What Would Happen to Adventist Schools If We All Tithed?

Six years ago I was asked to give a parenting seminar to young parents in our church in Massachusetts. I started looking for information in published psychological literature, in library books, and the internet. I could not find information that I could use and have assurance that I had helped my audience. Two weeks before the seminar I thought to myself, “How about the Spirit of Prophecy books like Adventist Home and Child Guidance?” I started reading these two books again. All I needed was there. After presenting some selected quotations from these books, every parent wanted them. Thankfully I had brought copies for them.

Seventh-day Adventists are blessed with the inspired messages of the Spirit of Prophecy by Ellen G. White, but we probably don’t value them enough. We have a powerful education and health message that was given to us to change our community. Answers to problems the world is struggling with are in these inspired books, which, of course, lead us back to the Word of God.

Many teachers and school administrators, especially in public schools, believe that the problems they face in their careers can be addressed if children are taught moral values at home that are stated in Adventist Home.

“In His wisdom the Lord has decreed that the family shall be the greatest of all educational agencies…. To the lack of right home training may be traced the larger share of the disease and misery and crime that curse humanity.”Adventist Home, pp 182, 183.

The Seventh-day Adventist message can make a great impact on the community through our school system. Yet our schools have been closing at an alarming rate because of low enrollment and lack of financial resources, missing the opportunity to change the world with a message of hope and wholeness. The vehicle of our church mission in the land of many opportunities is losing steam.

In his book Giving It All Away… and Getting It All Back Again, David Green compares his family business, Hobby Lobby, to a fruitful tree which, taken good care of by cultivating the soil around it, giving it adequate water, and spraying it as needed, yields wonderful fruit. Adventist educational institutions from elementary to colleges/universities are fruitful trees. Many of us have been the product of these wonderful trees. For some reasons, in the last 30 years, we neglected to cultivate the soil around them, to provide adequate water, and spraying them when needed. The result is that they are struggling. Some of us are crying out loudly “Let them go.” This would mean let the mission, the vision of Adventist education in that community, die. Can we afford it?

What would happen to our schools if we all tithed? A case study of Atlantic Union Conference

Mike Holmes (March 2016) wrote in Relevant Magazine on the topic, “What Would Happen if the Church Tithed?”He pointed out that only 5% of U.S. Christians tithe, with 80% only giving 2% of their income. If we all tithed (10%), Christians could:

  • relieve global hunger, starvation, and death from preventable diseases in five years
  • eliminate illiteracy in five years
  • solve the world’s water and sanitation issues
  • fully fund all annual overseas mission work
  • additionally, a lot of money would still be left over for additional ministry expansion.

Dave Ramsey, in one of his Financial Peace University classes, also says that if all evangelical Christians faithfully tithe, the Christian community can provide community services better than what the government does.

This is what would happen to Adventist schools in the Atlantic Union Conference if all church members tithe:

In 2016, tithes of $102,259,179 were received from the membership of 120,475. If we all tithed 10%, and assuming 25% of church members are not in the labor force, Atlantic Union Conference could receive $299,259,9001. This computation is based on the average income per capita ($33,123) of the seven states in the Atlantic Union Conference (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) as given by income by zip code. Compared to the 2016 tithes, this is a significant increase. Guess what the church could do with this surplus.

The current policy states that 18 cents of every tithe dollar retained2 by the conference goes to education to pay a portion of teachers’ salaries and benefits, and funds for the education department. This means $11,596,191 went to support elementary schools and academies in the Union. If we all tithed, $33,936,073 could go to education. And if we could convince the policymakers (North American Division) to increase educational support to 25 cents instead of 18, the church’s educational system could receive $47,133,434. There is no doubt that schools in our union could be affordable or even free.

So why are we not giving? How did we neglect to cultivate the soil around our fruitful tree? How did we forget to water it? Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It seems our priorities have shifted to other demands of life and neglected our Christian education. The Lord has been good to me and to you. “What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?” Psalm 116:12. My prayer is that we seek God first and his righteousness by returning a faithful tithe to expand his kingdom in our communities through our school system.

