In the Advent and Christmas seasons, we celebrate the new beginning that God gives us in the birth of Jesus – the son of God who came to give us salvation, reveal the heart of God, and set us free from the powers of the world that turn us from God and teach us how to live.
But in the excitement and busyness of celebrating the new beginning, we may forget to plan for an important ending – the close of the year. There are two things to remember about the end of the year:
- December 31 is when most congregations close their financial books for the fiscal year.
- December 31 is the IRS deadline for important tax filings.
First, the congregational books
It’s not just your church treasurer and financial secretary who love it when the congregation ends the year “in the black.” When income matches expenses, everybody breathes easier and celebrates not only God’s abundance but also the generosity of God’s people. We all begin the next year dreaming of the ministry before us.
By contrast, anxiety and tension rise when a congregation ends the year “in the red” and must use savings to make up the difference. People focus on scarcity — what they (and the congregation) lack, rather than what God provides in abundance. Rather than dreaming of what God may do among them, folks entertain nightmare scenarios of budget cuts and curtailed ministry.
Your year-end contribution helps your congregation begin the year with optimism, joy, and a stronger belief in God’s mission for your community.
Now the IRS deadlines
There’s a bottom-line benefit to you for making a sizeable contribution before the end of the year. Charitable giving is tax-deductible, but you must give before the year’s end in order to claim the deduction for 2017.
A cash gift is always the easiest and most welcome way to contribute to your congregation, but it’s not the only way. Talk to your financial advisor about giving in appreciated stocks or securities, which can help you avoid capital gains taxes. Or, if you are more than 70 ½ years old, your financial advisor can help you make a Qualified Charitable Distribution from your IRA.
Last but not least!
The year-end contribution you make to your church is also a spiritual gift to yourself. How? Giving generously is the spiritual discipline that helps us to develop generous hearts. It’s true! Just ask anyone who tithes. By giving we fully understand the joy and delight that comes from generosity.
In this season, when we celebrate the generosity and love that God has for us, it’s a great lesson to learn.