I’m 25 and Nearly Broke — Does Tithing Apply to Me?

Close up of man wanting to tithe when having no money. He's holding an empty wallet as evidence of being broke.

Yet again, I’ve arrived a few minutes late to Mass. I walk into church and sit in one of the few remaining seats along the aisle. I think nothing of it. That is, until halfway through the service when I see the usher with the collection basket slowly heading my way.

Quickly, I grab my wallet only to find no cash. Not even loose change.

When he hands me the basket, I take it and pass it along. My head stays down as I feel awkward and slightly ashamed.

Growing up, I heard people were supposed to give 10 percent of their income, and many parishes preach the same. The origin of the word “tithe” is, in fact, tenth. But it can be overwhelming to think about how much money that is while still struggling to find financial stability.

Most of us carry a lot more student debt than our parents did. Currently, Americans owe 1.2 trillion dollars in student loan debt, with 63 percent of Millennials owing over five figures. This makes it increasingly hard for young adults, freshly minted from college, to budget 10 percent to tithing, especially when that much or more is already going to Sallie Mae.

Parishes and even our families could do a better job making those connections for young people. My parents modeled parish giving for us, but to this day, I still have no idea how much was in that little envelope my siblings and I fought over putting in the basket each week.

A friend of mine who lives in New York City says his Catholic church asks parishioners to consider giving the equivalent of one hour’s wage. With this advice, you only have to commit to your church the money you make from the first working hour of each week. This helped me reconsider being able to give more. It's more than the change from my pocket, but not a crazy jump to 10 percent of my income — which is hard to fathom at this point.

Father Christopher Lapp, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Mishawaka, Indiana, says, “You have to start somewhere, even if you can only give $10.”

In order to give even that much, you’re going to have to budget, and that means keeping track of your overall spending.

“If you ask a young adult how much of their money is going here or there, it’s a difficult question because not very many of them budget,” says Father Chris.

If you decide to give a certain amount weekly to your parish, there are some tools to assist. For instance, you can arrange to have the funds automatically withdrawn from your bank account. This way you know when and exactly how much will be taken out each week, which makes giving much easier to plan.

If you don’t feel like you can give more money, you can always give your time or talent.

You may find your faith is deepened by getting more involved at church, and that’s a sound investment, too. Your parish is probably looking for volunteers for the number of activities, ministries, and events it has going on. You may be able to to reevaluate how much you give as you become more financially stable.

If you don’t have time or money to donate, don’t let it keep you from going to church. Any priest would rather have you attend Mass than donate money. There’s a reason they don’t charge a cover at the door. So even if, like me, you sometimes don’t even have change in your pocket, show up anyway.

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