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According to our Weekly Pastor Poll, 40% of churches have reported a decline in giving since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
While we rely on generosity to balance the budget, it’s important to remember the generosity is also an important part of spiritual formation. Abraham was blessed to be a blessing, and that calling falls on the shoulders of all of us. We are a conduit of God’s blessing.
But unlike acts of service like volunteering or making a meal for someone in need, generosity often strikes a different tone and carries its own unique baggage. Which makes engaging our members in generosity an act that requires thought, tact, and intentionality.
Services will continue to look different, even as we start re-opening. So how are other churches engaging their members around generosity? Let’s take a look at the three great examples we found.
Remind your church that generosity is spiritual. The Village Church recites this Generosity Prayer at each of their services as a continual reminder that everything we have does not belong to us.
Holy Father, there is nothing we have that You have not given us.
All we have and all we are belong to You, bought with the blood of Jesus.
To spend selfishly and to give without sacrifice
is the way of the world,
but generosity is the way of those who call Christ their Lord.
So, help us to increase in generosity
until it can be said that there is no needy person among us.
Help us to be trustworthy with such a little thing as money
that You may trust us with true riches.
Above all, help us to be generous
because You, Father, are generous.
May we show what You are like to all the world.
Best Practice #1: Framing generosity as a vehicle for spiritual growth not only helps remove the baggage associated with generosity, but serves as a reminder that being generous doesn’t just help our community, but it also helps us.
The Special Olympics is a partner of Liquid Church, and their members provided both volunteer and financial support for a local event in New Jersey. Liquid Church shot a video of the Special Olympics video director saying “Thank You” for their generosity and sharing the effect it has had on the organization.
Sharing stories and outcomes is often more effective than just asking people to give.
Don’t just ask, inspire.
Best Practice #2: Transparency matters. When you share specific updates about how your member’s generosity isn’t just going to your church but through your church, you create a clear flow of finances that communicates a culture of transparency, which in turn builds trust.
Bobby Williams at the Ridge Church sent this email to the 29% of people that gave more than 4 times in the past year to tell them they are a part of the “29 club”. While the club doesn’t actually exist, it reminds members that regular givers are not the norm, their generosity is important, and their giving is a habit worth keeping.
Best Practice #3: As we talked about in our article on The 5 Money Shifts Every Church Should Make, the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.
Regularly acknowledge and encourage your members who are faithfully giving. When a football player makes a touchdown, the crowd cheers him on. We all need to be cheered on from time to time, especially when we’re actively pushing against cultural norms and practicing spiritual disciplines.
A part of that strategy needs to include communicating fiscal responsibility, corporate generosity, and your church’s recurring giving.
On a recent webinar for our Rebound Course, we talked in depth about what these look like, why they matter, and how to implement them.
The strategy of communicating generosity, and the motivations behind generosity, continues to shift with time and with culture. That constant change will never go away, so be intentional about focusing on what is effective now, and not just what you’ve always done.
Whether you’re sending encouraging emails, creating opportunities to practice generosity, or sharing stories, keep generosity as a major narrative in your church to create a culture of generosity.
Americans are giving more to charity now than ever before. $410 Billion in 2017, a 5% increase over the previous year and the highest amount ever. Charitable giving is up across multiple income levels and in most demographics.
But people are giving less and less to the church. Only 32% of the total given to charities goes to a local church, and that number has steadily declined over the last two decades. Giving to churches is down across the board.
You can dive deeper into these numbers by reading this Blackbaud report, but here’s what it means for your church.
People are diversifying their giving, prioritizing other non-profits over their local church. They are giving to the humane society, GoFundMe campaigns, and fundraisers for chorus trips.
This poses a fresh challenge.
When it comes to money and the church, things are changing.
Churches who are on the front end of this change will be poised to grow, while churches who neglect these shifts may start or continue to struggle with financial health.
Here are five shifts that I think leaders need to make in regard to how we talk about money in the church.
When you think about preaching a sermon on money, what topics come to mind?
We asked pastors to share their actual money sermons and then analyzed them for content.
83% of the messages were focused on giving.
Even when broader topics like stewardship, contentment, or financial health were mentioned, the lion share of these messages made giving the foundational topic or the clear call to action. These weren’t money sermons; they were giving sermons.
There is nothing wrong with preaching a giving sermon, and generosity is certainly an important component of being a good steward. But preaching on giving is not the same as preaching on money.
If you want to lead a financially healthy church, you must address broader money topics than just giving. Definitely keep preaching on giving, just don’t forget to preach on money.
Your sermons on money must provide practical and tangible help. You need to talk about spending, debt, contentment, saving, stewardship, communication, faith, trust and so much more. People need help and hope, not just a challenge to give money to the church or advice on how to get out debt.
