Tithe and Mission Giving Contrasts

The challenge of a world task.

By CLAUDE CONARD, Statistical Secretary of the General Conference

Tithes paid by Seventh-day Adventist church members in North America in 1941 were more than had ever been paid in a single year before. The amount of 86,743,301.28 was more than twice as much (309% increase) as was paid in 1921. During the twenty-year period (1921-41) Seventh-day Adventist church membership in North America grew from 98,715 in 1921, to 191,333 in 1941, or 94 percent increase. It is therefore evident from these figures that the increase in tithe has run a little ahead of the growth in church con­stituency.

Among Seventh-day Adventists the tithe is generally considered a fair measure of the income of the church membership, inasmuch as, a faithful tithe is one tenth of the individual financial returns. It is interesting to note over a period of years how closely the tithe for each member parallels the national receipts of the country. These comparisons indicate that our people are sharing consistently in the ups and downs of the country's economy, since the average member's tithe follows closely the Government statistical indexes of national income.

In 1921 the total tithe paid in North America divided by the church membership showed an average per capita tithe of $32.65. In 1941 the average was $35.24. In many homes where there are several children, the entire family income is received through the salary, wage, or other earnings of the father. While he alone makes the tithe payment, all dependent members of the household are considered tithe participants if they are church members. Thus in reality there are probably about one third or one fourth as many actual tithepayers as there are church members ; and the average income of each substantial tithepayer, as meas­ured by the tithe, is therefore three or four times the per capita amount stated. However, the average figure secured by dividing the total tithe paid in a year by the number of church members during the same period, is probably the most satisfactory method of com­paring one year's giving with another. The same plan relates to mission and other offer­ings.

Accepting literally the admonition of our Lord to preach the gospel of the kingdom "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people," Seventh-day Adventists through the years have been liberal in their support of foreign missions. In 19:41 the Adventist people in North America contributed a larger aggre­gate amount to mission endeavor than in any year before. The sum of $3,157,169.80 last year was nearly $300,000 more than the amount contributed during the previous largest mis­sion-giving year, and was over a million dol­lars, or 48 per cent, above the amount given to missions in 1921, twenty years previous.

While the aggregate sum of mission contri­butions has increased in recent years, the mem­bership of our churches and the ability of our people to make donations has also risen. A careful analysis of the records, however, re­veals that the growth in church membership and the ability of our members to give, have ex­ceeded by a considerable margin the advance in individual mission giving. The average annual mission offering for each church mem­ber in North America in 1921, including the Ingathering receipts, was $21.64. In 1941 it was $16.50. The tabulation below shows the annual tithe per church member, and the average mission offerings in the United States and Canada from 1921 to 1941:

(See PDF for statistics on membership Tithe and offerings)

A comparison of the 1921 and the 1941 amounts in columns 2 and 3 indicates that the average membership tithe at the end of this twenty-one-year period was more than at the beginning, while the reverse was true of the mission offerings. The increase in per capita tithe is about 8 cents on the dollar ; and the decrease in mission donations, 31 cents.

If a person pays $40 tithe in a year and $30 mission offerings, it is evident that for each $1 tithe, he has contributed 75 cents to missions (30 divided by 40 equals $ .75). In the fore­going tabulation, the average cents of mission offerings for each $1 of tithe is shown for each year from 1921 to 1941 in the last column. A glance down this column shows that during a number of years, for every $1 of tithe paid, the entire church membership in North Amer­ica and Canada gave an average of more than 67 cents in donations to missions.

But it is evident from this column that there has been an almost steady decline in mission offerings as compared with the tithe during several years past. In 1931 our good people in North America gave to missions almost 68 cents for every dollar of tithe paid, but since that time every year but one has recorded a drop below the previous year in mission offer­ings, as compared with the tithe.

During the ten-year period from 1921 to 1930 the average annual tithe receipts were $35.83 for each church member ; and for every dollar of tithe during this period more than 65 cents was contributed to mission work. In 1941 the average membership tithe of $35.24 was practically equal to the ten-year average of 1921 to 1930; but the mission offerings, including all amounts raised in the largest Ingathering campaign in the history of the denomination, were only 46.8 cents for each dollar of tithe. Note this tabulation (See PDF):

The few years of depression have cast their shadow ; but these times have passed. Some shifts of emphasis have been necessary in mis­sion endeavor; but the need has not lessened. Present political and economic upheavals have hidden from view the progress that is being made in many dark lands. Soon—God knows the day and the hour—barriers will be broken down, and then will come our greatest oppor­tunity for service. Large groups of conse­crated workers must be ready to step swiftly into the doors swung wide open to God's wait­ing people eager to finish their appointed task.

These workers must be prepared. In addi­tion to the staggering burden of mission en­deavor under difficult conditions, the General Conference and the mission fields need to put scores of experienced young people into schools for training in language and specialized courses. They must be ready to move without delay into the extensive war areas as soon as an abatement of the present devastating con­flict permits. Our part at home now is to supply the resources and build up the reserves for such a worthy undertaking.

With the mounting tithe that will be paid in 1942, as anticipated by the present upward tendencies, the figures give assurance that if our church members in North America con­tribute for missions this year in proportion to their tithe, as they did from 1921 to 1932, the mission gifts will exceed by more than two million dollars the highest annual record that has ever been reached. An attainment of this magnitude, which experience has shown is within our reach, will testify to our earnestness and sincerity in the finishing of this mighty work for God in the world.

When our faithful people fully sense the significance of the current trends, and realize the imperative needs of our foreign mission work, they will esteem it a high privilege to respond to the urgency of the task which God has committed to His church. Cod gave His Son for our salvation. Many of our brethren and our sisters, our sons and our daughters, are now giving everything they have in mission service. Shall we not accept it as a sacred challenge to match their spirit of sacrifice by giving our lives and our substance today, as the Lord has abundantly prospered us?

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By CLAUDE CONARD, Statistical Secretary of the General Conference

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