One Billion Dollars a Day
As reported by Giving USA, Americans gave over one billion dollars a day away in 2015; $373.3 billion was given away to be exact. This was the first time this milestone has been reached, and it represented a 4% increase over 2014. At a quick glance, this would appear to be good news for everyone, but not quite.
Some areas saw significant growth way ahead of the curve. International giving went up 17%. Education was up nearly 9%. Arts, humanities, environment, and animals was up over 6%. Giving to religion was near the bottom at +2.6%. Though slightly above the rate of inflation, the trend of religion not keeping up with other areas of giving continues. As Americans have surveyed the options for where their money should go, they are increasingly choosing to give to more and more causes unassociated with religion.
Much of giving to religion, and specifically to local church ministries, is coming from the Builder generation that is rapidly becoming smaller every day. For many of our churches, it is taking several new families to make up for the loss of a long tenured one.
What can we do?
1) If you have not helped educate your financial leaders in the new culture of how to do stewardship, then start immediately. Books that I have written or Mike Slaughter, Scott McKenzie or Tom Berlin would be excellent places to start. Every pastor must have a team on the same page to make the changes necessary to succeed.
2) Get very serious about planned giving. Contact your denominational foundation right now and enlist their help. Get your policies in place and begin to market on at least a quarterly basis. This is the best way to get the Builder generation to buy you time to grow the Boomers, Generation-X and Millennials in discipleship. Bequest giving was at $9.8 billion in 1975. Last year, it was at $31.8, and a serious boom is expected over the next few years.
3) Plan a sermon series on generosity for the first of the fall. If you have not been a tither or generous person, then confess it and share how you are moving beyond where you have been. Help persons see how their need to give comes out of their creation in the image of God and that their sense of fulfillment is in growing into that likeness. It is Christian maturity to give. Help them get in touch with the idolatry of possessing – owning – controlling! Our faith calls us to surrender not acquire. Your people need to hear the value you place on giving as a spiritual discipline and virtue.
The bottom line in the giving report is that we had a pretty good year. When the markets and the economy are good, we usually do. This translates as: When it is easy to give, we do! The problem is that there will come a day again, and perhaps sooner than we expect, when it will once again be harder to give. It will require more discernment and sacrifice. When that day comes, will your church be chosen or forgotten? Prepare for the storm when the weather is good.