recent years:

  • Spiritual feeding, counsel, and direction from Maria and Peter.
  • An assortment of publications and materials on topics helpful to members.
  • Materials, publications, products, and courses for members to use in witnessing and their mission projects, and that help to spread the good news and further the mission worldwide.
  • Translations (both of publications/materials for members, and materials/products for members to use in their outreach and fundraising).
  • Materials, courses, programs, and websites for parents, children, and teens.
  • A board structure (spanning international, regional, national levels) that has assisted in important aspects of Family life, and generated many new programs and materials for members, their children and teens, and for TFI members' outreach activities.
  • A variety of audio and music productions, both for members and the public.
  • Websites and materials that promote the Family's and members' good works to the world.
  • Websites for members that provide a range of services, such as archives, ads, prayer support, news, testimonies, communications, etc.
  • Administrative, communication, and coordination services.
  • Regional leadership.
  • Financial services, disbursing gifts between members, administering the FAF to help members facing emergencies, providing interest-free loans, etc.
  • Financial aid to various mission projects, particularly those operating under difficult conditions, or pioneering new ventures.

Following is a general breakdown (by percentages) of how the total income from tithes and offerings to WS has been used over the last few years.

(Note: The percentages below include both the business and operational expenses of these categories, as well as the living expenses for those involved, such as those living in WS Homes, or monthly budgets given to those helping with certain projects or filling certain positions. In previous financial updates we've used broader categories than those listed below. In this list we are breaking down WS expenses further, in order to make it easier for you to see how TFI finances are being used.)

  • International publications creation: The creation and production of monthly publications for Family members; includes Maria and Peter and their staff: 11%
  • Translations of Family materials and publications, including outreach products: 7%
  • Printing and mailing of publications: 8%
  • Outreach products development: 5%
  • Web development and hosting services for TFI sites: 4%
  • The board structure: International, regional and national boards; includes funding for board projects, program development and deployment, creation of non-monthly publications and material for board websites, as well as board meetings. 28%
  • Regional leadership and administration: 11%
  • International administration: 8%
  • WS' tithe to the FAF: 10%
  • Aid and support of local Family projects (includes local language studios, unique mission endeavors, and special gifts in hardship cases): 6%
  • Reserves: 2%

The changes being made to TFI structure and services at this time will result in modifications to the preceding list. In particular, more services will now be mission-focused. So these percentages will change. We hope to regularly publish updates in order to keep you informed.

Over the years, your faithfulness to tithe and to give offerings has enabled TFI structure and leadership to provide the Family with publications, services, materials, and outreach products, as well as to support or make possible many mission projects. The cumulative effect has helped the Family to win millions of souls and touch many people with the Lord's love.

Tithing/giving membership responsibilities

One of the membership responsibilities is:

Members tithe (give 10% of their income) monthly, or give a monthly financial contribution, to WS.

Members may also fulfill this requirement by tithing or giving a monthly contribution to a member who is tithing to WS. (More on this below.)

One important reason for making a change in TFI's financial requirement (so that a member can either tithe monthly or give a financial contribution monthly), is to allow for the fact that new members may need time to grow into tithing.

As explained in "Membership," the membership requirements have been simplified to make it considerably easier for those who want to become members of TFI to do so. Since committing to tithe each month can be a big step for many prospective members to take, to continue to require tithing across the board would mean retaining a fairly high bar to entry for membership.

Prospective members might accept TFI's beliefs and values and want to be a part of the Family and assist in its mission. They might also be willing to contribute financially toward the Family's efforts by giving a monthly contribution, but might not yet be ready to begin giving 10% of their income.

Of course, some new members might decide to tithe right away, or the Lord might even lead them to give above 10%. But others will need time to become accustomed to the concept of tithing monthly, and should have the option of growing into this commitment within our membership.

Since our membership responsibilities are the same for all members, the policy of either tithing or giving monthly applies to all TFI members. Not requiring tithing across the board also aligns with the conceptual change of TFI operating under fewer rules and more according to principles.