Notes & References:

1. Average annual income per capita excluding Bermuda is estimated at $33,123.

2. Southern New England Conference retains 63% of the tithe dollar received.

Issumael Nzamutuma is Vice President for Academic Affairs at Atlantic Union College.

Image Credit: pexels.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8189

Amazing article. That would solve all the Education problems and allow single mothers to send there kids to school, if it was free tuition. We let the world inside and it’s taking over our lives. We lost what was really happen.

An excellent article. American Adventists have higher incomes than average Americans, but in general they are rather selfish. We certainly need to support our schools.

I quit tithing to the church long before I left the church because of the waste I saw the extravagance that was benefiting employees while those of us on meager incomes just barely got by. My question is what would happen to SDA schools if if all the extras, waste, and expensive vacations were eliminated?

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Tithe in the Adventist Church is used for many, many, things other than supporting schools. I am sure that more money flowing into the church coffers would be welcomed but to give more would not mean that it would be allocated to education.

Reference for where our tithe may be spent by the church:

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What if all of the Seventh-day Adventists who are participating members actually are tithing?

A family friend who was before retirement was a local conference leader, estimates that of the congregational membership totals reported by NAD conferences, only 1/3 are participating members. Apparently tithe figures parallel this estimate. A participating member is one who attends at least once per month.

For many years there Santa Cruz CA congregation where I often attend reported on the Central California Conference site as having 525 members, within the past year or two that number was reduced to 225, and checking today, the list of churches and their membership has been removed from the conference website. I can report that a count of those in the sanctuary during the opening hymn any given Sabbath will be roughly 60 adults, including a scattering of visitors. Leaving the sanctuary will have seen the count rise to perhaps 80-90, including children and visitors.

When the current pastor was sent by the conference, the conference president spoke to our congregation and as part of his effort to encourage the member in well doing, reported that we should image what could be done by increasing tithing from 20% of conference membership to just 25% of membership. He was, as it turns out, preaching to pretty much no one who was not already a tithe supporter of the conference.

The challenge is not tithing so much as a collection of services by 23 identified conference departments that are irrelevant to 2/3 of the members on the books.

The opportunity is massive.

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Looking at it from another VIEWPOINT, ANGLE.
WHAT would happen if Sabbath School, ACTUALLY became School on Sabbath for ALL the Pre-K, elementary, middle school kids. AND for the High School kids that did not attend Academy.

“Sabbath School” for the most part now days is actually mostly entertainment for the kids, while sneaking in a little bit of learning.
What if it became an at LEAST 3 to 4 hour of class learning? Actual Textbooks. Actual assignments to take home and have parents assist their child to complete? And bring back the next week for discussion?

A lot of our Churches are in places where they do not have enough school age persons to afford hiring a Full-Time teacher. Many churches do well to have 50 in attendance, and most of that population are the older age group. Another phenomenon among SDAs is the small family, 1 to 2 children, and not the large families of decades ago. As far as Academy – Boarding School, the same. Small families. And if anything like in my church, some parents opt to keep their high school child at home and attend local either public or private school.
So I REALLY do not see that Tithing would make any difference. It would pay for more preachers to go into “dark counties” and preach the word. We have a lot of “Dark Counties” here in Georgia. Also, perhaps it might support Medical Evangelism [a medical professional] along with a Preacher in dark counties.

Yes, Frank. There are a lot of Church Programs coming from Local Conference, Union Conference, Division offices that suck up a lot of the monies given to the church and funneled upward to the top.
Education is just a small part.

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I cannot understand why the author believes that more money will solve church problems? I guess he forgotten the poverty of Jesus and his disciples who had very little use for money. Just look at our expensive Union offices and the brand new multi million dollar NA Division office. What if we sought to consolidate administration we would have enough funds from tithe to support our schools.

What we really need is revival, not money. Has oure prosperous US society become more moral by money? What a failed idea.

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This is one thing that I never understood:

Many schools are for profit, and because they are not associated with churches, they are for-profit; and they make money without any subsidy.

Now, what is the problem with schools affiliated with churches? They get subsidy and are still in the red?!?!

It looks like something is fishy. In my opinion if a school is not self-sufficient, it should be closed. Period.