When you adopt a helpful posture like this, you don’t have to apologize for talking about money in church.
The people in your church are bombarded with unhealthy financial advice. They are marketed to by every facet of society. Unless they have a Christian financial planner, they won’t hear about wisdom with money anywhere else.
If you don’t talk about wise financial principles, who will?
That’s why our team is working on practical financial tools to help you teach wise financial principals to your church.
There’s so much more than “give the tithe” and “get out of debt.” The churches who help their people be wise with money will be much better positioned for financial health.
When you say the word “giving” in your church, what do you mean?
Most pastors, particularly Gen-X or older, mean financial giving.
But that’s not what everybody, particular Millennials, hear.
The Generosity Gap, a research study from Barna Study, released in conjunction with Thrivent, highlights the generosity gap that exists in churches.
Giving means different things to different people. Let me just highlight a few findings of the report, which is certainly worth studying.
What does this mean for churches?
First, we need to use clear language. When we’re talking about financial generosity, we need better words than “give” or “support.” Consider the words you use and make sure they mean what they think you mean.
Secondly, we need to recognize that people are looking for broad ways to support organizations they care about. The research shows the people who give most financially are also most likely to serve or volunteer. Don’t limit giving choices to finances; look for ways to expand your approach.
How can we get more people to give?
That’s a common question we hear from many of the churches we serve. It’s not a bad question.
When it comes to church giving, the 80/20 principle holds true. 20% of your people give 80% of all that is given to the church. That means there are a lot of people connected to your church who are not financially supporting the church.
They are attending. But they are not supporting, at least financially.
So it’s beneficial to develop a strategy to encourage people to cross the line of generosity.
But the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.
It sounds counter intuitive, but the way you reach new people in this area is to serve your existing donors.
I’m not talking about the occasional mass thank you email or including some pictures with the year-end giving statement. I’m talking about a serious donor care strategy.
What specific things can you to do care for your donors?
If you want to know more, download the free Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship. It will walk you through several pastoral approaches to talking about money and managing money in a church setting.
Once a year, finance teams and ministry leaders embark on a process of updating the budget for the new year.
Every church is different, but it’s not unusual for two or three months of reports, requisitions, comparisons and planning to be debated, crunched and ultimately presented to the congregation.
A lot of work goes into making a budget, the document that shows how all this money is planned to be spent.
You know what’s an afterthought in many churches?
Where the money is going to come from.
What would happen if we shifted some of the time spent on the budgeting process into time spent discussing funding options?
What would happen if your financial leaders took a posture of facilitating financial growth in addition to the posture of being guardrails to spending?
Finance teams need to have a perspective and give input on the revenue side of things, not simply serve as a watchdog of expenses.
This isn’t the job of most finance committees, but there are probably people in your church who could help you here. Find people with a growth mindset to help you process ideas and make real plans to facilitate generosity in your church.
If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find an Annual Funding Plan template and a coaching video you can watch with your team. Just follow the plans we lay out for you and you’ll move your church forward in a big way.
Working on a funding plan is an important exercise that will help you proactively meet or exceed the budget.
In the coming years, we will continue to see shifts in generosity in culture and in the church. That’s why the biggest shift you could make in your church is to prepare for uncertainty.
Many churches will see their financial base motivated to give to other (and more personal) causes, and harder preaching likely won’t change the patterns.
Alternative funding models will become more important to many churches as they consider ways to remain financially strong in the wake of decentralized generosity. Leaders will look for new ways to generate revenue from their facility or alternative funding strategies to pay staff.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach here but an imperative to stay open. There’s not a cause for fear, but there’s a greater reason to stay tuned into the trends and respond with strategy.
In the coming years, we will see more shifts, and the churches that are flexible and responsive will not only stay healthy but thrive.
Feel like your church should be more financially healthy?
Ultimately, the financial situation in your church is up to God. It’s His church and you’re a steward. But He chooses to work through people and entrusts us to lead well.
That’s why we created a free guide filled with stewardship principles that will help your church.
Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship today.
Leading your church to live and love like Jesus takes time.
You can’t press an “easy button.”
There’s no way to “update” your church like an app on your phone.
And teaching the Bible doesn’t work overnight.
Why bring this up?
Recently, many church leaders have asked us for advice on how to increase giving in their churches. From being behind on the church’s budget to desiring to raise more money for foreign missions, there are countless reasons why you, like them, would like to see your church’s giving increase.
Before addressing specifics, we encourage church leaders to take a step back. In other words, don’t focus on the tactics (fruit). Instead, focus on the heart (framework) of your church.
