In my over forty years of ministry, I have never heard a pastor say he/she has more money than the church needs. I have certainly found pastors who shared that their people were very generous or that they had out-given their budget, but never that they had too much. The mission is too big and the need is too great to not always need more. Yet every year I come across dozens of pastors and laypeople who are doing things that absolutely reduce church giving.
Here are five ways to accidentally reduce church giving:
I have seen so many pastors encourage their people to give “an increase,” “do 3% more,” or “help us balance the budget.” The facts are that people today just do not care whether you achieve some arbitrary target or not. They want their gift to have impact and change lives. Spend your energy sharing with people how their giving to the church will make the world a better place.
This sends a signal to all that this is what you really are about. You are wanting to bring in more than you send out. It says nothing about your mission and it usually appears to reflect an unhealthy church because you are behind for the year. Facts are 90% of all churches are behind until December. It is normal, not a sign of impending death. Just stop doing it.
There is nothing about a line item budget that helps your people understand what you are truly doing in ministry. From appearances it seems that all that you are supporting are some people and a building. Line item budgets should be used only by the finance people. Distribute a missional budget to the congregation.
When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the golden calf that the people had made to worship, he did not make a joke about it or apologize for what he was about to say. He was forceful and direct and they knew he meant what he was saying. There was no misunderstanding that he considered this a very serious matter. They had put worshipping a golden calf ahead of worshipping God. Your people are doing this every day that they choose money over God. It is a big deal. People need your help to give up that which they love more than God. Quit acting like it really does not matter.
For some reason pastors think people will think more of them if they deny themselves knowledge of individual gifts. This behavior will keep you from putting the right people in leadership, being able to diagnosis spiritual health in persons, and thanking people when they truly need and often expect thanks.
Now, go forth and quit doing those things that hurt the Kingdom!
The blog was updated from the original published April 29, 2017.
The Village Inn in Malawi, Africa, provided attacking wolf spiders, bats, bed bugs, holes in the ceilings, broken bathroom fixtures, and all the cold water you could use—free of charge. Most of us on the mission team “stayed alert with eyes wide open,” but certainly not in gratitude. Our eyes were wide open in worry and fear and discomfort.
Colossians 4:2-4 (The Message)
2-4 Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.
As we gathered for breakfast, in the midst of complaining, we heard the quiet voice of Emily, a Malawian traveling with us, say, “I saw the face of God in my motel room.” Having never slept in a bed before, Emily’s eyes were “wide open in gratitude.”
In that moment, I knew. Here was a child of God, created in the image of God with a loving and generous spirit. With her “eyes wide open in gratitude,” Emily made “Christ plain as day” to us. Emily’s gratitude taught me a critical lesson. We are all born in the image of a loving and generous God. However, we choose daily whether to live out of this loving and generous spirit. Often, we choose to live out of a resentful and bitter spirit instead. And in making our choice, we either make Christ plain or not.
Can you think of someone recently who made Christ plain to you with a loving and generous spirit? Can you think of a time when you had the opportunity to respond either with eyes wide open in gratitude or with eyes wide open in bitterness or fear? What did you choose? What were the results?
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A Generous Life reminds readers that we are all born in the image of a loving and generous God. The 28 devotions center around four weekly themes using generosity principles of gratitude, prayer, and faith. The journey that is “grounded in gratitude, revealed through prayer, and sealed by faith” will help people return to the generous life they were born to live. The daily readings are written by the Horizons Stewardship Team–a diverse group of pastors, church leaders, speakers, and authors. All profits from A Generous Life will be donated to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) to support global missions.
Instead of simply calling the ushers forward, help your congregation understand deeper meaning and connection inherent in the offering time of worship. Use what I call an Offering Talk to connect the offering to the giver’s relationship to God.
An Offering Talk can help your congregation understand the deep meaning and connection inherent in the offertory. It is an ideal stewardship teaching moment.
Every night a father tucked his daughter into bed and they would repeat their familiar routine. The little girl would say, “I love you” and her dad would say, “I love you first.” One night, however, the little girl interjected a change. After hearing her father say, “I love you first,” she proclaimed, “I love you always!” And that became their new routine. The little girl has grown and is now a young wife and mother, but daughter and father continue to share these words. The exchange continues to affirm their love and connection. One will say, “I love you first” and then wait to hear the response, “I love you always.”
As wonderful a gift as the love between a parent and child, how much greater and more perfect is the love between God the Creator and those claimed as God’s children? This is the image of the God we have come to worship today. A God whose love reaches back into all our yesterdays and stretches into all our tomorrows. A God who always loves and forgives, who is always there to guide us when we are lost, to strengthen us when we are tired, and who overwhelms our hearts with love and grace. We come today to both acknowledge and praise the One who loves us first and who will love us always.
Years ago a widow gave her last two coins as an offering to God. Many still wonder what motivated such a sacrificial gift. Surely she did not expect to have her name engraved on a wall or have the street in front of the Temple named in her honor. She clearly did not anticipate her gift would be lifted up as an example for others to follow centuries later. So what motivated her gift? Maybe she was motivated by a heart-felt desire to declare her life had been blessed by a God who had always met her needs. Blessed by a God who loved her first and always. The widow’s sacrificial offering was the very best way she knew to express that she loved God first. She would love God always.
Today, many see the offering as a way for the church to collect money to pay bills and fund ministries. Yet at its very core, the offering is so much more. The offering is the time we are invited to proclaim, through faith, that we love God first. We love Him more than our jobs, our assets, our possessions, our hobbies, and even our families.
It is in giving we stay connected to what is really important in life and not allow materialism to define who we are; and it is in giving that we gain a deeper understanding of the depth of sacrificial love God has for us. It is in giving that we grow in our own personal journey as a follower of Jesus. It is in giving we say to God and to the world those simple, yet life-defining words: “I love you first, and I will love you always.”
The offering is not a time to pay bills as mentioned above. The act of giving is at the core of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Consider using this talk in your next worship service, or write your own. In either case, help your congregation see the higher purpose of giving in worship.
The blog was updated from the original published 2/20/2018.