History of Giving

The early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers were largely self-supporting. They worked "on faith" without financial backing other than their own resources and occasional gifts. These gifts were based on generosity rather than being proportionate to donor income or part of a systematic giving program.

As the result of a Bible class conducted by J.N. Andrews, the name "Systematic Benevolence On the Tithing Principle" was given to the early Adventist financial giving system in 1859. Ellen G. White strongly affirmed the concept of "Systematic Benevolence," and said, "God has devised a plan by which all may give as He has prospered them, and which will make giving a habit without waiting for special calls.... Until all shall carry out the plan of systematic benevolence, there will be a failure in coming up to the apostolic rule" (Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 411).

The "Tithing System", as it became known in later years, also included voluntary offerings. The great mission thrust of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was launched through the plan of "Tithe Sharing" and the systematic offerings of members. It included the weekly Sabbath School Mission Offerings begun in 1877 and later the Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings, Birthday/Thank Offerings, and Sabbath School Investment.

The forerunner of the Stewardship Ministries was the Church Development Service, which provided counseling for capital building projects for Seventh-day Adventist churches in North America (1959-1966). At the General Conference Session of 1966 the new department was organized. The name Stewardship and Development was recommended by the General Conference President, Robert H. Pierson, and became official at the 1967 Annual Council.

The Department of Stewardship and Development enjoyed a place of prime importance in the church during the decade of the 1970's, as indicated by the appointment of Stewardship Directors in most divisions, unions, and conferences worldwide. At the same time, the concept of stewardship moved from a focus on capital fund raising to a more complete biblical view of stewardship of treasure, talent, time, and body temple. At the General Conference Session in 1980, the Department of Stewardship and Development was merged with the Ministerial Association. The Departmental emphasis now included an emphasis on tithe and offering education, as well as personal and family finance. At the 1985 General Conference Session, Stewardship and Development was integrated into a newly proposed Department of Church Ministries, along with Family Life, Lay Activities (Personal Ministries), Sabbath School, and Youth. During the early 1990's a stewardship revival and a renewal of interest in stewardship began in many countries of the world. At the General Conference Session in 1995, Stewardship Ministries again became a Department of the Church. This organizational renewal provided an opportunity to develop a conceptual redefinition, which included an expanded philosophy of stewardship as a Christian lifestyle in partnership with and in Christ.