People may think that the church budget is a bone-dry instrument that just monitors church committees, but that’s far from the truth! It reflects its members’ values as surely as a person’s online giving or checkbook mirrors his or her priorities.

So what does your congregation’s current budget say about first fruits living? Many church leaders encourage their members to give a tithe (ten percent) or some other percentage of their income, for God’s work through the church, before paying for anything else. Focusing on first fruits living (See First Fruits Living and Teaching First Fruits Living) is an exciting way to keep people from obsessing about a fixed percentage, and develop a strong pattern of generous giving that grows as the givers are able.

But how can we encourage and teach personal first fruits living if we don’t model it together as a congregation?

Mark L. Vincent shows how churches do it without getting complicated. In The Whys and Hows of Money Leadership he says to think of a family’s budget as made up of four money pools – Giving, Saving, Providing, and Consuming – allotted in that order. So why not divide the congregation’s corporate budget into money pools, as well – First Fruits, Staffing, and Facilities/Programs? First Fruits refers to all money the congregation chooses to give away, and over which it no longer retains control. For example, it could include their denominational shared ministries for mission around the world, what some churches call Apportionments, Ministry Shares, or The Major Mission Fund. It would also include any local church commitments to particular missionaries, neighborhood ministries, or community partnerships.

And here’s the neat part: just as we encourage our members to give to God’s work first, before paying bills and consumer spending, the congregation can do the same – give one-twelfth of whatever amount they assign as first fruits on the first of each month. This way, the church’s practice becomes a model for its constituent families, leading the way to freed-up, faithful giving.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub