“And now let us bring forward our tithes and offerings.”
When I was a child, I never knew why the minister said “tithes AND offerings.” I didn’t understand the difference. What’s the difference between a tithe and an offering?
Several years after serving as a pastor, I finally learned. A “tithe” is the basic percentage of our income we give automatically, our reminder that all that we have comes from God. Traditionally Christians have set this goal at 10%, but whatever percentage we choose, it is a good faith practice to automatically return a certain percentage of our income to God.
“Offerings,” on the other hand, or gifts we make “over and above” our tithe. When we feel generous, when we get some extra money, when we find a cause we want to support, we make an offering – an extra gift.
Within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) tradition, congregations are primarily funded by tithes. Church members pledge to give a certain percentage of their annual income to the church, often by filling out an “estimate of giving” card. Then most congregations set their own tithe to the denomination through giving to the Disciples Mission Fund (DMF) which supports regional and general ministries.
In addition to the “tithe” of giving a percentage of your congregation’s income to DMF, Disciples take up six “Special Offerings” each year. These Special Offerings are over and above gifts to support our regional and general ministries. The six offerings, in the order they are collected, are:
- Week of Compassion Offering, which funds emergency disaster relief and long-term development to overcome poverty
- Easter Offering, which funds the General church (Disciples of Christ) – our General Minister and President, Overseas Ministries, Homeland Ministries (youth, children, mental health, etc), and more.
- Pentecost Offering, which is all used to help start new churches – like Casa de Adoracion and Comunidad Limen Christian Church here in Arizona.
- Reconciliation Offering, which is used for Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation work
- Thanksgiving Offering, which is used for higher education – our colleges and seminaries
- Christmas Offering, which supports your Regional ministry.
Due in large part to the pandemic and the move to on-line worship, our Special Offerings have taken a big hit this year. Although the Week of Compassion Offering, collected before the pandemic, was strong, the Easter Offering dropped over 60% in Arizona and 53% nationwide. That drop means a profound loss in income for our denominational ministries.
Every December, every Region works to remind congregations and individual members of the importance of giving to the Christmas Offering, as 100% of the dollars given to that offering support our Regional ministry and make up an important part of our Regional budget. This year is no different – a large Christmas Offering will make a big difference for our Regional ministries. But we also want to invite you to make a special year-end gift to the Easter Offering, or to any of the special offerings. Disciples everywhere are working hard to do great ministry with limited resources, and we encourage you to give as generously as you can to support our collective work.