A Humble Call to Action: Tithe

I’ve always been a big-picture thinker.  When I consider social justice and Church reform, complex theories and massive structural changes are my primary agenda.  I get antsy for dramatic shifts at every level.

At the beginning of the new year, however, I was removed from my undergraduate utopia of abstract theological studies and dropped into the middle of downtown Los Angeles where I work for the Archdiocese in Young Adult Ministry. Every day I speak with ministers and young adults, asking, “What are you doing? What do you need? How can I help?”

Surely, their feedback fuels restless dreams of a far-off, “better” Church.  But it has also confronted me with a strikingly practical realization: Money has the potential to change the church is big ways today.

I cringe as I confess that, but it’s true. You see, I grew up in a thriving suburban parish and studied at a well-resourced Jesuit university—communities where the prevalence of funds often made me queasy. I wished for less talk about capital campaigns and more about loving thy neighbor. In retrospect, however, I realize that the abundance in my surroundings sheltered me from the power of a dollar.  If I was in a community that really needed money, I wouldn’t be so dismissive of money talk in church.  I would see, as I do now, that financially supporting a ministry is also an act of love.  It can enable ministries to love on others in incredibly significant ways.

When I ask young adult ministries what they need, the most frequent response is a light-hearted chuckle and a phrase akin to “more hands, more staff, more hours in the day….” There is no lack of enthusiasm or commitment to young adults. There is no lack of talent in ministry. There is a lack of funds to support more hands, more staff, and more hours designated for ministry work each day.

And if you are anything like me, you know that these ministries—the groups and organizations and programs that serve the world in the name of Christ and the Church—are the very things that keep so many of us going when the larger, slow-changing realities of Catholicism make us want to throw in the towel.  Therefore, as we work for and await the bigger changes our Church needs, we must keep the “little guys” going.  We need to keep them thriving.

And, again, if you are like me, there are probably many significant things holding you back when the collection basket passes. You’re a young adult with a starting salary. You can barely afford health insurance. You have student loans that you are trying to pay off before your kids start racking up their own. I know—but consider this: You know the value of the money in your wallet, so think about the impact it could make for ministry, too.

Support the Church with your time—absolutely! And we must keep advocating for structural change, fiscal responsibility in Church spending, inclusively and justice for all the Church, in addition to the rest of the long litany of actions that we dream of for Catholicism.  But hear this humble call to action, too: Tithe. I’m going to start.

Jessica Coblentz recently graduated from Santa Clara University where she majored in Religious Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies. She now resides in Los Angeles where she splits her time between work in young adult ministry and campus ministry at a Catholic women’s college. Her main hub on the Web is www.jessicacoblentz.blogspot.com.

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One thought on “A Humble Call to Action: Tithe

  1. I actually had a similar conversation a couple months ago with the pastor at the church I’ve been going to in Colorado. I brought up all the points I could think of to try and get out of tithing: I’m a college student, I have loan, I have lots of loans, I can donate my time instead, etc. He wouldn’t buy it (no pun intended).

    The point that really got me was: If you don’t start forming good habits now, you’ll be less likely to do it in the future.

    I started tithing. It’s not much, but it’s something.

    Another think he pointed out was this: if you don’t trust us (i.e. the church) with your money, fine. Go find some place you do trust and give to them. I think that’s pretty a radical (in a good way) idea. And I wish more churches advocated it.

    I’d be curious to hear your opinion on tithing to the church versus tithing to other organizations?

    Also a fun little toy I found to help calculate tithing percentages:
    http://www.nacba.net/tithe.htm

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