Giving is the lifeblood that nourishes ministry. Many churches today struggle with giving. According to a recent study (2016 State of the Plate), six out of ten churches are experiencing flat or declining giving.
What if it didn’t need to be this way? What if there was a way to infuse a culture of Biblical, whole-life generosity into the DNA of your church, where Christians can learn, experience, celebrate, and accelerate the God-given joy of giving, unleashing your potential to make an unprecedented impact for Christ and His kingdom?
Generosity does not come naturally to most people. Generous Giving, a ministry committed to teaching and promoting Christian generosity, outlines several practices that are needed to create a culture of generosity in the church.
At DB&A, we have designed a generosity program that builds upon those foundational principles and helps churches accelerate year-over-year giving by building these seven “generosity ingredients” into the life of their church:
No one likes talking about money, especially in the church. It doesn’t feel spiritual. But if that’s the case, then why did Jesus have so much to say about money? The Bible doesn’t just give passing mention to generosity. The entire narrative of Scripture weaves the story of God’s indescribable generosity to people, and motivates us to follow His example. We need to talk more about money in our churches. Hence our priority will be to encourage the regular exposition of Biblical stewardship, emphasizing three foundational principles:
- God is the owner of all – Psalms 24:1
- We are stewards, not owners of God’s wealth – Matthew 25:14-30
- We are blessed so that we can bless others – Galatians 6:10
It used to be that the first money people gave was to their church. Giving to the church was automatic, while other charities were discretionary. Not anymore. The expectations and giving patterns of donors have changed in recent years, as evidenced by a recent Barna Group study on church giving. Today’s reality is that church people are giving less overall, and more now consider their church to be on an equal footing with other ministries they support. To that end, our program weaves contemporary learning opportunities into each teaching channel of the church – be it small groups, Adult Bible Study, children and youth ministries, etc. – to help bring people to a point of understanding that giving to the church is one of just a handful of ways that God has ordained for us to participate in His sacred, redemptive work here on earth. It is markedly different from every other kind of giving; so much more than just fundraising with a few Bible verses sprinkled in. Transactional donations are here and gone. Whole-life generosity, on the other hand, is transformational. Our goal in this plan, therefore, is not just to “strong-arm” people to give more money, but rather to help you raise up a community of godly stewards. Our God is transcendentally generous. It is who He is and how He wants us to live. When we loosen our grip and learn to view generosity from God’s perspective, allowing Him to not only transform our hearts and minds, but also our wallets, authentic and abundant generosity will invariably follow.
Prayer must be an integral part of any major church initiative. But simply sitting back hoping “God will do it for us” is not a workable approach. One of our favorite sayings to share is this: It is important to have blisters on your fingers AND on your knees. We make plans and do the work as if it all depends on us. But at the same time, we pray as if it all depends on God. Nehemiah offers a clear illustration of this rhythm of prayer and action. Upon learning the fate of Jerusalem, Nehemiah prayed for days. Discerning God’s call he then rose to action, mobilizing resources and inspiring people around him to accomplish a great work. This pattern is repeated throughout Nehemiah—prayer first, then rising up to complete the work.
It’s been said that a person’s life is comprised of the sum of their habits. What we repeatedly do shapes who we become. The best way to develop a culture of generosity in your church, therefore, is to get into the habit of practicing generous giving together. You don’t accomplish this with a simple “one and done” campaign. The plan we have laid out here, therefore, institutes a yearly cadence to help you encourage spiritual growth for your entire church through a regular pattern of generosity endeavors, anchored by a minimum of two major initiatives each year – an intensive C29 initiative (named after Chronicles 29) conducted each fall to develop advance leadership-level giving, and a comprehensive all-church Generosity Encounter held each spring, designed to maximize the involvement of your entire congregation. Notably, whole-life generosity is not just about money; stewardly investment of time and talents is equally important.
A generous church must be led by generous leaders. Generosity is a learned behavior. The joy of generosity is contagious – nothing inspires generosity like the joyful giving of other generous givers. Many in your church have the means and the desire to give big gifts to a big need or idea, but will typically only do so if you ask. How you ask is important. Major giving accounts for one-half of the annual giving at a typical church, and an even greater percentage—often 80% or more—in campaigns and major initiatives. We plan to be deliberate in putting time and effort into identifying and engaging the support of potential leadership-level financial partners early in the process, and in coaching and guiding you through the art of engaging these givers as partners. Some may argue this places a higher value on wealthier congregants. We would argue that it is not about value so much as it is about influence. Leadership-level giving builds momentum. Simply stated, big gifts help you move forward faster. It might also help to know that this approach is modeled in the Bible. In 1 Chronicles 29, David pioneered the first “church campaign” chronicled in Scripture. He starts by making a generous leadership gift from his own resources, which prompts the leaders of Israel to follow his lead and give their own major gifts. David and the leaders set a high bar, and the whole assembly responded by giving generously. David understood the importance of setting a standard of leadership giving first. We must seek to do the same.
God has created us so that giving is a big part of how we live out our faith and purpose in life. The beauty of God’s creative design is that we are most blessed when we are giving back and being a blessing to others. For this to work as God intended, however, one must see, hear and experience how their giving is transforming lives. Blind giving is joyless giving. If we fail to do a good job at communicating impact, then we do a disservice to those who might otherwise be blessed by their involvement in the God-given ministry of your church. Our church generosity program, therefore, incorporates regular patterns of communication about how peoples’ giving is making an eternal impact for the kingdom. The more they understand the vision, see the plans, hear personal stories, have their questions answered, and experience this impact in meaningful and inspiring ways, the more they will be blessed in their spiritual walk, and will naturally grow more abundant in generosity.
Too often in church ministry we get busy with the work and lose sight of the giving that makes it possible. Until we run short. Then we turn our attention back to the givers, usually to ask for (more) money. This paradigm breeds a reactionary mindset toward giving – i.e. we give when presented with a need. This may be fine in nonprofit fundraising, but our goal in the church should be to establish generosity as a proactive lifestyle – i.e. whole-life generosity. This requires that we focus less on needs and more on celebrating the life-changing missional outcomes that are accomplished through giving. Celebrating generosity brings people together to share personal testimonies and experience firsthand how their giving is making a difference. To accomplish this, our plan includes all-church gatherings to affirm and invigorate your people in their encounters with generosity. Small, intimate gatherings are also planned as a way of bringing together conclaves of people – loosely united in a giving circle known simply as “C29” – for those members of your church who have been entrusted with wealth and are eager to embrace a spiritual gift of giving, in order that they may encourage and support one another along their journey to becoming radically generous givers.
This is not a one-and-done campaign to raise transactional donations. Rather, the aim is to develop a regular cadence of powerful preaching and teaching, impact messaging, leadership development, creative generosity endeavors, and celebratory gatherings to infuse a culture that will accelerate generosity year over year, empowering your church to reach its God-given vision for ministry.
Interested in learning more? Contact us to discuss how we can help your church grow a culture of generous giving.