This isn’t some sort of Jedi mind trick or strategic move from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
But here’s the deal:
A new tactic in giving will only provide short-term results if you don’t cultivate the heart of your church. I’m not saying you shouldn’t implement new tactics until your church is ready. But it’s a good idea to have a two-pronged approach to increase giving in your church.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through steps you can take that will help cultivate a giving heart in your church.
These steps are:
We’ll also cover some practical ideas you can use.
Let’s dig in!
Living out the Christian faith doesn’t come natural—or easy.
When it comes to money, you can’t assume everyone in your church knows what to do. I’m not talking about making a deposit, donating money, or creating a budget. What I’m talking about is handling their money in a way that glorifies God and is good for them and others.
In short, you need to help your church know what God says about their finances.
From understanding what the Bible says about money and possessions to generosity and money management, you need to provide practical help for your church.
To do this well, there are four big categories you’ll need to address:
The first thing you need to help your church see is that how we handle our money is a reflection of our relationship with God. In other words, money is an issue of discipleship.
Issues of money are really issues of faith.
In the words of Jesus, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). What Jesus is saying here is that how you (or your church) handles money boils down to your heart. In other words, do you worship God with your wealth or worship your wealth? There’s a big difference between the two.
Practically speaking, as a church leader, you have to help your church see that money and faith are closely connected. As you encourage your church to give and manage their money well, you have to get to the root of the issue.
Budgets and plans are helpful, but they’re not the gospel. They can provide short-term results, but lasting change requires us to look at the heart of giving.
Boldly speak into what the world says about money and possessions. Like a skilled surgeon, you have to cut to the heart of the matter by addressing the lies the world promotes. While you’re making these incisions, you must replace the lies with truth from God’s word.
As your church grows in their relationship with Christ, their relationship with money and possessions will change too.
To help your church connect the dots between money and faith, you’ll need to teach them about biblical stewardship, which leads me to my next point.
The second thing you’ll need to consistently do is talk about stewardship.
As you talk about money, help your church to understand what God says about the topic, and the vision he has for them with their finances.
Here’s the deal:
Your money and possessions technically belong to God.
Whether or not we acknowledge this reality, God calls us to manage our finances in a way that brings him glory and is good for ourselves and others.
Not sure where to start?
Download this free guide: The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship.
But here’s one caveat:
There’s more to money than stewardship.
Stewardship focuses on how you handle your money with God. It’s a vertical relationship. However, God also talks an awful lot about giving and generosity, which influences our horizontal relationships. Said another way, show your church how giving is good for others, which leads us to the next point.
Giving itself is a third key component to getting to the heart of giving.
You’ll find countless verses in the Bible that command, challenge, and encourage you to live a generous life. Not only with your money. But with your time and possessions too.
I’m going to assume you agree with this point.
But here’s one thing I’d like to stress:
Giving is sacrificial.
This sounds obvious, but hear me out.
When you give money, you are giving away your money—literally.
Does God call you to give?
Does God ask you to steward your money?
He sure does.
But at the end of the day, you have to make a choice.
You have to decide how much you’ll give.
To make a donation, you will have to rearrange how you spend your money.
This is why giving is called a sacrifice.
Speaking of making sacrifices, most Christians desire to give. It’s a part of who they are. But many Christians can’t give or give as much as they’d like because they’re mismanaging their money.
As a church leader, the fourth thing you can do to encourage giving is is to provide your church members with practical money management resources.
Here’s the deal:
Likely many people in your church struggle with debt or money mismanagement.
This isn’t a judgment, just a statistical observation.
To encourage your church to give, help your church members break free from the bondage of debt and manage their money well. As your church experiences financial freedom, your church will be in a better position to give.
To do this, you don’t have to be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). From Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to Ron Blue’s God Owns It All, there are numerous resources you can provide your church.
As a church leader, you need to set a good example.
Not only is this true in the way you live and love like Jesus, it’s also true about the way you and your church handles money.
There are three ways you need to model a generous life for your church:
First, God is a giver.
He gives us the life we live, and he gave us the gift of his son—Jesus Christ.
As a Christian, we give because God gave.
Even though this line sounds like a quote fit for a coffee mug, it’s true. This point ties into teaching your church about stewardship and giving. But it’s also important to point out that God models generosity himself. Help your church to reflect his example.
Second, you’ll need to be generous.
I’m not saying you need to let everyone look at your bank account or watch you make a donation. What I’m saying is that you should lead your church members in giving to your church.
Like a general leading his troops into battle, be prepared to lead your church in the areas of money and possessions.
