Seven Keys to Cultivating Generosity at Your Church

June 29, 2020

God doesn’t need our money to further His Kingdom, yet the Bible has a great deal to say about money and how to be good stewards of it. Your congregation wants to obey God’s word, bless others, and be a part of ministries that are reaching the lost, but many families struggle in their giving.

As their pastor, you want your congregation to feel the freedom that comes when we keep our focus on God and not on money. You can help your congregation learn and understand what the Bible has to say about giving and being good stewards. When you teach and provide practical resources about stewardship, you start your congregation down the path of experiencing the joys that come with generous giving.

Money can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss. The following points recognize the Biblical principles of stewardship, including the truth that God is owner of all. Implementing these ideas will help you effectively lead your congregation into joyful generosity.


Teach and Teach Again!

It begins and ends with teaching. Jesus talked about money more than He talked about hell. In today’s culture people are bombarded with messages encouraging them to own more and more things. But Biblical stewardship is about managing, not owning. Did you know that American churches experienced their highest giving as a percentage of income during the Great Depression? Do we need another depression to teach people stewardship? No, but we do need bold teaching.

Ask yourself:

  1. Am I using the economic circumstances of today as teachable moments?
  2. Is my stewardship teaching showing people a better way than the world promotes (buy new, buy more, and buy often even if you have to go in debt)?
  3. Am I teaching stewardship as much as Jesus did? If not, why not?

Key action items:

  • Prepare a sermon that acknowledges the current economic times and how God uses circumstances to draw His children back to Himself.
  • Teach your people to be faithful with the finances God has entrusted to them.
  • Encourage your people to set a specific debt reduction goal over the next 12 months.

Think about this: If you are committed to teach the whole Word of God then you must be willing to teach what God says about stewardship.


Focus on Vision and Celebrate Changed Lives

People want to make a difference in the lives of others. Local non-profit organizations know this and routinely showcase the many serious problems faced by people in your community. These organizations unashamedly invite givers to help solve these problems. How? By asking them to give sacrificially to their causes rather than to give to their operating budgets. These organizations are quick to invite people to join their team. They know it’s all about vision and changed lives. The same is true for the church, it’s not about funding the operating budget . . . it’s about funding God’s ministry and sharing in the vision.

Ask yourself:

  1. How do I communicate that God is moving and spiritually changing lives? If I don’t, how will people know their investment (i.e. their giving) is making a difference?
  2. Who are my people listening to? Remember, the secular, non-profit organization down the street is telling stories about changed lives and inviting people to be a part of their mission.

Key action items:

  • Keep your vision in front of your congregation and have weekly faith stories of people’s changed lives to remind your people that they are funding a living ministry rather than an operating budget.
  • Calculate your ministry’s ‘spiritual return on investment’ and communicate this at your annual budget meeting.
  • Remind your donors that they are on a team that is making an eternal difference.

Think about this: A changed life represents the ‘spiritual return’ on the investment of God’s people. Show them the ‘dividends’ of investing in the Kingdom.


Remember that Giving is Emotional

Giving to a ministry is always an emotional decision. Your people are donors who are either going to feel excited and joyful or resentful and guilty about their giving. Your job is to make certain that your constituents understand how important their gifts are to the church. Let them know that they can take great satisfaction in being part of a ministry team that is making a difference in this dark world. Whatever you do, never take your people or their giving for granted.

Ask yourself:

  1. What is my attitude about giving? Excited? Resentful? Step back for a moment and pretend you are a member of your congregation, what are they seeing?
  2. Do I know how my lay leaders and staff feel about giving to the church?
  3. How would people respond if someone asked them if I appreciate their giving?

Key action items:

  • Be ‘hands on’ and intentional with your people. Take them to breakfast or lunch and ask them how they feel about becoming generous people.
  • Take a formal or informal ‘stewardship survey’. Make the donor’s attitudes, not the church’s needs, the focus of the survey.
  • Train the members of your church board and other leaders to give individual ‘thank you’ communication (phone call, text, email) to all givers throughout your financial year.

