My purpose in this post is to help churches evaluate leadership candidates in the area of giving. In the end, the data should be viewed objectively, but also with discernment in order to gauge the generosity of the potential candidate.
Oftentimes, people may be surprised to discover that their Pastor inquires about a leadership candidate’s giving. But the truth is, since the candidate is being tested scripturally against the qualifications found in 1st Timothy 3, there’s virtually no better test than giving. I mean, what better way to test or confirm those qualities? The sum total of these qualities will reveal themselves in a person’s giving. Pastor would be amiss not to assess the candidate’s giving.
According to 2 Corinthians 8, we are to excel at the grace of giving. This is not a legalistic rule or command, it simply teaches that people full of spiritual joy give out of love for the Lord and what He has done for them. It also teaches that people give in proportion to what they have.
So this post is not about being legalistic. And, it’s certainly not necessarily about using data to eliminate those who don’t give much, as we give in proportion to what one is given.
As a follow-up to my post ‘7 Things Pastors Should Know About Giving in Their Church‘, Point #6 was:
Pastor needs to know whether or not those being considered for a leadership position are giving consistently and generously.
When someone has been nominated or selected to serve in a leadership role in the church (think Deacon, Elder or Finance Team), again, they are evaluated based upon the qualifications as found in 1st Timothy 3. They are brought in and interviewed by the Pastor and the Chair of the Committee – at a minimum, to which they have been nominated.
As it relates to finances, the candidate is often asked to express his views on tithing. (An excellent replacement or follow-up question could be “How do you determine how much to give financially to the church”?)
Assuming that Pastor and the Committee Chair are satisfied with all the answers given during the interview, oftentimes, the Pastor comes into the Finance Office some time later and wants to know if the candidate is “tithing”. Since it is nearly impossible to determine if someone is giving 10% of their gross income (short of having their W2’s), all the finance person can do is review the candidate’s giving record to determine if the amounts are indicative of a mature disciple – recognizing varying income levels within the church.
Here’s the process I used to assess a leadership candidate’s giving. I hope it will help you.
The Consistency Test
Obviously, one must look at the candidate’s giving record to determine whether they are giving consistently. That’s the easy part. If their giving was sporadic in nature, then I didn’t go any further – the answer given to the Pastor was “no”. (Pastor may know of extenuating circumstances that he can take into consideration such as a recent job loss, etc.) Sometimes there’s a consistency, but the amounts given are so low it’s obvious it’s no where near a tithe. (Or, indicative of a mature disciple).
Now, provided they passed the Consistency Test, the following assessments provided me a framework of reference which helped me make a determination – one I could support or defend. I wanted to be as objective as I could.
Median Income/Tithe Comparison
Obtain the median household income in your area, (city-data.com) multiply by 10% to arrive at what a median household tithe might look like for your church. This site provides the median household income for ALL households. However, they also contain median household income for one and two wage-earner households. Using the appropriate one provides a better gauge, in my opinion.
As an example, in my area, the overall median household income is $36k, but the median household income for 2-earner households is $62k. That’s a large difference. Using the 2-earner income, the median household tithe for these households would be around $6k year. As such, giving levels for 2-earner households below $3k may not be indicative of mature Christian giving in this case. As FYI, median household income for 1-earner households is $35k. There’s even data for 0-earner households – $22k.
This test may be enough to make a determination, or you could supplement or replace with either of the two below:
Compare the candidate’s giving level to all other givers in the church. All you need is a listing of annual amounts given by person sorted by amount. Then rank the giving into percentiles. Break out giving into thirds or fourths. In other words, break out giving into the bottom 3rd, the middle 3rd and the top 3rd. All you do here is report back what percentile the candidate is in, and let Pastor decide.
Use of Giving Profile
Now, if your church is really tuned into and tracking its giving base, you may be using something like this. In the example I provided in this post, report the Giving Band the candidate was in. Very similar to above.
At the end of the day, all you really test is the candidate’s giving consistency and if it is deemed consistent, make an informed assessment in regards to the candidate’s giving levels.
Chances are, giving levels near the median tithe and above or within the middle third and above may be indicative of a tithe or of a mature disciple. Granted, there could be exceptions. The tools I’ve presented are not a guarantee. All they do is bring some objectivity into the assessment.
If, after you’ve worked thru the above and you’re still unsure, you have a few options-
1. Give them the benefit of the doubt
2. Take into consideration other areas they are giving to – such as the building fund, missions and so on
3. Take a closer look to see if their giving has been increasing
4. Discern based upon observed lifestyle
Lastly, something to ponder-
I like to make informed decisions, so – given this 5 Year Study of Tithers, only 10 to 25% of people/households are tithing, so one has to bear that in mind. Another finding in the 5 year study was that 27% of tithers have incomes less than $50k a year. This also means 63% of tithers have incomes over $50k.
It’s a little bit of extra work, but it’s worth it because your answer may well determine if they are going to serve or not. Take it seriously.