Eight Steps to Create a Culture of Generosity
Start with vision
Is the vision of the church compelling? Is it relevant? Does it strike a chord with the average Christian, relating to their lives and the lives of their friends? Is it biblical? Is it eternal, calling forth a commitment that has eternal implications? Is it succinct and memorable? Does it elicit passion?
In today’s churches very few people give simply because it is a biblical mandate, though it is. People are inundated with pleas for donations from organizations that have spent trailers full of cash fine-tuning their message and their materials.
In order to create a generous culture, the purpose and the vision of the church must be clear and compelling.
Focus on ministry, not budget
Though budget time is one of my favorite times of the year, I know I’m an oddity. But one of the things I emphasize is that behind the numbers is people—ministry. If we can see beyond the figures to the people we desire to reach, the souls won, the love shared, the hearts healed, the marriages mended, the life shared, then it becomes less about dollars and cents, and more about mission, calling and sacrifice.
Focus on transformation
Celebrate the lives changed and the hearts that have been transformed. Too often we only communicate comparative figures, whether we are ahead or behind, and fail to tell the story of lives that have been changed through the ministries of our church. That is what compels people to give generously, the opportunity to be a part of something that is making a difference.
Help people to understand the interconnectedness of life in the Kingdom of God. God operates both on the horizontal and vertical planes. God is working in us and through us to transform us, equip us, and send us into the world to be his ambassadors. We have a responsibility to minister both to those within reach of our church and those who can only be reached cross-culturally. The purpose of the church is to reach the world with the Good News through ever-widening concentric circles starting within the local church, and moving outward to the farthest reaches of the earth. God works horizontally through relationships and community both locally and globally.
Stewardship is a means for expressing our own relationship with God. This vertical expression of love towards God is manifested as we offer to him our gifts with open hands. There is no greater expression of love for God that to hold loosely to this world and things in it because of a greater passion for the world that is to come.
See stewardship as a journey
Understand that people are at different places in the journey of stewardship. As you teach on biblical stewardship, allow people to make commitments to increase their giving incrementally. Don’t expect people to go from giving nothing to tithing. It’s both unrealistic and its impractical. Call people to understand the truth of God’s Word and then allow them to move closer to the goal. Move from occasional giver to regular giver, from regular giver to tithing, and from tithing to generous giving. Our life of faith is a journey, and stewardship is a part of that formation process.
Teach on stewardship
Most pastors shy away from sermons or sermon series tied to stewardship. But when money and giving are addressed through real-life lenses and in the context of the culture we live in, people will listen. Money hits people where they are—even if you’re not addressing it, people are talking about it. You might as well fill the void, because it’s there. Be creative. Be relevant. Be practical. But most of all, be honest and forthright about what God says about money and giving. God will honor your courage.
Never miss an opportunity to affirm the generosity of the people in your church. Even when giving is not what you want, be positive, be grateful, and thank them for their sacrifice, their vision, and their faithfulness. Affirmation will go so much farther than crisis letters and pleas. Celebrate giving and affirm the grace that is evident when people give.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Find varied and creative ways to tell your story. Bulletin reporting is boring—it can only be a part of the strategy of communicating our financial information. Use newsletters, email blasts, quarterly giving statements with articles of transformation, websites, testimonies, skits, and annual reports to share the story of how generous people in your church are impacting the world through their gifts.