Please encourage new members to tithe as well, or to grow into the commitment to tithe. Your personal experiences with tithing and giving to the Lord, and your receiving the Lord's blessings in return, whether through financial, material, or spiritual means, can go a long way in encouraging new members to consider tithing as well—perhaps not immediately, but with time.

Having more flexibility in what members give financially as part of their membership responsibilities also makes allowance for cases where members are tithing faithfully, but on rare occasions are unable to send in their full tithe. Allowing members to give or tithe makes it possible for members who find themselves in hardship situations to give whatever they're able to that month, without concern that they might be penalized. The Lord sees your heart, and if you are giving what you can, what He has asked of you, then you can be confident that you will receive from Him in like manner.

Tithing, or contributing monthly, makes it possible for WS to continue to serve you by providing spiritual counsel and guidance and facilitating members' success in the mission. Your tithes also enable the Family to operate as an international organization and maintain a structure which directly benefits members and the mission. Your faithful giving through tithes and offerings goes back to TFI in services or mission-related projects.

Tithing or giving monthly is also a significant way in which you can facilitate the mission through funding mission-related materials and projects developed both internationally and locally. We hope that WS will eventually be able to sponsor more mission projects, and the creation/production of more materials, programs, and initiatives that will benefit members, whether worldwide or in certain countries or language areas.

For most of the Family's history, TFI members have been required to tithe, and it's our hope and prayer that members who have been tithing so far will continue to do so. The Family as a whole benefits from everyone's tithing and giving. What's more, we know that the Lord will abundantly bless and reward you for your giving.

Other changes made to previous TFI finance requirements

No more minimum tithe

There is no more "minimum tithe." If you choose to tithe monthly, the expectation is that you will give 10% of your income (or the Lord may lead you to give a higher percentage). If you choose to give instead of tithe, the amount you give is up to you to determine in counsel with the Lord. (As has been the policy so far, the value of donations of material goods does not need to be tithed.)

Not establishing a minimum gift figure does mean that there will be less certainty on WS' part as to how much finances might come in each month; there's the risk of finances dipping below what is needed to provide basic services to members and to keep TFI functioning as an international organization. But we trust that TFI members will be faithful and generous in their giving, based on their personal conviction to give to the Lord's work in this way, as well as their understanding of how their tithes and donations enable TFI to provide materials, publications, and services that facilitate members' mission efforts and our mission overall.

No more required three percent "common pot" gift

We are also discontinuing the requirement of giving 3% toward your region's common pot (formerly required for FD and MM).

The requirement to give 3%, in addition to your tithe, was instituted some years ago, after a worldwide referendum. The 3% that Family members have given has been used to support projects and services at the regional level.

Many thanks to all of you who have contributed to the common pot for years now! It has made the board structure (partly funded by tithes, and partly by the regions' common pots), and many other regional services, programs, and projects possible. You've willingly given above your tithe, even when it was difficult to do so. We know the Lord will bless you.

In connection with changing the Family's service and leadership structure, and scaling back on some WS services, and paring down requirements where possible to make things easier for Family members financially, the decision was made to no longer require any members to give 3% above their tithe.

There will still continue to be services and structure provided to the Family at the national/area level. However, these services and structure will be financed by the tithes, gifts, and offerings of members, without the dependence on a required additional 3%. This will mean limiting or cutting back the structure in order to fit within the income that comes from Family members' tithes and gifts. But it's a worthwhile change in order to reduce the requested amount that you contribute monthly and to make it easier for you financially.

Tithing to other TFI members

(Note: In this section, when referring to tithing/giving to other members, we are talking specifically about doing so in order to fulfill the financial responsibility for membership. In addition to what you give in order to fulfill your TFI membership responsibility, we encourage you to give to and support other Family members, according to your ability and as the Lord leads you.)

With the changes in membership, it was important to allow for those who have been receiving support from their (up until now) Active members to continue to do so. In this new setup, members who were formerly Active members may continue to contribute financially to those homes/members from whom they have been directly receiving spiritual feeding or shepherding. In fact, they are encouraged to do so, as those homes/members are spiritually ministering to them, and depend on their support in order to continue their mission work.

