Tithing Is Down: Where to Go When the Brook Dries Up


Churches all over America are seeing declines in giving, stopping them short of their God-given mission. But asset-based and legacy giving strategies offer hope for churches looking at a future funding crisis.

One of the grave ways in which our world is changing is that people don’t give to their local house of worship like they used to. Pastors across the country are feeling the pinch of trying to accomplish 100 percent of their vision with only 12 percent of their congregation tithing regularly.

Of course, this could be the result of a handful of churches that just don’t know how to motivate and instruct their members in Christian charity. However, a recent study suggests it’s more of a spiraling cultural trend than a local problem.

Only 34 percent of households gave to a house of worship or religious organization in 2014, down from 46 percent in 2004. – Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

That’s 12 percentage points in just ten years! This is far more than a local church issue. This is a problem for the whole body of Christ.

Low tithe #giving is more than a local #church issue. It’s a problem for the whole body of Christ. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, there’s no indication that this downward trend in religious giving is going to end. So what should pastors and church leaders do to stem the tide?

Ravens and Widows

Once after prophesying about a coming famine, Elijah found himself suffering as a result of the famine he foretold. But God provided for the faithful prophet, albeit in a strange way.

“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.’ So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” – 1 Kings 17:2–6 (NIV)

God didn’t give Elijah money, or send him a check from a friend of the ministry. He sent ravens with food. (Perhaps this could be considered the wildest gift ever received by a ministry, ever!)

It was indeed strange—and it wasn’t how all of the other ministers were supporting their ministries. But it provided all of Elijah’s needs.

But suddenly, the brook dried up.

“Sometime later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’” – 1 Kings 17:7–9 (NIV)

Many pastors feel that lower giving rates in tithes are the brook that’s drying up in their ministries.

It’s one thing to look at a national study and see a 12 percentage point difference—it’s quite another when you’re the leader trying to move your church forward on 12 percent less funding than you need to pay the bills!

Just like Elijah, God may have another way to provide that you may not have ever thought of before.

When the Brook Dries Up

God knew the brook was going to dry up on Elijah. The fact that the brook dried up was not a sign that God was not going to come through for the prophet. But that is probably how it looked to Elijah.

God had a plan from the beginning on how He was going to provide for the prophet’s needs. And He has a plan to provide for you.

God has a plan to provide for your ministry, even when the brook dries up. Click To Tweet

But you might have to do something a little different than you’re used to. You might even have to do something different than every other pastor in your denomination or location. I’m talking about asset-based giving and legacy giving.

Asset-based Giving

Asset-based giving happens when one of your members gives ownership of an entire asset or a portion of an asset like property, buildings, or businesses to the church. Legacy giving happens when a member makes a gift that is given from their estate upon their death.

Funding from tithes and offerings is instant, liquid cash for your church to use for the Kingdom. They’re usually small amounts compared to asset-based giving because 91 percent of the average American’s wealth is made up of assets, not cash.

Asset-based gifts are hard assets that may take time to liquidate, or they appreciate in value over time like an investment. They’re typically much larger in amount because they come from the much greater portion of the average person’s portfolio: their assets.

The reasons pastors should consider cultivating asset-based giving in their church are many:

  1. Asset-based gifts are transformational gifts that have the potential to change the face of your ministry and ease the stress you feel from the effect of lower tithe giving.
  2. Asset-based giving and legacy giving have been shown to increase regular giving among church members!
  3. Cultivating asset-based giving ensures that the church is as generous as its members.
  4. Asset-based giving helps you break through giving slumps so that your ministry can do things never before thought possible.
  5. Asset-based giving forces church leaders to focus on education and discipleship when it comes to giving, not manipulation.
  6. Asset-based giving motivates church leaders to expand their vision beyond the walls of their local church.
  7. Asset-based giving and legacy giving can bring mature believers from your congregation in to help you raise funds rather than you doing it all on your own.

The Provider

In the first book of the Bible, God reveals Himself to Abraham as Jehovah Jireh, the God who will provide. He always sees to it that His leaders have what they need to accomplish the mission He’s sent them on.

But it may not look like the provision that He gave to you yesterday.

So if you are finding yourself in the valley and the brook is drying up, I encourage you to consider how asset-based giving and legacy giving could move the Kingdom of God forward through your church, despite the national statistics.

And if you need some help with that, let’s talk! The call’s free, and there’s no obligation.