I've earlier said GIve Until It Doesn't Hurt, but the next question that must be considered is: to whom? If you turn up the dial and give more than before, where should it all go? Should you give to more organizations or causes, or just give more money to the same ones you already support? Naturally, the first thing is to pray and ask the LORD to lead your giving, and the next thing is to seek wise counsel. In the spirit of living in community and learning from others who've gone before us, I'll share how my wife, Elle, and I have been giving for the last 20 years. Generally, we have felt compelled to give deeply to organizations where we can have some sort of personal connection. I get the sense that a lot of people get the warm fuzzies at Christmas time by giving some money to buy a cow for a family in South America or sign up to sponsor a child in Africa. Don't get me wrong. Those are both VERY good things to do with your money.
BUT, that is not anything like a tithe, not for most of you reading this in America. What is a tithe anyway? I like to think of it like this: it is the 10% (or more) of your incoming Time, Talent and Treasure that you DON'T take from God even though he's given it to you. He gives it to you and you give it right back.
If you are a typical American earning a typical household income of roughly $55,000, that means that you would leave $5,500 of that back on the table for God. That's a lot of child sponsorships or cows and chickens for families in need. If you have an income more like $100,000, it's obviously $10,000, and so on. So where should you give that money?
I suggest you pray, and talk to friends and then put most of it into 2 or 3 ministries or missions that God puts on your heart. Invest in those ministries with your Treasure AND your Time and Talents too if at all possible. Give Deep. For us, first off, we give 50% of our tithe to the local church. That is a very important place to start. It just happens that we live in a wealthy part of the wealthiest country on the planet, so running a church here is expensive. We give our Time, Treasure and Talent to help our church thrive. But we are also fortunate enough to have even more to give, so we give it to Dixie.
A year or so after our daughter was born, my wife and I began seriously considering adoption, and after a good deal of research on different regions of the world, we felt a pull and interest in Haiti. Through additional research, my wife learned of Dixie Bickel, the founder of God's Littlest Angels (GLA), an orphanage in Haiti, and through an awesome set of circumstances, we had the honor of hosting Dixie and her amazing husband, John, in the humble little chicken coop we called home in 2007. We were honored to hear their story in person at our dinner table, and a few months later we had the opportunity to visit the orphanage in Haiti. That began a personal connection for my wife and I with the people and the country of Haiti. Our first gift was to pay for the college education of a young neighbor of GLA that we met while we were visiting. We figured that until we adopted a child, we could at least adopt this young man by helping him get an education. Within a few years he was finished with his college and it was clear we were not going to adopt any children. So we shifted our giving to sponsor students in the area around the orphanage who are with their families but can't afford to go to school. There are not government sponsored schools in Haiti. Every school is private, so we are helping Haitians to get an education in the hopes that a more educated Haiti will contribute to a better electorate and economy in the long term.
We have been sponsoring kids' educations in Haiti for 8 years now and we give about 20% of our giving to them. Another 20% of our giving goes to a Love Does school that Bob Goff started in Uganda. We met Bob Goff and the Love Does Crew at a conference in 2012. With 50% going to our church, the remaining 10% of our giving goes to the little things that come up here and there: education, radio stations, arts, and other ministries. We like to say yes when asked for help on little things.
So, our approach has always been to focus the bulk of our giving on just 2 or 3 main ministries with which we were closely familiar. I encourage you to find your 2 or 3 and go deep with them. Commit a serious amount of your giving and make it a lasting commitment for at least several years. There is a time and place for changing your giving patterns, so when you are going deep with your giving, you need to communicate that to the recipient of your giving, because they'll be depending on you, and they'll need time to replace your giving.
Our goal has been to give at least 10% of our total income before taxes, and while that was tough in the early years, it's become easier and easier. Last year we gave more than 10%, so now my goal is to increase our total giving as a percentage of income every year. The more we make, the more we can afford to give right? So why not give 20%? Give deep until it doesn't hurt!
Who are your favorite ministries and missions? In addition to our core ministries, we are also big fans and supporters of:
Carden Country School - an amazing school here on Bainbridge Island.
Pacific Northwest Ballet - the fantastic ballet company in Seattle.
KNHC 89.5 Dance Music Radio station run by students at a public high school in Seattle.
First Aid Arts - an amazing program using art therapy with people who've suffered horrific circumstances.
American Heritage Girls - an awesome program for girls
And many others. What are your favorite organizations to support?