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When we give… we give LIFE.
How we handle our time, talents and money is at the heart of our walk with God. Yet it is a subject that is rarely addressed in churches except in a PCC meeting which are sadly all too often dominated by discussions over finances!
By contrast, in the Bible, money is a regular topic and even the teaching of Jesus has many references to finances. Jesus talks more about money than he does Heaven and Hell combined. In fact, he talks more about money than any other topic except the Kingdom of Heaven. And 11 out of 39 parables talk about money.
Jesus teaches that our dependence should be on God and all that he provides for us. He taught, not that it was important to have a lot of money or to hoard it, but that it was something to give away to those that are in need and to be used to resource the mission of the church.
Every week we acknowledge our dependence on God as we present our offerings in church with the words “All things come from you, and of your own do we give you”.
But coming to a full understanding of what that might mean for us often takes time as we learn more and more about God. And what the offertory actually expresses might not match the words that we say at that moment in our Worship.
The Giving Toolbox is a set of resources and programmes to help both you and your church engage with understanding the place of money in our own lives and the importance that our own gifts of it through the church play in furthering God’s Mission.
Frequently asked questions
But when you have made the decision to support the work of the Church, how much should you give?
Circumstances differ enormously and your gift will not simply reflect your willingness to give but also your ability. As a basic starting point the Church believes that in giving to others we should give in proportion to what we receive; i.e. in proportion to our income.
The Church of England encourages committed Churchgoers to give away 10 per cent of their income to good causes, a practice known as tithing which has Biblical origins. It is suggested that of this 10 per cent half is offered as a gift to the Church. This level of giving would ensure not only a secure future for the Church but enable real growth in mission and outreach.
We recognize this recommendation is a challenge. Please be assured we are grateful for and careful with every donation made to the Church, mindful of our duty to use your gifts wisely to grow the presence of God and the Church in our communities.
Whatever you do give, we ask that it is a considered, prayerful expression of your faith in action.
Below is a simple ‘Giving Guide’ which illustrates what giving would be for various levels of income at 10 per cent, five per cent and one per cent to help you make your decision. It is designed to help you easily see what this means in terms of a regular monthly donation for various levels of income.
It also shows the 5% recommended as a donation to the Church of England and 1% to help you scale a donation which feels right for you.
Below that is the same table showing what this would mean as a weekly donation.
The value of donations can be increased by the donor allowing the church to re-claim the tax. If you are a UK taxpayer simply Gift Aid your donations; for every £10 given your church receives an extra £2.50. The best way of doing this is through the Parish Giving Scheme if your church is a member.
The principle behind paying a vicar is not that they are rewarded for their service to the Church but that the cost of living is met to free them up for that service through the provision of a ‘Stipend’.
In addition a house is provided to ensure a vicar is able to live in a suitable location within the community they are called to serve.
The overall ‘package’ is intended to offer a standard of living roughly in line with that of a Primary School Head teacher (although it would require a slight increase in stipend to fully achieve this).
The actual cost for each full time paid vicar includes the costs of recruiting, training, housing and also providing a pension in addition to the stipend.
The cost of a full time stipendiary vicar for 2018 was approximately £67k. This cost includes housing, pension and training; the actual stipend for 2018 was £26,136 (this compares with the average wage in the UK of £27,404 in 2018). Also included in this cost are the shared diocesan and national costs.
There are two basic reasons why the Church has become much more reliant on donations: the cost of running the Church has increased well ahead of inflation and the historic contribution made by the Church Commissioners has decreased significantly.
The Cost of Running the Church of England.
There have been a number of reasons for the significant increase in the cost of running the Church of England.
A series of measures through the 1970s and 1980s sought to ensure a fairer treatment of clergy; addressing stipend levels (1975: minimum stipends introduced), pensions (1980: current pension scheme introduced) and housing (1986: Church Commissioners led reform of housing provision). The introduction of new pension Legislation in recent years has had a significant impact on the cost of Clergy pensions.
All of these important improvements and reforms mean that, in real terms, it now costs roughly three times what it did in the early 1960s to fund a full-time Vicar.
So the costs of running the Church of England have increased dramatically.
The contribution from the Church Commissioners
In the early 1960s the Church Commissioners paid for 75 per cent of stipends.
Today they fund around 10 per cent of the cost of parish clergy nationally, but in many dioceses and parishes there is no ongoing support.
The reasons for this are an imbalance between the investment earnings of the Commissioners’ funds and the amount they have historically paid for in the life of the Church. It is an open question why this has happened but it is clear that the Church has been living beyond its means for a number of years and funding from the Commissioners can no longer be the comfort it once was.
The 90% required to pay for the clergy now comes almost exclusively from the generosity of those who worship in our churches and is paid via something called Parish Share.
What is Parish Share?
As Christians we belong to something much greater than ourselves, we are part of the Church, which is the body of Christ. We are joined together in Christ. The Bible tells us:
‘You are the body of Christ and individually members of it.’ (1 Cor 12:27).
The concept of Parish Share is based on this understanding of the Church.
In the Church of England we live together as a broad Church with many different views and traditions, and we do so because of our common faith in God, and the belief that through Christ we belong to one another.
The New Testament describes a Church which is inter-dependent, mutually supportive and generous.
Christians are called to give ‘first to the Lord’ of all that they have and to give of their best to the common good.
We pool the resources God gives us for the sake of the Kingdom.
