I have been thinking quite a lot about how to answer the question of how to decide what we will pledge. In many respects, making a decision about budgeting and future plans is always an act of faith. I think we have done a pretty good job of explaining why we are asking people to increase their giving and to give toward the Living as the Body of Christ Fund. But how do you actually decide what numbers to put down?
So in an effort to try and help all of you in thinking through how to do it, I’m going to try and outline how Kathryn and I will try to do it. We will do it by asking ourselves several questions. There’s nothing magical about these questions. You may have different ones, even better ones. But this is where we’re going to start:
What are the most important priorities in our life?
That’s easy. Eternal life in Jesus Christ, and our family. We could include further refinements like education, financial stability for the future, ability to connect with extended family, music, and others. But boiled down to its core, the two most important things for us are Church and Home.
How does our budgeting reflect what are our top priorities?
In terms of dollars, we spend the most of our budget on our mortage, followed by household utilities, taxes, food, education (school tuition), my doctoral expenses, vehicles, debt reduction, savings, retirement, and our favorite category of “other”. Our offering to church is more than my DMIN costs, but less than we spend on school tuition for our kids.
So looking at these numbers, I would say that our expenses line up pretty well with our family priorities, but not as well with our Church priorities. I also don’t like the fact that weput more money into taxes than we contribute to my church. In addition, we spend almost as much on “entertainment” than we do on our contribution to the Church. Plus, we give very little to other, outside charities.
Another challenge we have is debt. Some of it is vehicles and our camper, but some of it is good, old fashioned consumer debt. We are hardly unusual with this, but it is very frustrating that our capacity to give to the Church is lessened because of this consumer debt.
How should we better align our spending priorities?
That is the question, isn’t it? As we look at our budget, we have to ask ourselves the question: What can we commit to this campaign that is faithful, generous, and challenging to us and our family?
We are going to do this in two ways: First we will increase our regular offering by 2% for the year. That is enough to be substantive, but not so much that we can’t manage it.
The second thing we are going to do is pick a number for our contribution to the Living as the Body of Christ Fund. I think the way we will look at it is take the amount of money that we contributed to Holy Cross in 2017, as use that as our starting number for what to contribute over three years. So if that number is $6000, we will contribute $2000 a year, or $167 a month for 36 months. That seems like something we can do. That $167 is a pretty small number, considering how much we spend on tuition, our mortgage, and everything else that makes our household tick.
But with any budget, if you say YES to one thing, you might be saying NO to something else. In order to see if these numbers will work for us as a family, we will need to do a couple more things:
- Pray. If we are reprioritizing what we think is important as a family, we need to pray about it. Together as a family, but also individually.
- Look at where in our budget can we cut expenses so that we may give more to the Church.
So how about you? How will you decide what to contribute to Living as the Body of Christ? This is how we will decide. I want to encourage each of you as a family to work through this together. Maybe your budgeting on this sort of thing doesn’t work this way. But you have a better way, great!
In the meantime, I leave you with these words from St. Paul:
“The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).