Generosity and Giving

In Britain, we don’t like talking about money.  It’s an awkward subject and in Churches, even more so.  However, we can’t ignore it either.  On this page is loads of information about how God wants us to think about our money, what it costs to run the church, how other people have decided what to do, some practical information about how to give (especially in these Coronavirus times) and a way of giving online.

This is, by necessity, a whistlestop tour of some of the Bible’s key teaching on generosity.

Psalm 24:1 says that ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.’  Everything belongs to God.  You belong to God, I belong to God.  Everything you have belongs to God and everything I have belongs to God.  It all belongs to God.  A common mistake many of us make (including the Vicar sometimes) is that we claim credit for the things that go well in our lives and blame God for the difficult stuff.  This is not a good basis for a relationship.  In Deuteronomy chapter 8, Moses is talking to God’s people.  He is reminding them of all the ways God has provided for them and telling them not to become proud.  He says ‘You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant’. (Deuteronomy 8:17-18. NIV).

In the Old Testament there are a range of offerings to be made to God.  There was a burnt offering (Leviticus 1), A grain offering (Leviticus 2), the fellowship offering (Leviticus 3), the sin offering (Leviticus 4) and the guilt offering (Leviticus 5).  Each of these offerings had levels.  If you could afford a bull, great, if you could only afford a sheep, that was OK too.  If life really was tough, you could offer a dove or a pigeon.  Whatever you offered it had to be a good one (no picking the sick animal that would die anyway).  On top of all this there was the ‘tithe’ where you took 10% of your crops to have what was essentially an enormous street party around the temple.  If you lived too far away, you sold your crops and took the cash to Jerusalem and spent it on food there!  As you read through the first five books of the Bible, you find that God is very keen to stop people becoming too attached to their money and living a generous lifestyle.  You don’t have to read much further on to discover God’s people were not very good at that.

So how does that apply to us today?  God is still the one who makes us able to earn money.  The money is still his.  We are stewards of the resources God has given.  Looking after our money means taking care of our family and loved ones.  But it also includes being generous.  Generosity reminds us that the money comes from God and that we should hold it lightly.  Our generosity is extended to our family, to the church and to other people or organisations too.

If you had to make a guess at how much it costs to run St Peter’s church for seven days, what would you guess? I recently asked people that question and received answers ranging from £300 to £1,500.  The actual answer is £2,220!  That’s around £317 every day or £13.50 every hour, 24 hours 7 days a week.

We spend that money on 

People £1,420 per week
Central Support £346 per week
Buildings £288 per week
Ministry £120 per week
Admin £46 per week

People are Dave, Steph, Kate and paying a verger at weddings and funerals.  This includes National Insurance and pension costs as well as housing costs for Dave.

Central Support is what it costs the Diocese to support us with Archdeacons, safeguarding and legal support as well as training the next generation of ministers and so on.

Buildings is what it costs to heat, light, insure and maintain our Church and the Community Hall.

Ministry is what we spend on everything from palm crosses, paschal candles, coffee and tea, Alpha materials etc.

Admin covers the costs of running the office, having our annual independent examination, the photocopier and such exciting items!

Running a church is an expensive business!

At the moment we are heavily subsidised by the other churches in the Diocese and the National Church.  However, there are not enough churches that pay in to the pot more than they take out, so we all need to do what we can to reduce our call on the resources available so that we can afford to keep a minister here, serving Bentley in the long run.

Ok, I’ve decided I want to support St Peter’s, but how much should I give?

At St Peter’s, we are all members of the family and we all need to chip in towards the costs of running the church.  We don’t charge a fixed fee (however tempting it is to have ticket barriers installed).  But everyone has to decide for themselves what they should give.  Like the Old Testament offerings (bull/sheep/dove), the more you have, the more generous you might be expected to be.

