article appeared in the Sunday paper of the St. Paul
TwinCities.com Pioneer Press metro edition in Minnesota
Newspaper article title:
Pastor Pitches Tithing as a Budget Solution by
Brian Kluth thinks Christians can figure that out for
themselves -- after 40 days of prayer, meditation and
study of his devotional-style booklet.
Kluth, a former fundraiser for Bethel University, has
been shipping Twin Cities churches sample copies of "40
Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life," which
claims to make tithing a little easier on the heart and
Among his ideas is that in tough times, donations
actually help givers get out of debt by forcing careful
Through his Web sites,
is encouraging Christians to try a 90-day test run in
generous giving. That entails donating at least 10
percent of every deposit to their local church and
But it's OK if their giving lags once in a while --
provided they make it up later.
That might sound like a stretch to many -- even Kluth
acknowledges in interviews that 10 percent is a handsome
sum and that "catch-up" donations are rare. But at
Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, church leaders liked
what they read.
With two sites, a food shelf partnership and an
overseas ministry to support in a down economy, they
figured it would be best to order 1,200 copies -- one
for every household in the congregation.
"It's based on scripture, and it's very
thought-provoking," said Judy Pascoe, Easter Lutheran's
development director. "The Bible does talk about giving
Easter Lutheran isn't the only church snatching up
copies of Kluth's giving guide -- nor is it the
only religious institution with serious concerns about
maintaining the bottom line in an uncertain economic
With attendance becoming increasingly irregular and
tithing on the decline, churches across the country have
struggled with how to appeal to their memberships for
money. Add economic woes like rising gas and food prices
and an unsteady job market, and many Christian groups
are bracing for an extra financial pinch, if they
haven't felt it already.
Even the Vatican showed a $13.5 million deficit last
year, which it recently blamed in part on the weak
dollar hurting its investments.
But any movement that calls for a bountiful increase in
church giving is bound to stir the ire of skeptics --
even some from among the ranks of Christian
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, raised eyebrows
throughout evangelical circles last year when he
demanded detailed financial audits of six megachurches
run by televangelists. One is led by a Georgia pastor
with an annual salary that reportedly approaches $1
Of course, most Christians give much less than 10
percent of their earnings, a figure with Biblical
significance: Many scholars trace the 10 percent tithe
to Moses, but others point farther back to a celebratory
gift given by Abraham to King Melchizedek.
And the amount appears to be dropping.
According to the research group Empty Tomb Inc. of
Champaign, Ill., Protestants donated a smaller
percentage of their income in 2005 (2.6 percent) than
they did at the depth of the Great Depression (3.2
Empty Tomb Vice President Sylvia Ronsvalle said
that's because attitudes toward giving have changed as
Americans have gotten wealthier and more insulated from
the desperately poor. Before World War II, about 40
percent of U.S. residents lived in poverty by today's
But in 2006, the number was just over 12 percent,
according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"When 40 percent of the people were poor, everybody
knew people who were poor," Ronsvalle said. "They had
firsthand experience with the poor."
With the economic expansion that began after World War
II, "fewer and fewer people were struggling. Church
leaders did not feel comfortable teaching about the
increased responsibility that comes with this affluence.
... There was this general euphoria."
An international "independence" movement against
U.S.-sponsored ministry work in the 1950s and 1960s also
left parishioners less focused on contributing toward
overseas outreach, Ronsvalle said.
Add postwar growth in public services, and many people
now see government, not private religious organizations,
as the primary vehicle for serving the destitute.
But Kluth argues that churches still have
plenty of work to do beyond meeting a basic budget and
keeping their lights on. He thinks they should feed the
hungry and pursue other strategic initiatives, and he
says his book has 400 Scripture verses to prove it.
Kluth, a certified budget counselor with Crown
Financial Ministries, is an ordained pastor with the
Minneapolis-based Evangelical Free Church, and his wife
is from Roseville.
He shopped "40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More
Generous Life" to seven publishers and was rejected
seven times before using an inheritance from his mother
to self-publish it in 2006.
He said he has since distributed 270,000 copies to 60
denominations, including some Catholic groups, with
translations planned this year in 43 languages.
"We have accounts of giving increasing anywhere from
10 to nearly 60 percent," said Kluth, a Milwaukee
native who leads a congregation in Colorado Springs,
Colo. "In my own church, giving went up 44 percent. ...
Normally, we've been behind budget the first six months
of the year. Now, we're meeting budget year-round."
Whether or not the U.S. falls into an official
recession, some see a potential silver lining for
religious institutions. In tough times, Christians
appear just as likely as not to put a little extra in
the collection plate.
"We did an analysis of recessions from 1968 through
2005, and we did not find a pattern," said Empty Tombs'
Ronsvalle. "In fact, giving increased as often in
recession years as it decreased."
2008 Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Used by permission
following 8/12/8 email to reporter.
Dr. Brian Kluth is a pastor,
inspirational guest speaker, bestselling author, and
leading media authority on church giving. His 40 Day
Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life has become
a bestseller with 320,000 copies in print and
translations underway in more than 40 foreign languages,
Kluth’s web sites can be
accessed at www.MAXIMUMgenerosity.org and