With the changes in membership requirements, while there are no more membership levels, Active members who were part of your flock will continue as members, while working closely with you and supporting you and your mission projects, as you continue to help them to grow spiritually along the path of discipleship. General members might also choose to be a part of the new Family membership, or to become members in time. Some of those you minister to in the future are also likely to become members, while continuing to support you.

Building a flock that you minister to spiritually (which could include nonmembers as well as those who have become members) is an important component of the mission and a key step to growth as an organization. This form of ministry can provide a means of support for some members, particularly those who engage in the mission as their full-time career.

To allow for members to continue to benefit from the support of their flock, particularly in cases where some of their flock become members themselves (or are already members within the new Family membership, such as those who were formerly AM), members can fulfill the financial responsibility for membership by tithing (or contributing monthly) to another member who is tithing to WS, in lieu of tithing (or contributing monthly) directly to WS.

This means that if there are Active members today who are tithing or giving to you or your home, they can continue doing so (and thus fulfill the membership responsibility to tithe or contribute monthly), providing that you or your home (the recipient of their tithe/contribution) are tithing to WS. The same is possible for any future new members who become a part of your flock, and whom you are spiritually ministering to or shepherding.—They can tithe or contribute monthly to you or your home, as long as you are tithing directly to TFI. This counts as fulfilling the financial expectation of TFI members.

Of course, there will also be cases where new members aren't being actively ministered to by another Family member or home, and so they will tithe (or give) directly to WS (which will continue to provide spiritual feeding to all members).

This way, whether a member gives/tithes to WS, or gives/tithes to another member who is tithing to WS, they are giving in some way to TFI as an organization and supporting the services WS provides to all members.

If a member is giving a monthly contribution to TFI (rather than tithing), or tithing/giving to another member, other members are, of course, welcome to give them financial donations, but doing so would not count toward the donor fulfilling the membership responsibility of tithing/giving monthly.

One reason for this distinction is to allow those who are tithing to TFI the benefit of being able to receive the tithes/contributions of those members who they are ministering to (while counting toward those members' requirements). A second reason is that in this way, when members tithe (or contribute monthly) to other members who are tithing to TFI, they would also be in part giving to TFI organization and supporting the services provided to all members (which they also benefit from), since the recipient of their tithe is in turn tithing that income to TFI. (If a member were to tithe/give to another member who wasn't tithing to TFI, this could result in situations where tithes are going between members themselves but the structure and worldwide mission suffers from a lack of support.)

Technical information on tithing procedures

Reporting and tithing/giving will now be done on an individual basis, rather than on a home basis. It will still be possible, though, for an individual to report with another individual. (For example, in a communal home, all the members of the home can report with one person in the home, much as it has worked with the TRF up until now. Or if a couple is living on their own, one spouse can report for both of them.)

What this means on the tithing front is that a member can choose to send his or her tithe individually, or members can choose to send their tithe via another member. For example, in the case of a couple living on their own, a husband could send the tithe for both himself and his wife. In the case of a communal home, the members of the home could select one person who would send in their combined tithe.

In both of those cases, the members are not tithing to another member. They're simply designating another member—their spouse, or someone in their communal home—to pass on their tithe to WS. Or, if finances are held in common, one person in the communal home can tithe the combined income of everyone in the home, on everyone's behalf (which is how it works in communal homes today).

In the case of a member tithing (or contributing monthly) to another member (who is tithing to TFI as an organization), the member/home receiving the tithe wouldn't pass that full tithe on to WS, as it would be income for the member/home. (They would of course tithe that income, along with any other income they receive, to WS.)

So, there are three ways in which you might give your monthly tithe/contribution:

  • You might send your tithe/contribution directly to WS.
  • You might send your tithe/contribution to WS via another member (your spouse, someone in your communal home, etc.; in that case, one person is sending in the combined tithe/contributions of a group of members, similar to how it works with communal homes today).
  • You might give your tithe/contribution to another TFI member (who in turn is tithing directly to WS).