Many Christians hold to the position that we should tithe, that is give 10% of our income away.  This connects back to the tithe in Deuteronomy 14.  For most people who take this view all of the tithe would be given to the Church.  Any other charitable giving would be on top.  Similar to a tithe, other people choose a percentage of their income to give away and then decide how to split that between the church and other organisations.  The advantages of a tithe or percentage approach is that your giving changes with your income.  If you are made redundant you give less, if you get a bonus you give more.  If you are well off you give more, if you are struggling you will give less.  The Church of England’s guidance on giving is that all Christians should give (or work towards giving) 10% of their income away, half of that to Church and half to other good causes.  The disadvantages are that if your giving is currently a bit random or your finances are shaky, 10% feels impossible.  If that is the case, I advise starting small and asking God to help grow your faith to give more.

Some people don’t like percentages and feel better with a sense of what their giving will achieve.  We are asking people to consider whether they can cover the Church’s running costs for an hour a week (£13.50).  Perhaps some people would like to think they are paying for two hours a week (£27.00) while others with tighter budgets might only feel able to commit to half an hour (£6.75).  The advantage of this way of thinking is that it can spur you on to being more generous (‘I think I can do an extra half hour and I’ll feel good about it).  The downside is that as our costs increase it might feel disheartening (although as our costs increase there should be more people sharing the burden!).

Whichever route you choose, the important thing is to ask for God’s help deciding and to feel comfortable with your decision.  You can rest assured that the Vicar does not offer different levels of service based on people’s giving!!

So you’ve decided how much you want to give, click below to find out how.

The Coronavirus outbreak has re-iterated that coming to church and putting money in the collection plate is not always the most reliable giving method.  When we can’t get or haven’t got any cash on us, the church still has bills to pay.  So these giving options are in order of preference from a Church treasurer’s point of view.

1) Parish Giving Scheme.
This is a nationally administered scheme which takes your monthly giving by Direct Debit on the 1st of the month.  It makes one payment of all the gifts received to the Church and also claims Gift Aid on behalf of the Church and returns that to us each month.  It streamlines our administration immensely.  You can even tick a box on the forms that will automatically increase your donation by inflation each year.  If you would like to join the Parish Giving Scheme, call the office and we’ll get you a pack or you can call them on 0333 002 1260.  You will need your bank details and our parish code which is 350635147.

2) Standing Order
You instruct your bank to pay a fixed amount each month.  This is slightly more flexible than the PGS in that you can choose which day of the month the money should leave your account and you can also pay every week, or four weeks as well as monthly, so it can fit with your pay cycle.  If you pay tax, you will need to complete a Gift Aid declaration (if you haven’t done one in the last three years) and we can claim the money back from the government on your behalf.

3) Annual payment
Most people don’t choose this option, but it is available.  You make one payment to the church each year, either by cheque or bank transfer and it’s all done.

4) Envelopes
These give a weekly reminder to give and are trackable for the purposes of Gift Aid etc.  As we have seen though, when Coronavirus strikes, they aren’t that helpful!

5) Weekly giving by cash or card.
We are, obviously, grateful for any donations!  But if you’re a regular part of our family, giving this way can be hit and miss!  You can also give online through our partners give a little.

Frequently Asked Questions

People who decide to give a percentage often ask if that should be a percentage of their take home pay, or their pre-tax pay.  Like many things, you must make that decision yourself.  Most people give on their take home pay.  My tax is complicated, so I give on my pre-tax pay because it’s easier to work it out.

Remember that being generous is supposed to be fun!  So don’t stress.  Make a plan, for example ‘When I do my monthly accounts, I’ll sort out my giving too’, or ‘I’ll do my giving each time I get paid’.  It’s cheapest for church if you do your giving by online banking (40-52-40 00033179) but you can also make card payments through our partners give a little.

Sadly not.  You can call them though on 0333 002 1260, as well as your bank details, you will need the parish code 350635147.

In a word, no.  Each parish is responsible for paying for the ministry they receive and offer.  There is some pooling of costs, and the National Church provides limited support to the bottom 20% of parishes (including St Peter’s), but is a relatively modest amount (the last figure we have is that our grant was worth £240 a week).