At First Family, giving is one of the ways we, as disciples of Jesus, “obey all that he has commanded us” (Matthew 28:19-20). Therefore, we, the elders at First Family, gladly engage in and encourage the body here to excel in the grace of giving cheerfully and willingly (2 Cor. 9:7,11).
This simple practice is supported by a wellspring of principles from both the Old and New Testaments, and they provide for us a strong understanding of giving throughout biblical history. Giving throughout the entire Bible not only served to meet the needs of the recipients, but also benefited the giver. Most importantly, disciplined and cheerful giving results in glorifying God. At First Family, we believe giving was and is governed and characterized by the following principles:
It was and is prioritized. The Hebrews were to bring their best and their first, both of animals and harvests (Lev. 1-5; Proverbs 3:9-10). And Paul instructed the early churches to gather their resources together on the first day of week (1 Cor. 16:1-2). While giving on any day of the week is appropriate, we see the principle of priority shine through in that we should set aside our spiritual gifts before we do other things with our money and our time.
It was and is responsive. God wasn’t looking just for a gift; he wanted their heart. Several times the Psalmists and prophets reminded us God desires a broken heart and a contrite spirit more than a bull or goat. And the Macedonian believers “gave themselves first to the Lord, then…to us” (2 Cor. 8:5). More than money, God wants you. This also shows us that spiritual investing is far more than a financial issue. Our time and talent are equally important gifts we bring to the Lord in response to all that he has done for us and is to us. Incidentally, this response, in both Testaments, was rooted in joy. Not only were the Hebrews to celebrate during many of their feasts and festivals, which included many offerings (Lev. 16, 23), Nehemiah actually commanded the newly-planted people back in Jerusalem to reinstitute the Feast of Booths with joy, not sadness, for this was where their strength was found – “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Amazingly, he and Ezra plainly instructed them to obey the law and its sacrificial obligations, not with tears, but instead with cheers. Paul likewise encouraged the New Testament disciples to give cheerfully and willingly, not grudgingly. It is no doubt a call to gladly sacrifice for our God who has made redemption and reconciliation possible through the sacrifice his Son, Jesus!
It was and is proportionate. While this portion was rooted in a legal percentage in the Old Testament (a tithe=10%), this portion is now a matter of the Spirit’s leading. Phrases like “as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:3) and “according to their means” (2 Cor. 8:3) indicate there is freedom to give as God directs, not as the law demanded. While we believe a tithe of our overall income is a good guide to use in starting to give, we do not believe it is the “legal limit.” Frankly, we encourage our people to use the tithe to the local church as a guide to start, and then to progress to an even more sacrificial lifestyle of generous giving.
It was and is sacrificial. Whether you gave your best lamb on the altar (Lev 1:3) or your most recent property to the church to help the poor (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:34-35), true giving has always been painful and costly. In fact, the Apostle Paul complimented the Macedonians for how they gave above and beyond their capacity by saying they “gave …beyond their means …” (2 Cor. 8:3). This was simply a way to say they gave till it hurt — sacrificially.
It was and is regular. The Jewish calendar was full of rhythmic giving, rooted in the weekly Sabbath and the annual seasons. And the New Testament uses the imagery of “sowing and reaping” (2 Cor. 9:6; Gal. 6:7-10) to talk about giving, indicating it is a regular, on-going kind of work. In fact, the whole point of Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 16 is that giving should be regular, not rash.
It was and is personal. While some may see this as a no-brainer, it is important to emphasize that no where in Scripture do we see someone bringing a gift or sacrifice on another’s behalf. There is no “giving by proxy” in the Bible. Specific pronouns like “one” in 2 Cor. 9:7 as well as the phrase “each of you” in 1 Cor. 16:2 teach us that biblical giving is an individual investment.Speaking of the personal aspects of giving, it is not selfish to think correctly about how true, sacrificial giving affects, even benefits, the one who gives. Admittedly, the benefits may not be according to how our culture defines “benefits,” but God uses properly-motivated giving in the giver’s life to 1) help confirm our salvation (1John 3:16-19), 2) keep us humble and focused on God instead of man (Matt 6:1-4), 3) provide heavenly treasure (Matt 6:19-21), and 4) build faith in the promise and power of God to meet our own needs (Phil. 4;19). These are at least four “benefits” that a true giver will discover as he or she engages in giving in a personal way.