Generosity is the hallmark of our faith, a desire to help others, to see that none go without, to share what we have. So…Parish Share is giving.
When a church contributes an amount of money to Parish Share it is giving into a common purse, which is then shared out so that all parishes/benefices may have a priest whether they are rich or poor. This is fundamental to Church of England theology, and it is a fundamental biblical principle – to resource the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere, and not just where it can be afforded. Everything that is given in Parish Share is hugely appreciated, and is being put to good use in providing ministry across our Diocese and resourcing the mission of the Church.
The cost of a priest includes their stipend and pension contributions (if stipendiary), housing costs and initial training, plus ongoing training and support. Parishes/benefices also receive a wide range of support services (such as safeguarding expertise, legal advice, buildings advice, assistance with problems, disputes and concerns) and ongoing training (such as bereavement teams, worship leaders course, development for lay and ordained ministers, children and youth work) thanks to the common purse funded by Parish Share.
How is Parish Share Calculated?
Each year the Diocese sets a budget which is approved by the Diocesan Synod.
The bulk of this is funded by Parish Share contributions from our Parishes.
Each deanery is given an allocation for Parish Share for the year ahead – the necessary contribution from each Deanery needed to meet the annual budget.
It is for the Deanery Standing Committee in consultation to decide how the allocation is met by the Parishes, and most deaneries use the calculations for benefices provided by the Finance Team. It should be noted that no diocese has yet found the perfect formula for calculating the allocation for each parish and benefice!
In the Diocese of Gloucester our formula is based on two things: the parish’s potential to give and the ministry received. Across the whole Diocese a base allocation is calculated to meet the annual budget for expenditure. The base allocation has two elements, with half being based on the Usual Sunday Attendance and half on clergy costs.
The detailed calculations are worked out as follows:
1. In terms of potential to give, the Finance Team in College Green look at the Usual Sunday Attendance (USA) for each parish (as recorded by the PCC in their annual mission statistics). Across the Benefice a three year average USA is then calculated so that there won’t be a sudden jump if your congregation has grown.
2. The Finance Team looks at the clergy provision, i.e. the ministry received. For example, your benefice may have one full time vicar with no supporting clergy. The cost of a full time stipendiary vicar for 2018 was approximately £67k. This cost includes housing, pension and training; the actual stipend for 2018 was £26,136. Also included in this cost are the shared diocesan and national costs and these are calculated and weighted by reference to the number of stipendiary, house for duty and self-supporting posts within the benefice.
These two figures are then applied to the Deanery allocation and an amount suggested for each Parish in order to meet the needs of the Diocese and ensure the continuing mission of the church and the provision of clergy to each Parish.
A thought …
Remember, holding back or not contributing Parish Share has a consequence on others. If a parish/benefice does not meet its Parish Share, then other parishes in the deanery have to give more to cover for them.
Ultimately a parish/benefice may be without a priest because there is not enough in the common purse and a fundamental part of what it means to be Church, and what it means to be the Church of England, could be lost.
So what are the Fundamental Principles to Christian Giving when we are considering talking about it in our churches?
#1 Faith-raising not Fund-raising.
The principal aim in encouraging giving is actually to help Christians grow in faith. It is this growth in faith that will fuel real generosity over time and not the other way round. So talking about Giving is actually to encourage Discipleship.
#2 We are stewards!
The Bible teaches time and time again that all that we have comes from God. We are simply stewards of his generosity during our time on earth and we are charged with using his generosity wisely.
#3 Abundance not scarcity.
The challenge to all Christians is to learn to give out of our abundance (what the Old Testament often calls the First Fruits) rather than what we have left over or what is just in our pockets. Our giving should be a priority, not an afterthought
#4 Resourcing Mission.
Our giving should be in response to God’s gifts to us, and to resource His mission to the world and not simply to keep the show on the road.
In encouraging giving, we simply extend God’s invitation to participate in His mission to those around us.
Whilst these are fundamental to Christian Giving, each individual is on their own journey of Discipleship and how that relates to their attitude to money and the church will vary. And how we develop habits of generosity in response to God’s love may take a lifetime.
The Church of England has developed the following helpful six steps of giving to better explain how this journey progresses.
Steps in Giving
Step 1 – Survival
“I give a bit when I’m asked because the church ought to be there in case I need it.”
The need is survival and there’s a chance that the church might help. The relationship with the church is that I know it’s there if I need it – all being well, I won’t!
Step 2 – Supermarket
“I’m happy to pay towards the cost of the bits of the church that I want and enjoy.”
The need is safety and by treating the church on my terms I feel safe and unchallenged. I see myself as a customer.
Step 3 – Support
“The work of the Church is important and so I’ll support it.”
I have a need for belonging. I see myself as a member of the supporters’ club.
Step 4 – Subscription
“I see myself as a member and I wish to contribute to my fair share of the costs.”
The need is identity – I’m recognised and I’m playing my part.
Step 5 – Submission
“My understanding of being a disciple is that I should put God first in my life. “
I see a deeper meaning in life and my giving responds to God and not just the needs of the Church.
Step 6 – Sacrifice
“My Christian calling is to be Christ-like and so naturally I give joyfully and sacrificially – following Christ.”
The Giving Toolbox has been developed to help both individuals and churches move along this pathway to a deeper understanding of how to respond to God’s love through the gifts we make through the church.
A short video to explain how the Diocese is funded