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Novel idea: why not start with even five percent, give the tithe directly to the local school and or church, cut out the middlemen and the overhead? Trust the local church/congregation/school to chart their own needs according to their demographics rather than funding the increasingly futile attempts and unproven whims of untried and unsuccessful evangelism and everything that goes with it. Do this and MAYBE the mounting cynicism MIGHT result in better effectiveness for member involvement. We still have the ability to vote with our pocketbooks. Did Communism ever work? And wasn’t it Reagan that tried the trickle down process? Conceptually it didn’t work then, and apparently doesn’t work now albeit in differing applications.

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Wouldn’t it be better to redirect all that tithe money away from salary support and depend more on volunteer efforts and dedication for ministry? Where are the tentmakers, the fishermen, the carpenters, who knew how to put in a full day of labor and still carve out time to do ministry? So many colleagues in paid “professional” clergy roles need to venture out in the real world of physical work. As a ministerial group we are overweight, overpaid, and overrated. We have fought for our tax benefits (“parsonage allowance” etc.) that we don’t deserve. It is absurd to claim separation of church and state and then claim parsonage allowance after being paid a fair salary. Tithing is a wonderful principle and if the money collected truly goes into structural ministerial needs for evangelism, then we would experience a real support for ministry The fact is, the church system is not meant to function the way that it does, the way that requires one or a few men and women to teach every Saturday, to be on-call 24×7, to be the only people who visit the sick in the hospital, the men and women who sets the vision for the church (as if God did not already do that 2,000 years ago), etc. The church should function in a way that we all share in the responsibility of discipling and nurturing one-another, we should love one-another, we should visit one-another and help one-another. We might see a real revival in every member evangelism and greater church involvement and participation. This responsibility should not, MUST NOT, fall on one man or woman. Paying a pastor’s salary is detrimental to the maturity and growth of the church. When we pay a person to do the stuff that we should be doing, we fail to grow. Sure, we might learn something every now and then as we mindlessly sit in our pews, but that is not growing or maturing.
Several years ago I noticed what happened at a large Adventist church nearby when due to a variety of factors no pastor was assigned for almost a year. The church during those months grew spiritually and numerically. The church building was remodeled and the parking lot repaved without incurring debt. The church’s outreach programs flourished and an extra vespers service sponsored by the youth was added on Sabbath afternoons. As soon as two pastors were assigned almost all the progress stopped. That same church is now limping along unable to support the local academy, sending no students and falling behind on subsidies.
We grow spiritually when we learn how to give up our own wants and needs for those around us. That is extremely hard to do when we think that paying a person’s salary to do those things for us is what God wants from us. For those who still want to pay their clergy they should first consider a few quotes from scripture that support the ideal of being unpaid.
What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. – 1 Corinthians 9:18
I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” – Acts 20:33-35
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:1-3

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10% is just not doable specially here in California were you get taxed a lot. In addition, the Adventist education system is loosing ground is because of poor management and like any business sometimes it’s better to cut your looses and focus your resources on strengthening what you have.

Like the government, there is always some waste. We would hope a church would be much better. But I must ask what back-up you have for your claim? It can’t be just a few well-known instances, but we would need a study to make these accusations. (That would cost as well.) It would seem less top administration and localized decisions would be more efficient along with a system of accountability.

I, too, find this an amazing article. Amazing at how government and the church are so similar. If there are problems, just throw more money at it . . . tax more or tithe more! Make offering appeals in church, not really encouraging members to give more, but rather guilting members to contribute more. Perhaps we should look at how we are managing God’s business, if we are running it the way God would have us.

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So let us just throw more money at the problem. More money has not been the cure and lack of money is not the problem. We need to do some serious root cause analysis and solve problems the correct way. For example why are we trying to revive AUC? We are not utilizing our other schools adequately, so just throw more money at AUC?

Many people do it. They give tithe as “local budget,” as it was in the beginning. I know at least one person who has been doing this for a long time. It works…

I never heard of Paul or others talking about sending anything to some kind of General Conference on a systematic basis through a big bureaucratic chain that consumes most of the money.

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