Economic Crunch: Tithing and Giving Take a Hit

Awhile back, the Daily Sentinel reported that the unemployment rate on the Western Slope had hit the 9% mark. I’m sure it has regained some of that loss since that story because there has also been an exodus of a small percent of the population to greener pastures. This fact will “muddy” the reality of it all.

No doubt that loss of numbers means loss of dollars in charitable giving. However, on a much grander scale is the financial impact on families from the economic fallout. A record number of homeowners are in foreclosure. Many have lost, or will lose, their primary mode of transportation due to the family car being repossessed. Unsecured debt will see default numbers the likes of which we haven’t seen probably since the early 70s or middle 80s.

What about the church and other charitable organizations? One of the first things that families reconsider during a financial crisis is their charitable giving. Even though scripture is clear that the Lord provides for all of our needs, financial chaos standing at one’s doorstep does have an impact.

I think this is one of those rare times in our history for the church to step up to the plate and be proactive in helping those hit hard. The message of tithing and giving usually ends at the pulpit and the education on the “How To’s” seems to get lost. I call this the “Preach It and Teach It” principle.

The tax laws, as well as other financial planning options, provide many opportunities for those in financial chaos to do two things. First, one may use this time to rearrange assets or debt to solve pressing financial matters. For example, if one is about to lose a vehicle due to repossession, and assuming he or she still has decent credit somewhere, the debt can be shifted to an unsecured creditor. This won’t solve the debt problem but it will provide a free and clear title on the vehicle and continued transportation to and from work.

Second, and on the other end of the spectrum, I heard a story last week about a very generous lady who had to move away because of health issues. Since she was the recipient of a large inheritance a few years prior, she wanted to gift her townhouse to a close friend. However, the friend was not in a position to take it on, so she was stuck with it along with the burden of trying to sell it. If she had known, I’m sure that she would not have hesitated to donate it to her church. If so, she would have received a current income tax deduction for the fair market value and a dramatically reduced taxable estate. Those combined benefits would have far exceeded the net income she would receive from selling the townhouse. For the church, it could have sold it or used it for the benefit of church members losing their homes.

For these and a myriad of other reasons during these tough economic times, the church needs to step up and help their members through these tough times by using their “intellectual” resources (e.g., CPAs, attorneys, financial planners, etc.) to give free and confidential counsel to those in need. Try this on for size and put this in your weekly bulletin: “Having financial problems? Call the church office for a referral to get free and confidential counseling.” Then, refer the person to one of your professionals who has agreed beforehand to offer such advice.