Think about this: Paul frequently thanked the churches for their gifts to his ministry! How does your church follow his example?


Treat Your Donors Like Real People

Who enjoys giving gifts that are not appreciated? Unfortunately, many churches never specifically thank their people for financial giving. Make it a priority for someone on staff to show appreciation to those who demonstrate faithful giving. While you may not know how much people donate; remember, givers know what they give and they want the church to acknowledge their generosity and sacrifice.

Ask yourself:

  1. What is keeping me from showing appreciation to my people?
  2. How can I express appreciation?
  3. How can I change my focus from budget needs to giving opportunities for our people?

Key action items:

  • Develop a list of all the ways you can show appreciation to those who make the ministry possible.
  • Express your appreciation in newsletters, platform comments, and in casual conversations.
  • Train your staff to thank their lay team leaders and hold them accountable.

Think about this: Your people are donors who want to be appreciated. Remember if you do not appreciate what your people are giving, other organizations will.


Hold Your Church Accountable!

The finances of your church should be available for all to see. Make it a point to print budget summaries, at regular intervals, to show that you and the church leaders are being transparent and accountable for how God’s money is spent. You never want your people to question if their gifts are being used wisely.

Your willingness to be open and accountable will impact the lives of your congregation. Modeling accountability will lead some people towards personal financial accountability. In addition, others will become more generous as they witness wise spending and leadership that is willing to be accountable for their spending.

Be careful to clearly present the facts concerning your church’s financial condition. Being transparent when finances are good, as well as when they are lacking, will inspire people to give generously.

Ask yourself:

  1. Is our church debt giving people ‘permission’ to take on unreasonable personal debt?
  2. Do I have an internal system of checks and balances to ensure financial accountability within our church?
  3. Am I publishing the church finances regularly and at additional times when it is appropriate?

Key action items:

  • Give examples of how money is ‘stretched’ to maximize each dollar received.
  • Always allow a minimum of 7 days for budget Q & A prior to any budget approval.
  • Regularly publish easy to read graphics of income and expenses. Include: year-to-date budget, actual giving and actual expenses.

Think about this: People want to give to a ministry that uses their funds wisely to accomplish their mission. They don’t want to bail out a church in financial crisis.


Offer Budget Counseling

Many of your people would like to give more, but feel they simply cannot! Easy credit, coupled with aggressive marketing and materialism has burdened many families with excessive personal debt. As Biblical stewardship is learned and practiced, your people and your ministry will be stronger!

Ask yourself:

  1. Do I know the extent of financial stress that grips some individuals and families in my church?
  2. What is my personal debt level?
  3. What would this ministry look and feel like if our families substantially reduced or even eliminated their debt?

Key action items:

  • Offer one-on-one budget counseling.
  • Assess your church’s degree of financial stress due to excessive debt.
  • Aggressively promote a Christian financial counseling service.

Think about this: God’s design for financial freedom, for individuals and churches, achieves maximum ministry impact.


Don’t Rob God!

One of the great things about the Biblical tithe is that it is a percentage of income, making it income neutral. The first fruits (the first 10%) of our income varies as earnings change. It is an appropriate standard for tough economic times as well as for good economic times. The real issue with the tithe is our obedience and recognizing God’s ownership.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do I tithe?
  2. Do I teach the Biblical concept of tithing?
  3. Am I concerned that teaching on tithing could appear to be self-serving?

Key action items:

  • Supplement your Biblical stewardship teaching with materials from a source you trust.
  • Commit to a minimum of three stewardship sermons annually.
  • Calculate the portion of a full tithe your church currently receives.
  • Encourage people to try a ‘Test God’ month and challenge your non-tithers to begin tithing 10%.

Think about this: God is not interested in securing the gift but in growing the giver.