If we are truly honest, most of us would agree that tithing our money to church and charity is something we struggle with. As a stewardship educator I have found that one of the quickest ways to limit a conversation on giving is to insist that we give away ten percent of all we earn. With giving levels close to only 2% of family income in the Anglican Church, you can understand why. If I want to make headway in the conversation I usually begin by speaking about giving proportionately and then challenge people to increase their giving on an annual basis.
Here’s an interesting idea. What if we encouraged people to tithe their time? In all my conversations and presentations on stewardship I cannot think of a single occasion when I challenged someone to tithe their time. Yet I know from past experience that those parishes that encourage members to involve themselves at a heightened level of ministry and community service tend to experience very generous levels of financial giving. The relationship is clear; people give most generously to the causes they are intimately involved.
Regardless of personal economic situation, we all have the same amount of time. We all have the capacity within our daily routine to dedicate our time to serving God and the people of God in the world.
How does the average Canadian spend their week? Reflecting on my own circumstances, a typical week looks something like this:
Sleep – 49 Hours
Work – 40 Hours
Television/Internet – 15 Hours
Meal Preparation and Eating – 15 Hours
Chores, Laundry, Cleaning – 15 Hours
Travel – 15 Hours
Family Time and Church – 10 Hours
Exercise & Grooming – 9 Hours
Total – 168 Hours in a week
Let’s consider how we might dedicate 16.8 hours of time in the service of the Lord over the course of a week. Surprisingly there are many opportunities to weave prayer, reading, service and worship into our weekly schedule. Instead of listening to the radio, choose an inspirational CD. While walking to the office, meditate. Challenge yourself to read 30 minutes of scripture each day. Participate in a weekly bible study and then volunteer in another ministry at the church. Attend church services weekly. If you have children, volunteer at one of their activities. If your circumstances are different, a host of other community groups could benefit from your talent and energy.
The ways in which we could tithe our time are endless. And consider the benefits: How might the pace of life change if we consciously chose to use more of our time to serve God? How might our relationships with one another be enhanced? How might our Christian journey be more fulfilling? In finding ways to commit our time more intentionally to God’s mission we actually fulfill our baptismal promises.
All too frequently we think of stewardship as synonymous with the gift of treasure. My phone does not ring because the parish priest is having trouble recruiting choristers but because the church offertory is declining. Most of my time is spent resourcing parishes on how to encourage financial giving that is proportional, generous, consistent and joyful. Without a doubt all this is necessary to secure the temporal ministry needs of our churches. However, imagine what our parish experience might be like if everyone in the congregation was encouraged to tithe their time