At Redemption Church Gateway, we recently completed a 90-Day Tithe Challenge. We issued the challenge as part of our “Building a Stronger Church” series in a message simply titled, “Generosity” (you can see me issue the challenge at the 34:23 mark).
The challenge was to either start giving 10% or, for those who were already tithing, to intentionally increase their giving.
Here’s what I learned.
1. People respond to being challenged.
This is especially true if they think you have their best interest at heart. I told people that we weren’t doing this because we needed the money, but because we wanted to grow their faith.
This seemed to resonate, as 85 households took the challenge.
2. It helps if you provide resources and encouragement.
Within the first week, we sent everybody who responded a copy of Randy Alcorn’s book, Managing God’s Money. Many indicated that this helped them get an even fuller perspective of how to be a good steward.
We also offered a Financial Peace University class, helping people get out of debt and build habits toward generosity.
Along the way, I also sent email updates encouraging folks who responded. I think this encouragement helped them stay on track and helped me remember to pray for them.
3. Some people experienced challenges as they stepped up to honor God more faithfully.
This really isn’t surprising and I warned people to expect some difficulty. For some, it showed up, but also caused them to lean on God.
“Your encouragement is appreciated since I lost my job a week and a half ago, virtually eliminating the sustaining income for our family. It has nothing to do with the commitment we made, but the timing is never right for something like this. My husband truck broke down today and we will have to incur a huge expense to get it repaired since he uses it on his job. I would love to tell you that we remain joyful and full of hope, but today has not been a good day for those feelings. We remain steadfast that nothing happens that the Lord doesn’t allow and our faith is constant and intact. Also that He never gives us more than we can handle. But feeling-wise? Yuck about sums it up.”
“Right after I signed up for this challenge I got a letter from social security saying they had made an error in my payments and had overpaid me for two months, Nov. and Dec. To fix it they are reducing my payments until the difference has been made up. I am still sticking with what I said I would give and trusting God to meet my needs. I just laughed when I got the letter, remembering that you had said we might expect challenges! God is bigger than social security.”
4. Numerous people experienced their faith growing as God showed up in a big way.
A number of people replied to my emails, telling me how the experience was going. Here are some examples (I’m really not making these up!):
“We have managed to cut back the frivolous spending and focus on what is most important. By doing this we have managed to use what we have and not dip into the savings that we had planned we would need for the day to day expenses. I know this is God providing and showing us what is most important!”
“God has shown up in big ways during this challenge. So very real. It’s been a blessing. In fact I am blessed to be paying an enormous tax bill if you can believe that.”
“The months of December and January was a struggle for us financially, but we stayed faithful in tithing, and in February God blessed us with some unexpected money! I was overwhelmed that this money came at the perfect time and in the perfect amount! AND…if that wasn’t enough in March God again gave us MORE unexpected money! I was totally humbled by his faithfulness! What a Great God we have!”
“A week back we were struggling to pay a huge debt for a dentist which we had used for our daughter and my weekly earning was not enough to do that and meet the all other needs. But we continued to choose not to stop our tithe in any circumstance. I always have strong faith that God will provide. It was amazing. When my wife went for the next appointment the dentistry informed her that one of our neighbors had come and settle all that due payment. Not to mention that person is not from our church either. It is amazing how God works.”
“God has worked in amazing ways since I accepted this challenge. We have received unexpected money since I first gave. I have also started a healthy eating program that came my way after asking God for something to help me get in better shape allowing me to be better at my job and be a better mother and wife. It feels really good to give back financially and has created less stress for me, personally.”
“Shortly after I signed up for the challenge and/or figured out the 10% increase thing, my husband got injured and couldn’t work for 6 WEEKS! Which meant he wouldn’t get paid for 6 weeks. WHAT? How on earth would I be able to give anything? Ack! So, the Friday came that I was going to send in my increased amount and I didn’t know what to do. The Lord spoke to me saying I made a commitment, I need to honor it and I could trust him. So, I put together a spreadsheet showing how much each week would be and went on-line and gave that weeks’ amount. It wasn’t much of an increase but with one income gone, it certainly seemed like a lot! The next Wednesday, I got an e-mail from my boss saying I qualified for a BONUS! I hadn’t qualified for a bonus on almost a year! I love how God works and I love even more that my first thought was ‘I can give the entire 10% of this bonus AND next weeks’ increased amount!'”
“We have increased our giving to 10-11% and plan to remain at that level of giving back to God what is His to begin with. God has been faithful to provide a promotion in the last couple of weeks along with news that my annual pay increase may be a larger than anticipated. So He’s making ‘room’ in our budget to allow us to remain faithful to Him.”
“Being a part of the tithing challenge was a big step for me. Prior to this event I would at best classify myself as a God tipper (to use your breakdowns). My wife was a regular contributor but I tended to sit back. I think this more than likely stems from my history with organized religions who I often saw as more concerned with getting money from their parishioners than strengthening their relationship with God. Having been a part of the tithing challenge I now find myself closer to the church, a greater part of the community, and growing in my relationship with the Lord.”
“Because my spouse isn’t a believer and won’t allow me to tithe, I have struggled with this. At the Christmas challenge I started giving out of my own business account even though I didn’t know if I would have enough every month. Since then, my business has been non stop craziness. We were able to arrange to pay off our biggest credit card debt. I feel rich, not in a monetary way, but in the beauty of God’s provision and love. Thanks for encouraging us to give above and beyond.”
5. God used this process to bless our church financially in some important ways.
Over the course of these 90 days, our giving has exceeded our budget by $123,831. Amazing.
As a result, we will be able to:
- Move our part-time groups pastor to full-time, freeing him up to more fully develop an essential ministry for our growing church.
- Hire a part-time all church admin to help manage and lead the many events and details of a growing church.
- Redecorate our kids classrooms, adding more color and kid-friendly life to the environment.
- Increase our ministry budgets, allowing our leaders to be more creative with their ministries.
- Save a significant amount of money toward future land and church-planting opportunities.
I expected God to work through this 90-Day Tithe Challenge. I had no idea it would be this powerful.
If money and generosity are both a thermometer and thermostat of our faith, then I think it’s fair to say that our church is growing spiritually in a big way.
P.S. Recent research also confirms that people who tithe faithfully statistically are in more financial health. I would argue this is the result, not the cause, of their generosity.