Stories about outrageous and extravagant generosity inspire me. Just a few weeks ago, an older woman told me how excited and privileged she felt about giving a generous gift to her church’s capital campaign. Vera went on to say, “The truth is Scott, I probably won’t live to see the results. I’m not going to be around much longer.” For Vera, the importance of her gift was not in its impact during her lifetime, but rather the impact it would have on the church in the future. The gift Vera gave would empower her church to act on The Great Commission.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20.
She was giving an outrageous, extravagantly generous gift for one reason and one reason only—so her church could reach people for years to come with the good news of God’s love and grace. Imagine what our churches would look like if they were filled with people like Vera who believed so thoroughly in the mission of the church—given to us in the Great Commission.
A recent poll by Barna Research asked churchgoers, “Have you heard of the Great Commission?” Here are the results:
It may be surprising to see that 51% answered, “No.” It is hard to understand why the majority is unfamiliar with the core mission of the church. However, the research points to a potentially more significant and troubling question–Do churchgoers believe their church makes a lasting and eternal difference in peoples’ lives? If we truly believe the church and its teachings make a difference, then we are inspired to share our faith and the Great Commission has meaning.
I met with a church group that was considering a building project. The church told me they were packed with no room for growth. Space was so tight, they decided they couldn’t advertise or invite people to church. The group had called me there to help them decide whether or not they should “do something” about their overcrowded space. I asked the group, “What would you think about a person who knew the cure for cancer and decided to keep it to himself?” With great indignation, they replied, “That would be criminal!”
Then I asked them, “Do you or do you not have the cure for a hurting and broken world? If you do, how can you keep it to yourselves?”
Outrageous and extravagant generosity occurs when we truly believe we have the antidote for the diseases that afflict our world. The Great Commission matters when people believe in the importance of sharing the good news of God’s love and grace with the world.
Would you like to experience outrageous extravagant giving in your church? Rather than talking about spreadsheets, budgets and bills, focus on how your church is responding to the Great Commission. How is your church reaching people to share the Good News? How do your ministries demonstrate your mission of sharing Christ with the world? Be willing to ask, “Do we really believe we have the answer to a world that is broken, hurting and afraid?” If the answer is yes, tell your story and get ready for outrageous, extravagant giving! If the answer is no, start looking for the for sale sign.
Most people are downright terrified to ask other people for money. Asking for money seems intrusive, awkward, impolite and uncomfortable. Asking for money can be intimidating, but changing your approach can make it easier—and even fun!
When asking a donor to support a cause, be sure you are already on the record as having given your support. After all, how can you ask someone to do something you have not already done yourself? Your enthusiasm and commitment should be demonstrated through your early gift to the cause. Your leadership will be an indication to others that the cause is important and worthy of funding. Before asking others, it is essential that your donation (or pledge) has already been made.
If the conversation begins with, “I’m sorry to be asking you this but…” then you shouldn’t be making the ask. Why would you insult a prospective donor by apologizing for asking? If the cause is not worthy of their donation, then you shouldn’t be requesting it. Before making an ask, consider why you have made a contribution (if you haven’t make a contribution, see #1). Why is this cause important and how will it benefit the church’s mission? Instead of apologizing, you should be conveying the transformational nature of the mission for which you are requesting funds. Begin by sharing your excitement about how this project will result in the advancement of God’s vision for your church.
Asking people to give a little something will result in a little gift. Big visions require committed leadership and, often, significant resources. Donors want to know what it will take to make the project successful and what you want from them. If you sugar coat your ask in an attempt to be more polite, your donor will be confused, frustrated, and likely uninvolved. Be sure to prepare for your conversation in advance and let the donor know exactly what is planned, what is needed, and how you are asking them to respond.
As Christ’s disciples, we believe generous giving is a crucial component of the discipleship path. As stewards of God’s gifts, we believe God is the giver of all blessings and it is up to us to determine how God would have us use them. Donors should be encouraged to pray about how to use the resources God has provided, and regardless of the size of the gift, listening for God’s leading is vital to the ask.
If you don’t read any of the other 5, please read this one carefully. Be sure you prepare well in advance and understand the donor’s wishes. What are the donor’s passions? What other causes does the donor support? How will this gift fulfill the donor’s philanthropic desires? Give careful consideration to whether the request is appropriate for the donor. Is the amount being requested within the scope of what the donor is able or willing to consider? Has the donor made similar gifts in the past to you or to another organization?
If you have the right attitude and are well prepared, the ask should be a time of celebration. The ask is an opportunity to connect eager donors with projects that meet their philanthropy goals. If you’ve done your job well, they will thank you for the opportunity to be a part of it.
Proverbs 29:18a The Message
It is common for a congregation to spend substantial energy creating a vision statement. But coming up with a clear, concise, and compelling vision statement is only the beginning. What is often missing is an intentional and effective communication plan about the road ahead.
Movement doesn’t happen when members just hear about a new vision; it happens when they understand and buy into it. To understand your vision, members need to know the where, why, how, and what. When answered clearly, these questions can lead to understanding, unity, momentum, and the accomplishment of your vision.
Everyone wants to be an insider. No one wants to be left out. When you share your vision and plans for the future, people become insiders. They become stakeholders of future possibilities and invested in the outcome.
It’s not enough to say, “Let’s go!” without explaining why you are going there. It’s also important to discuss the consequences of not going. When you ask members to invest in a future vision, they should be clear about why it’s important. Accomplishing your vision requires an investment of time, talent, and treasure. When you ask members to sacrifice, be sure they understand what is at stake.
Be sure the congregation understands the plan, priorities, and work needed to accomplish your vision. Provide details about what needs to change, what will remain the same, and the specifics of your timeline.
This question may be the most inspiring. Years ago I read an interview with Billy Graham where he was quoted as saying, “Young people today are looking for something worth living for and something worth dying for.”
No one wants to give his or her life for something that doesn’t matter. Knowing that something significant will be required of us tends to lead us to more significant sacrifice, resulting in a more profound future for the church.
A mentor of mine says, “When a vision is first introduced, often the congregation will ask, What are they doing now?”
But if leaders answer the critical questions clearly enough, those same people may begin to ask, “What are we doing?”
And eventually, with increasing and compelling clarity, we should expect more of them to ask, “What is God asking me to do?”
When we get to this point, most members will know where they’re going and what it will take to get there.
So, how will you communicate your vision? How will you describe your church’s preferred future? Whether you gather people in homes, at the church, in a retreat setting, or spend time discussing your vision in worship, keep in mind that gaining momentum requires informing and inspiring your congregation.
Alice in Wonderland: “Which road should I take?”
Cheshire Cat: “That depends, where are you going?”
Alice: “I don’t know where I’m going.”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t really matter which road you take.”
In any organization, especially the church, the Cheshire Cat’s question is an important one. Give careful thought to how you communicate your vision of a preferred future—then you will have the best opportunity to be on the same road together.