Resource Library

A Path to Abundance for a Local Church

Resource from Ecumenical Stewardship Center Archives
Resource Library

A Path to Abundance for a Local Church

By James F. Miller

This article was originally published in Giving Magazine Vol. 22, No. 1 in 2020. You can access the full issue here

I remember the annual day programs that supplemented and undergirded the church finances. We had spectacular occasions of celebration, such as: Usher Day, Missionary Day, Church Anniversary, Men’s Day, Women’s Day and others. On these occasions, each member of the coordinating or celebrated group would bring $50.00 as their pledge for the event. We also had wonderful concerts to help raise funds. The concerts were both by our church choirs and by visiting choirs from other churches. These were the most enjoyable programs for me. On special occasions, we would have an HBCU college choir visit and give a rendering of spirituals and classics. Those were memorable, “high and holy,” great spiritual events which made a lasting impact on me. I’ll never forget when the Allen University Choir visited and gave one of the greatest concerts I have ever witnessed. At the concert’s conclusion, the attendees and the choir joined hands in a huge circle around the walls of the sanctuary, and the choir led us in singing, “Fare thee well. Fare thee well. If I never, ever see you anymore. Fare thee well. Fare thee well. I’ll meet you on the other shore.” What a vision of the heavenly reunion. There was such spiritual power and presence in that place, the sheer memory still blesses my soul. In those great days of faith and duty, the church lacked no effort of support.

The most colorful fundraising events were the Calendar Teas we would have each year in our fellowship hall. The hall would be decorated and transformed into a wonderland. There were tables set up for each month of the year. That year’s various month coordinators would dress each table according to their own creativity. These tables were almost like miniature, parade floats, each with a different biblical theme. Each table would serve frappe’, a French party beverage made in a huge punch bowl, with a gallon of frozen sherbet floating in ginger ale. Each table had its own flavor of sherbet with matching color scheme. The tables would have peanuts, mint cookies and other light fare. The members would support their month of birth’s table and other friend’s tables, with donations. There was a program and the fellowship hall was always full and buzzing with guests and conversation. And the hungry were fed, the ragged clothed and the children were encouraged.

Such great days in the life of any church are sterling examples of a “program church.” This is a church that gets its Sunday morning offerings supplemented from the programs and other fundraisers it holds. Although having programs is an effective avenue to encourage members to serve, and in challenged churches, where there are few resources, the creativity of such occasions must often save the day as regards the raising of funds. This does not follow the biblical standard for the firm fiscal foundation for the church. A program church can be a very enjoyable church to belong to and a person can still experience spiritual grace and growth in a program church. The challenge is that programs cannot perpetually sustain a church. In the long term of the institutional church which will span the generations, only a tithing church will achieve and maintain an optimal level of its fiscal potential. A program church may be a happy church and everybody may be satisfied with everything, but this church is not doing the best that it can do, and it is not realizing its full potential because it is not honoring the biblical guide for sacrifice. It is not practicing its best stewardship. This introduces a revelation and presents a premise for prayer and consideration which is one of this book’s primary motivations. Since few churches have taught tithing so that the church can be considered a true tithing church, where the majority of its members are true tithers, that means that if an effective method to teach and practice tithing is introduced to our congregations, so that they may reach a yet unrealized level of spiritual growth, service and sacrifice, this means that all of our churches can do noticeably, significantly and measurably better.

And so, this book is a charge for the church not to abdicate the untapped and unrealized potential of tithing. I’m sure you have heard many persons in the church say, “If we tithed, we wouldn’t have money problems and we would have more than enough to operate.” What I am saying is that if we revisit stewardship in general, and tithing specifically, to redefine stewardship with sound scriptural doctrine and theology, and review how we relay this information in an effective educational process, we will be amazed by the positive results.

Rev. Dr. James F. Miller has served as Senior Pastor of the DuPage AME Church in Lisle, Illinois, since 1989. He is also the 4th District Director of Stewardship for the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He has written several books, including Go Grow Your Church: Spiritual Leadership for African American Congregations. This article is from his book INCREASE! A Path to Abundance for the Local Church and is printed with permission.

Giving Magazine was a premier stewardship resource published by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) from 1999 until 2020. The magazine served Christian faith communities throughout North America, providing thoughtful, practical, and inspirational content on faith and giving from thought leaders and practitioners alike. Giving was published annually from 1999 until 2018 (volumes 1-20), and then quarterly in 2019 and 2020 (volumes 21-28) in digital form only. In 2021 ESC closed its doors and committed its archives to the care of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. For further information on ESC or its archives, please contact us at

DATE: January 31, 2020
TOPIC: Fundraising Practice
TYPE: Article
SOURCE: Ecumenical Stewardship Center Archives
KEYWORDS: Christianity, Generosity, Stewardship
AUTHOR: James F. Miller