(The way in which you send your tithe, or monthly contribution, will continue to be the same as it has been. If there are any changes, you'll be notified by your finance desk. If you're starting to report on your own and are sending your tithe/contribution directly to WS, your finance desk will contact you about how to do so. You can also use the messaging system built into the reporting site for any questions you may have.)

A special appeal

In making these changes in TFI's financial requirements, we expect that income to WS will decrease, and/or fluctuate more than in the past. Expenses to support TFI structure and services must remain within the income WS receives, so if we reach a point where there isn't enough income to cover certain TFI services, we'd first consider cutting costs, but then we'd have to look at discontinuing or paring back some services, at least for a time, until income levels rise again. Conversely, the more that tithing and giving levels rise, the more that can be put toward services for members, initiating new services, funding mission projects, etc.

Over the past couple of years, due to the worldwide recession, as well as the many changes that homes have already undergone, the income from tithes has decreased. WS has been reducing its expenses over the last year. We've cut back on various projects and services. We've also reduced expenses for support needed by WS homes, as a number of WS members have moved to the field over the past six months. We are looking for ways in which we can further cut expenses and streamline services in order to keep operating costs within the income that will come via the Family's monthly tithes or contributions. (For an explanation of changes to the TFI structure, and services that are being cut, changed, or added, please see "Structure and Services.")

Our prayer is that, over time, financial contributions and donations (via tithes, gifts, and offerings) to TFI as an organization will increase. As this happens, support for mission projects and services can increase as well. However, for the first year or so after the reboot, when some members and homes will probably be in a state of flux and need time and resources to relocate and get set up, we're expecting that income from the tithes might be even less than it is now.

As TFI structure and services are being reorganized, and since we have discontinued the 3% required common pot gift (which helped to support the previous regional structure), we'd like to make a special request for donations, above your monthly tithe/gift, toward TFI structure, services, and mission projects worldwide.

If you're able to, we ask that you consider giving an additional gift each month for the time being, whether it's an extra percentage or simply what you can, in addition to your monthly tithe or membership contribution. Or, if you can't give extra monthly, you might give a contribution every now and then as you are able.

The donations that are given in response to this request will be used worldwide, wherever they're most needed, toward those three needs (structure, services, mission projects). What this means is that members in wealthier countries, who might have higher incomes and thus may be able to give larger donations, or whose monthly tithe is higher than average, are helping to facilitate the service expenses for members in poor countries and/or whose incomes are generally lower. Thank you for sharing with the Family worldwide, particularly those on poor and/or difficult mission fields, and making it possible for them to reach the country they're in with the Gospel.

Our long-term goal is that TFI structure, administrational costs, and mission project support will be covered by the income from the monthly tithes and membership contributions, as well as freewill offerings or other sources. We'll be working toward that goal, as mentioned earlier. Please pray with us for the Lord's continued supply through an increase in members, tithes, monthly contributions, and gifts.

Thank you for considering this appeal. We know He will bless you in return for giving, and the Family will benefit as well.

(Separate from this specific appeal, there will always be the option for members to give above their monthly tithe/contribution to WS. Or, in future, there might be a specific type of service or project, such as sponsoring the translation of certain materials into a particular language, that members want to give a donation toward. The new reporting structure will make it easier for members to give such designated donations. Such over and above giving is always greatly appreciated.)

We also encourage you to share of your abundance with other Family missionaries around the world and/or those in need. (WS will continue to provide a service that makes it easy for you to do this via your monthly report.) "Give and it shall be given unto you." Giving to others puts you in line for reaping God's spiritual and material blessings. It provides others with tangible help, which encourages them and facilitates their ministry. Plus it's one of the ways in which we can pay it forward, and keep the cycle of giving, blessings, and spiritual growth going strong in the Family.

Thank you again for your continued tithing and giving, which makes it possible for WS to provide services to help you and to further our mission worldwide. We pray the Lord blesses you abundantly.

Copyright © 2010 by The Family International