tithing

Church gives away $100 bills; Waffle House workers get $3,500 tip; and more feel-good headlines

Church gives away $100 bills; Waffle House workers get $3,500 tip; and more feel-good headlines

Annual church giving tops $50 billion, according to one report.

The average Christian puts roughly $800 a year into the collection plate.

But that's dog-bites-man kind of news, meaning it's not really news. It's too routine. 

On the other hand, you know what makes for interesting stories? Churches giving away cash for members to go out and do good deeds, that's what. I like those kind of headlines, especially at Christmastime.

Enter Julie Zauzmer, religion writer for the Washington Post, with a feel-good report out of a Maryland suburb:

On the first Sunday of December, the Rev. Ron Foster invited his congregants to step up to the altar to receive the bread and wine of Communion — and to receive a $100 bill.
“Listen to where the Holy Spirit’s leading you,” he said to the stunned congregation as he distributed a stack of money at Severna Park United Methodist Church, located in a Maryland suburb. “Listen to the need that’s around you, that you find in the community. You may be in the right place at the right time to help somebody, because you have this in your hand.”
One hundred congregants walked out into the Advent season, with the money burning a hole in their pockets.
One stack of bills totaling $10,000, dropped off at the church by an anonymous donor, has turned into 100 good deeds in the Severna Park community this Christmas season.
Ginger ale and soup and warm socks for a cancer patient. Snow pants and gloves so a child with a brain tumor can play outside. Christmas presents for children who are homeless, for children whose parents are struggling with drug addiction, for children whose parents have suffered domestic abuse, for children in the hospital. Cash for dozens of grateful strangers, from waitresses to bus drivers to leaf collectors.
One hundred donations go a long way.

Amen.

The story notes that the donor — who asked to remain anonymous but granted an interview to the Post — "had heard about other communities, including her mother’s church in Texas, where everyone in the congregation was entrusted with money to distribute."

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Taxing theology? Washington Post does pretty solid reporting on exemptions for big Utah families

Taxing theology? Washington Post does pretty solid reporting on exemptions for big Utah families

In journalism, sometimes it takes an outsider to provide an inside look at a community, such as the one I reside in and commute through daily.

Today's example is a Washington Post story about the uncertain impact of pending tax reform legislation, headlined in part: "In land of large families, deep uncertainty over impact of tax overhaul." (The original URL for the story inserts the word "Utah," followed by a comma, between "in" and "land.")

Let's drop in on the story, shall we? The key: How did these political-beat reporters handle the religion details in this topic?

AMERICAN FORK, Utah -- This is how Becca Riding, mother of five, thinks about the tax changes speeding through Congress: Will she and her husband still be able to pay swim team fees for Emily, 13, and Caleb, 11? Will Ainsley, 9, be able to go back to the week-long science summer camp she loved? Can their family still go camping once a year in a national park? And will it remain as affordable to give 10 percent of their income to the Mormon Church, as their faith prescribes?
Middle-class families like the Ridings have been at the center of the Republican message about why the party needs to pass a massive overhaul of the nation’s tax code. The Senate’s top tax writer, Utah’s Orrin G. Hatch (R), pledged that the legislation would bring relief to “hard-working American families and small businesses in Utah and around the country.” President Trump surrounded himself with families at the White House as he urged lawmakers to pass the bill.
But days before Congress plans to pass the biggest tax overhaul in three decades, the Ridings and other middle-class families are still seeking basic answers about the plan and how it will affect not just their pocketbooks but their everyday lives.

I currently have a day job in Lindon, Utah, a few miles south of American Fork, through which I pass morning and evening. (If someone throws a hubcap on the I-15 there during the afternoon rush, watch out.)

So I have some first-hand knowledge of the area and the community. The landscape is dotted with chapels and other facilities related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- generally one "ward," or congregation, for every 400 families. There's an LDS temple in American Fork, as seen in the image at the top of this post (Rick Willoughby via Wikimedia Commons). As with much of Utah County, immediately south of Salt Lake County, the area is heavily Mormon.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you.

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What e-tithing means for the future of church giving in America might surprise you

What e-tithing means for the future of church giving in America might surprise you

I wrote a post a week ago about a dude who likes to say "dude" a lot.

Speaking of which, a Bloomberg Businessweek feature out this week has a "How's it going, dude?" feel about it. That's not to say the piece about electronic giving isn't timely — and fascinating.

From the "skinny jeans" in the lede to the "Hell, yeah" quote at the end, this spritely, 645-word report is not your grandfather's religion trend story.

Then again, that's precisely the point, I guess.

The dude (sorry, couldn't resist) featured up high is a 25-year-old megachurch attendee named Dylan Ciamacco. The news peg is that Ciamacco reaches not for his wallet — but for his phone — when the collection plate is passed:

Ciamacco gives each week, using the Tithe.ly app. It takes fewer than five taps, and built-in geolocation means he can contribute at any of the 1,000 churches that subscribe—a feature that’s especially useful around holidays like Easter, when many people travel. Tithe.ly lets worshipers set up automatic recurring payments, but because Ciamacco’s paycheck fluctuates with his work as a freelance video producer, he tithes on demand—usually about 10 percent of whatever he’s brought in.

"E-tithing," of course, isn't a brand-new concept. I wrote about the trend for The Associated Press in 2003

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Pod people: Taking money OUT of the collection plate and more on the 'black mass'

Pod people: Taking money OUT of the collection plate and more on the 'black mass'

The "Money for Nothing" video accompanying this post has only a tangential connection to the subject matter.

Alas, I'm a child of the '80s, and that three-decade-old hit by the British rock band Dire Straits seemed like a good tune for a Friday afternoon.

As I noted earlier this week, about 300 members of a Chicago church received money for something — $500 each to spend, invest or give away.

In the post, I pointed out that WGNtv.com seemed to bury the lede at the end, reporting with no explanation that the church involved has a $50,000 budget deficit. 

On this week's episode of "Crossroads," the GetReligion podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss the Chicago story. 

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God-given gifts and a financial windfall for members of a Chicago church

God-given gifts and a financial windfall for members of a Chicago church

I came across a story about a Chicago church giving away $500 to each of its 300 or so members via CNN's Eric Marrapodi, who, by the way, did an exceptional training session at #RNA2014 on video interview best practices.

Sadly, though, Marrapodi had no tips to improve voices — like mine — made for print. 

But I digress.

The version of the story that Marrapodi tweeted came from WGNtv.com in Chicago:

A Chicago church came into some money following a decades old real estate deal. What to do with the extra dough weighed heavily on the pastor’s mind. Then she decided to do something crazy.
She wanted the church to tithe and give 10% of the money away. That may not sound so crazy, but here’s the hitch, she gave it back — all $160,000 of it–to the congregation. Anyone who is “actively engaged in LaSalle Street Church” got a sizable check. Not $5 or $50 – we are talking $500 a person. Personal checks made out directly to the parishioners to go forth and spend, invest or give away as they see fit. No strings attached.
Pastor Laura, as she’s known, is beaming–ever since she announced to her congregation of 300 back on Sept 7th that they would all get $500 from the church.
“Some started to cry,” she said. “Their mouths started to drop. I started to sweat because it sounded so crazy.”

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