It was directed. Both Testaments show that giving wasn’t “shotgunned” around based on the whim of the individual, but rather “lasered” through the tabernacle (OT) or church (NT). Granted — during harvests the reapers would leave the ends of the fields for the poor, as well as whatever fell on the ground while they were harvesting (Lev 23). And the Apostles encouraged the early Christians to give to others in need in the course of their everyday life (1 John 3:17-18). But the weight of Scripture shows that the followers of the Lord were to direct their giving to the church so that it could be combined and used in a greater and more significant manner (Acts 4:34; Phil. 4:14-18).
It is shared. Not only were the gifts and offerings of the Old Testament used to help the priests and work of the temple, but on specific occasions the food from the sacrifices was shared with family and friends (Lev. 3). And the New Testament shows the early churches helping one another in times of famine by collecting offerings in the church for the purpose of helping another church (2 Cor. 8:14, Phil 4). In addition, Paul clearly defends the practice of sharing the financial gifts of Christians with those who give their full attention to the “work of the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9) and directing financial and physical help to those who are in need, especially the ones in the “household of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10). “For the saints” is a major filter of New Testament giving, and we should feel compelled to share with the members of our spiritual family who are in need.
Knowing that, First Family believes that sacrificial giving on a regular basis to the local church is the primary, biblical way to share his or her time, talent and treasure, and we encourage all regular attenders to engage in this Christian discipline to advance the mission of Jesus and magnify the glory of God. As a church, we commit to blessing people with it, whether through helping the poor, taking care of widows, stewarding our property, supporting our pastors, discipling our families, or sending missionaries to other areas of the globe for the glory of God and the expansion of his kingdom. In this way we align ourselves with God’s basic purpose of money — it is a tool for ministry, not a resource to stockpile.
General Q and A
Q: Are my donations tax-deductible? First Family is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all monetary, undesignated donations that we receive are tax-deductible. Designated gifts may or may not be deductible. You should consult your tax advisor to see if you can deduct your donations. You will receive an annual receipt of your giving either by e-mail or by postal mail.
Q: Does the church have a rainy day fund? We believe that it is good stewardship and financial practice to maintain a reserve account equal to approximately two weeks of average general fund giving.
Q: Where does First Family get its money? Our financial support comes from our regular attenders, including our leadership, who faithfully give out of love for God and the ministries of First Family Church.
Q: Does First Family have high accounting standards? Yes. Periodically, we conduct an external review by an independent CPA firm. Beginning in 2011, our books are reviewed internally by a non-staff accountant. You can request a copy of a report for any year from 2011 forward, and you will find that money given to First Family is managed with integrity.
Q: How does your budgeting process work? Each ministry, which consists of paid staff and volunteers, considers what their ministry goals and objectives are for the upcoming year and presents their budget request to the elder’s Finance Team. The Finance Team reviews the requests with the appropriate ministry leaders and may recommend changes based on the overall vision and priorities for the church. The full budget is reviewed and approved by the full elder body. After the elders approve the budget, it is made available to the congregation. The elders, in general, as well as the Finance Team, specifically, are available for questions about the budget.
Q: Do you have an open book policy? Yes, our members may request information about our budget and spending. It is easy for us to provide financial data since each ministry department receives a monthly recap of their expenditures versus their budget. Simply contact our office and we will provide the appropriate information.
Q: Does this mean I can find out individual staff salaries? No. We find that the release of this kind of personal financial information can lead to comparison and discontentment among staff members and in the church family at large.
Q: Who sets salaries?The overall salary structure is set by a sub-team of the elders. All staff compensation is approved by the whole body of Elders.
Q: What principles are used in setting salaries? We use several criteria, including surveys of similar churches across the country to see what a similar position pays, as well as the standard of living in central Iowa. This grid that has been developed at First Family has proven to be a wise move in helping keep personality out of the picture and responsibility in focus.
Q: Can I contribute financially online? Yes. First Family Church accepts online contributions. Use this free feature to contribute once or as a recurring gift.
Q: Does First Family operate in the red? First Family Church will not operate at a budget deficit. The Finance Team monitors revenue and expenses throughout the year and makes necessary corrections to the church budget to keep the budget balanced. If there is a long-term budget shortfall and the lack of funding threatens to affect the day-to-day operations of the church, the elders will inform the congregation provide give the congregation the opportunity to give to help offset any significant budget shortfalls.
Q: Will First Family carry long-term debt? As stated above, First Family will not operate at a deficit, or use debt to fund the day-to-day operations of the church. The elders believe debt can be used responsibly as a tool to help achieve long-term objectives. In our church’s bylaws, the elders are given authority to borrow up to $100,000 for capital expenditures without congregation approval; the congregation must vote and approve by a majority of the voting members present to enter into any long-term debt beyond $100,000. The church congregation has authorized the use of debt for large capital purchase such as land acquisition, facility acquisition, or large-scale facility renovation.