Navigating the Tricky Topic of Generosity at Your Church
Between Christmas toy drives and end-of-year giving campaigns, church conversations naturally gravitate toward giving and financial stewardship this time of year.
With the holiday season right around the corner and new year budgeting conversations happening left and right, I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on the topic of money and churches. This time of year often brings a unique set of challenges for church leadership. Between Christmas toy drives and end-of-year giving campaigns, church conversations naturally gravitate toward giving and financial stewardship.
Navigating these discussions requires a thoughtful balance, and this balance has occupied my mind as of late. How do we navigate the tricky topic of generosity at our churches without functionally begging people to give? How do we pastor our congregants into generosity for the sake of their personal discipleship journeys, leaving the rest up to God?
I’m no expert on the topic, but I want to offer a few humble reflections that may help you as you pastor your congregation during this season. These reflections are born from my own experiences and observations, and I hope they can provide a helpful perspective as you navigate these important conversations within your church community.
Remember That Giving is All About Trust
I want to kick off this conversation by stating something important: I wholeheartedly believe that church leaders – like you and me – really are trying to do their best when it comes to conversations about generosity in our churches. And I also wholeheartedly believe that church leaders have a tricky – yet vital – responsibility when it comes to the topic of money. We have to pastor this conversation well.
I know that the vast majority of us have God-sized dreams for our congregations, and money is an important tool to help us see those dreams come to life. It’s vulnerable when the dreams God has placed on your heart for your church require finances that don’t seem to be coming in. It’s vulnerable leading a volunteer-based nonprofit and trying to inspire generosity without begging for people to give.
At the end of the day, however, we are responsible for stewarding our hearts well and trusting God to fulfill His mission through our churches, regardless of what the numbers look like. We are also responsible for helping our congregants learn how to trust God with their time and resources, and tithing at church is one of many ways for them to do that.
We don’t pastor our congregations into generosity so our churches can grow; we do this so that they can become more and more like Jesus. As people give of their time and resources, their hearts become more and more trusting of the God who loves them, forms them, and takes care of them.
Ultimately, any financial stewardship conversation in any church is about trust. Staying anchored in this truth will prevent us from drifting away into worry, fear, or worldly ambition.
Shift Your Language to Focus on Generosity as a Discipleship Mechanism
As a pastor’s daughter and current church leader, I’ve heard my fair share of giving rhetoric in churches. One of the most compelling and straightforward messages I’ve heard about money in the church is that generosity is a way to grow as a disciple. When I give, it isn’t because I believe God is going to financially bless my gift by bringing me a return. It isn’t because I hope and pray that the money will go toward a good cause (though that is certainly a good reason to give!)
The reason I give in any context – whether to a church, to a nonprofit, to friends, etc. – is because I know that when I give, I become more like Jesus. When I give, I am learning to steward all the resources God has given me with intentionality and trust. And when I give, I’m allowing my heart to be ruled by compassion rather than self-indulgence.
As you enter into conversations about giving with your congregation this season, consider shifting your language away from giving as a duty and toward giving as a way to grow in discipleship! Remember, this approach isn’t about meeting a monetary quota; it’s about helping people grow closer to God through generosity.
Help People Understand Where Their Money Goes
In a previous piece on Giving Tuesday, I emphasized the importance of storytelling in stewardship. It’s vital to articulate not just the “what” but the “why’”of giving. Storytelling provides a powerful means to communicate the mission and vision of your church and, more importantly, the real impact of every dollar contributed.
Your congregation desires to steward their finances well, and part of their good stewardship is knowing where their money is going! This means that your church’s financial transparency is crucial, and it’s about more than just sharing figures and numbers. Through transparent financial reporting, you can help your congregation trust your church more – and steward their resources with more integrity.
One of the healthiest church practices I have witnessed is the implementation of a “church tithe budget.” Churches that allocate 10% (or even more) of their budget to missions or other outreach initiatives exemplify a profound commitment to trust and faith. This approach not only reinforces the message that the church’s purpose transcends financial gain but also demonstrates a tangible commitment to walking in faith and supporting broader missions. Moreover, this practice enhances congregational trust, as it clearly communicates that the church prioritizes giving and living out its faith through meaningful
Remember that Giving Comes in Many Forms
I recognize that there are moments when we find ourselves poring over spreadsheets, fretting over whether we’ll meet our financial goals. And I know that money matters in churches. It matters when it comes to potential budget cuts and layoffs and the work we are doing in our communities. However, it’s crucial to remember that the true “bottom line” isn’t just about dollars and cents; it’s about guiding our congregation toward heartfelt generosity.
And – importantly — generosity doesn’t always have to do with tithe money! Are people in your church signing up to serve? Are you hearing stories of people in your congregation giving generously to strangers? Did someone recently donate their clothes to a family in need? These are WINS for generosity at your church! This is what the Acts 4 church was about: A community of believers who were all about supporting each other, not just out of duty, but in real, tangible acts of kindness.
Trust God to Make Up the Difference
Finally, it’s essential to acknowledge our current economic reality. Your congregants might be facing financial hardships, and trust in institutions, including churches, has been shaken in our post-pandemic world. And while there is certainly a Biblical celebration of people giving when they don’t have much to give (the widow with the two coins in Mark 12:41-44 is a great example of this), it is the responsibility of church leaders to create a healthy culture around giving and stewardship – one that does not include pressure! This is where our faith in God’s provision comes into play. We must focus on pastoring with empathy and understanding, leaving the outcomes in God’s hands.
As you enter into conversations about giving during this season, I invite you to reflect on these ideas and consider how they might shape your language and approach. I pray that your trust in God will be deepened and your faith in Him will be bolstered as you witness the many ways He provides for your church.
By Breeze Blog|2023-11-09T14:25:58-08:00November 9th, 2023|