There are some things in life that are inevitable, and I don’t mean death and taxes. Like, if you drop a piece of buttered bread, it always lands face-side down, or if you bring a guest to church it’s always the week the sermon is about giving. Okay, okay — so these aren’t true inevitabilities. But the fact that those statements could be made side by side goes to show that talking about giving in church often makes people uncomfortable.
As long as communities of believers have gathered together, giving to support the mission has been part of the equation. And it’s always been a difficult subject, even in the early church. Remember Ananias and Sapphira? Giving to further the kingdom is nothing new; however, how we do it has changed drastically over the years. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone put an unblemished sheep in the collection plate! As our culture changes, our giving habits change as well. Many church members only write one check a month, and that’s to their church. Are our churches behind in how we allow people to give? What impact is this having on generosity?
Here are three ideas to help cultivate generosity:
As a technology company, we work with a variety of churches. Some are early adopters, and others are reluctant to adopt new ways of doing things. Regardless of which better describes you, don’t miss out on the value of combining web-based church management software with online and mobile giving systems. Allow people to give the same way they pay their bills and do their shopping. Providing a variety of giving options won’t spontaneously make people give who didn’t want to previously, but making it difficult to give will make people who do want to give less likely to do so.
Generosity is a learned behavior. Few of us naturally want to give our resources to others without the presence of the Spirit and seeing giving modeled for us. Preaching about generosity is a good start, but it also needs to be part of your discipleship plan. Opportunities to practice generosity within your community are a great tool to develop a culture of generosity. Here is a great example: a church partner of ours in Ohio had outgrown their facility and was raising funds for a new building. In the middle of the capital campaign, the pastor heard a radical idea from God. Instead of selling their current building, which was the plan, they would find a church in the area and sign over the title of the building to them. This would leave a huge gap in the church’s fundraising plan, but the pastor was sure he had heard from God to do it. So on Sunday morning they had a celebration service to bless and pray for the church that would be receiving their building for free. And it transformed the culture of both churches! Covering the remainder of the building fund was not a problem. This modeled generosity spread into the lives of both churches, and more importantly, into the broader community!
There is a reason Jesus used stories in his teaching; they have a special impact on the listener. To create a culture of generosity, celebrate the stories of transformation that living generously brings. Speaking of stories, don’t forget how Jesus tells us of the widow’s offering in Mark 12. We don’t want our stories to be about celebrating the giver’s generosity. Instead tell stories of ministry that has been made possible by people being generous with their time, talents, and treasure. The ministry you’re funding touches and transforms lives, and when you communicate that, people will want to be a part of it. When people begin living generously, that is something to be celebrated — and a great indicator of spiritual growth.
Creating a culture of generosity can be done by removing barriers to giving, modeling the way, and celebrating the impact of a group of people living it out.