We’re Made to Be Generous

by | August 8, 2017

Ed note: This is the first post in a new series for the month of August entitled, “Why Generosity Matters to The Future of Your Church.” Over the next several months, we at Horizons are going to publish a weekly idea on how to develop a more grounded and effective approach to generosity in your church.


The calendar screams the middle of August and around the country pastors and finance committees are scrambling to put together a fall financial or stewardship campaign. After all:

  • we are behind budget
  • the summer slump hit us hard
  • unless people step up, programs and staff will be cut

For some churches, the first course of action is to have the chair of finance stand before the congregation loaded with pie charts and spread sheets to grimly inform the congregation of the impending financial crisis. Maybe, seven-year-old Amanda is paraded upfront and asked the question, “Do we really want to cut our director of children’s ministry?” And of course, the people in the pews begin to tune out and think, “Here we go again.”

There is a better way…I promise!

 

What if stewardship and giving had less to do with budgets, buildings, dollars and cents?

What if stewardship and giving were a way to help people live life to the fullest?

What if stewardship was about learning to embrace ourselves as children of God created in the very image of God?

In my book Generosity Rising, I re-write the opening to the Declaration of Independence as:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created in the image of a loving, giving, and generous God.  We believe real life, true liberty and eternal joy are only realized when we live lives with abundant generosity and sacrificial love. 

 

Generosity begins with God.

I’ve seen many finance chairs and pastors shake their head at this, suggesting that what is theologically true and what is practically true are somehow not related.

They may say, “But we have to talk budget, we have to let people know how far behind we are or they won’t give.”  To this sentiment, I ask… how has that been working for you?

The most important stewardship verse in the Bible has nothing to do with budgets, building, dollars and cents. The most important stewardship verse is this:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 (NRSV)

God loves…God gives…And the world is forever changed!

 

We are created to love and to give.

We are created in the image of God.  We are created to love and to give. When we love and when we give, we become the people God created us to be. We are forever changed and the world is forever changed.  Now that will preach!

Yes, it’s the middle of August.  Yes, you might be behind in giving.  Take a deep breath, you’ve been here before.  Instead of talking budgets, buildings, dollars, and cents, take a chance and offer people the opportunity to become the loving, generous people God created them to be. And maybe, just maybe, your people, your church and the world will be forever changed; and who knows, you might even make budget.

 

For God so loved the world He gave…

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What Church Leaders Need to Know About New Giving Trends

Ten years ago, in Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate, I voiced my concern that giving to religion, as a share of overall giving, had fallen significantly over the last several decades and was half of what it once was. At the time, the giving trends indicated that if we did not change the way we do overall stewardship in the church, the decline in giving would continue. Well, now it has happened!

 

For the first time ever, giving to religion as a percent of overall charitable donations has dropped below 30%.

 

For 2018, Giving USA reports gifts to religious organizations are down 1.5% to just 29% of total charitable giving. Total giving to charity rose to 427 billion dollars, but this came more from foundations and corporations and not from individuals–the church’s primary revenue source. On average, Americans gave away only 1.9% of their disposable income.

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Without money, there can be no mission and no ministry in these days when the faith is struggling around the world.

 

What caused the latest decline? Some will blame the last tax law changes that significantly increased the standard deduction and thus reduced the number of people who itemize. Others will say that it just reflects that fewer people are in church and the world is more secular. I do not buy into the theory that the causes are all external and thus any solution must be external. I still hold to the conviction that the solution is within the church to save the church, but we have avoided the hard work necessary to make the cultural adjustment to get it done. In the strongest possible way, I am encouraging you to re-examine how you are teaching and preaching financial stewardship. How are you moving your church away from the stewardship methods of the 20th century and responding to a new 21st century culture?

 

How will you respond to the latest giving trends?

 

You do not need the new 2019 annual campaign in a box. You may not even need a capital campaign. What you do need is a systematic long-term culture shift that creates not just funds for the budget but generous hearts and minds. As I shared in my latest book God vs. Money, you need a Battle Plan.

Right now, many of you are thinking about what you are going to do for a fall stewardship emphasis. That is fine, but that is not going to fix the problem. Let me encourage you to form your fall campaign committee and put them to work if you must, but at the same time form another group that will go to work on a Battle Plan for generosity to change your whole church. If you are brave enough, go ahead and start to execute the plan ASAP and just skip the old approach. Why would you think just doing the same old thing will produce a different result? You may not be able to change America’s giving to religion, but you sure can do something to change your congregation to be generous followers of Christ.

 

Horizons’ Next Level Generosity (NLG) framework can help you create and carry out your Generosity Battle Plan. Beginning with a comprehensive 360-degree analysis, your Horizons Ministry Strategist will create a clear and effective strategy for shifting your generosity culture. The result is more money for ministry and authentic life-change for your congregation. To arrange a free 20-minute consultation, contact info@horizons.net

 

The Top 5 Ways To Accidentally Reduce Church Giving

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.

 

Are you doing things right now that unintentionally reduce giving in your congregation?

 

Here are five ways to accidentally reduce church giving:

 

1 – Emphasizing numerical targets versus missional objectives.

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.

 

2 – Publishing church giving figures in the bulletin and/or newsletter.

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.

 

3 – Using a line item budget to communicate with the congregation.

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.

 

4 – Apologizing or joking prior to delivering sermons on money.

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.

 

5 – Thinking that “not knowing” what people give is a righteous act.

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!

 

 

 

Have you missed the first installments of the Giving Intelligence video series?

If you’ve missed the beginning of the Giving Intelligence series, they can be found on Giving365 which is a free subscription from Horizons Stewardship that includes this new video series, blogs, ebooks, webinars, and more! Subscribers receive bi-monthly blogs including information on best practices, the latest trends in giving, and helpful tools to use immediately to grow giving. In addition, Horizons’ team of Ministry Strategists will share their insights and expertise through a series of webinars. To access more of Horizons’ free stewardship resources, click the Giving365 logo below.
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The blog was updated from the original published April 29, 2017.

 

 

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