Tithing to church is charitable giving. I give 10% to church and a large portion of that money goes directly towards food banks for my community, groups that support and educate migrant workers, rehab for prisoners - not even to mention support for foreign causes. Anyone shoudl be able to request a copy of the annual report from their church and see exactly where the money is going.
I agree. At the church I work for and attend, tithes go for paying the staff, our programs, and tons of outreach: local addiction recovery programs, homeless shelters, and programs for kids with disabilities; we also support an orphanage, clinic, school, and farm-share in Zambia, post-Katrina construction work, working with pursued ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and Iraq; supporting investigators, lawyers, and counselors who work with children sold as sex slaves in India and victims of guerillas in other places, etc.
Not one penny of tithe money goes towards the building itself. Instead, the building itself is funded by people who specify that they are giving above their tithe amount. We are not unqiue in this. There is a trend of churches that build large, new buildings because of explosive growth being VERY aware of the temporariness and superficiality of a building, but the eternal impact of treating people well. Perhaps the heart of that group of people being giving is why they need the big building in the first place: genuine kindness is attractive, superficial image is not. You cannot tell where the heart of the church is by looking at a building, and you cannot tell where money of the church goes simply by looking at the building.
Through giving to my church, I have the opportunity to monitor and weigh in on where the money goes, how it is spent, what the overhead is, etc. more closely than I could with any other charity (though we do give elsewhere).