Side note: It’s okay to talk about what you give with your church. You don’t have to share the details. But let them know—when it’s appropriate—that you give, and make sacrifices too.
Finally, lead a generous church.
The way you do this is by encouraging your staff and church leadership to live a generous life and to ensure your church is generous with your church’s budget.
Regarding your church’s budget, make room to give to local missions, foreign missionaries, and members of your church who may need financial support.
Don’t be afraid to talk about how your church gives.
Your church members will appreciate the fact that you’re sharing with them how the money they give is being used, which leads us to the next point.
Creating a generous church culture is about way more than padding your church’s bank account. It’s primarily about helping your church handle their money in a way that honors God and is good for them and others.
As you preach about money and teach biblical stewardship, be prepared to walk alongside of your church members during this time. Whether it’s one-on-one or in a small group setting, lock arms with your people to help them reorient their life and money in a way that aligns with God’s word.
Here’s the deal:
It’s uncomfortable to talk about money.
No one—including myself—is really cool with opening up their ledger statement or online bank account to show you what they spend their money on.
Don’t expect the members of your church to jump right on board with living a generous life. There are a ton of different things people may have to work through, including:
You’ll be able to accomplish a lot by preaching about money and providing financial stewardship training. But you’ll be able to help people personally transform when you create a safe environment for individuals and families to talk about their struggles.
One last thing.
As a church leader, consider keeping an eye on your church’s giving patterns. If you or your staff observe changes, in particular, a decrease in giving, then treat this as a clue. There’s probably something going on in the life or heart of your church. This doesn’t mean you have to directly approach members about their giving. But it may be a good idea to be more observant of what’s going on in their lives.
At their core, your church members want to make a difference.
They’ve placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and they want others to hear the gospel and experience deliverance from sin, Satan, and death.
To create a giving church culture, one thing you’ll have to do is rally your church members around a common vision.
Here’s what you need to know:
People don’t want to support your administrative or staff costs per se.
What people want to do is support a cause they value.
Sure, your church members know that a part of their donations supports the church’s operational costs. But they also want to know that their giving is helping to further the mission of your church.
Practically speaking, lead people by casting a vision of what you can accomplish together. Help them to clearly see that their financial support allows your church to reach more people with the gospel, feed and clothe people in your community, support foreign missionaries, and extend the love of Jesus however your church is able.
Throughout the year, share stories of transformation.
These can relate to any of the following:
As you cast a vision for your church, remember to avoid abstract ideas. Snatch these thoughts from the skies, and give them life by practically showing your church how their giving makes a difference.
Since storytelling is so powerful, let’s talk a bit more about it.
Your church probably has some “doubting Thomases” sitting around.
You know, the people who can’t believe without seeing.
Don’t worry if you do.
There’s at least one in every crowd.
Sharing stories from the life of your church will not only appeal to the doubters. But telling stories is also a great way to capture the hearts of all church members.
Think about it.
Talking about your annual report by simply sharing accounting facts is enough to lull anyone asleep. Instead, demonstrate God’s work through your church by sharing stories of life transformation.
Here’s one more idea to add to the list above:
Share stories from generous people in your church.
A generous person doesn’t have to be the person who gives the most. Depending on the size of your church, I imagine there are plenty of people who give sacrificially, and I bet they have an amazing story to tell too.
Here are some ideas to consider sharing:
There’s not just one story you should or can share.
God is at work in the life of your church, and you probably have a few ideas in mind after reading these words.
As you communicate these stories, your church members will have an opportunity to hear from others about their experiences giving to the church.
Days, weeks, and months have passed.
You’ve taught your church about biblical stewardship.
The members of your church see how their money supports your mission.
They’re now ready to give.
Now, to help your church express their generosity, you have to make it easy for them to give.
Placing unnecessary hurdles in the way of people interested in giving may discourage them from making a donation. Practically speaking, you have to provide more than one way for people to give.
There’s nothing wrong with accepting cash and check donations, and it’s totally fine to pass around an offering plate or bucket during your worship service.
But do you know what’s not okay?
Not providing online or mobile giving options.
Here’s the deal:
Every year, more and more people give online.
Whether it’s with their smartphone, tablet, or computer, people are making donations online. Basically, many (perhaps most?) people in your church prefer to give online.
Make it easy for this group of people to give by providing them with digital options they prefer, and you’ll experience an increase in online giving.
Creating a generous church culture takes time.
If you rush this process, don’t be surprised if you break things—namely, your church members.
Treat this as a dance.
Take a step, and see how the members of your church respond. All of their responses will look different, and there will be times when you step on each other's toes.
In whatever you do, be sure to always point your church to Jesus Christ—the Giver who is the ultimate reason for our generosity.