5 Overlooked Areas That Kill Your Church’s Generosity

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5 Overlooked Areas That Kill Your Church Generosity” is a sponsored blog post by Jim Sheppard. Jim is the CEO and Principal of Generis. Generis exists to help churches, Christian schools, and faith-based nonprofit organizations weave a culture of generosity into the very fabric of who they are.

Churches are starting to find their way toward the next season as the worst of the pandemic seems to subside.

However, as church leaders begin to navigate other new realities, we have to think through our priorities.

In this season, we can’t lose our passion for generosity in the church. Biblically rooted generosity and stewardship are an integral part of the disciple-making process and the foundation of mission impact and ministry growth.

Here are five generosity killers we have observed in churches:

#1: No One Knows Your Giving Journey

Generous churches are led by generous pastors. Having watched generosity in the church for as long as we have, this is clear. And the only way your people will know about your generosity journey is if you share your story.

Many pastors have not shared their giving stories. Or, if they have, they have not shared it recently and have stopped talking about it. We get it; many things fell by the wayside during the pandemic season. But what if this was a reset moment for you as a pastor?

If Jesus talked about money and possessions more than any other topic other than the Kingdom of God, it likely means He knew what an issue it would be for us. It was an issue then. It is an issue 2,000+ years later.

The money God has placed under our management can potentially steal our hearts.

When pastors share their generosity journey and the challenges of handling money God’s way, people are moved to recognize that it can be — and likely is — an issue for them. They see a fellow pilgrim who is making progress in this area of the Christian life.

This transparency in your stewardship journey can inspire your congregation in their own journey while also further normalizing the giving conversation.

#2: You’ve Left Your Offering Moment on Auto-Pilot

The offering moment is one of the single best ways to teach your people about God’s view of money and possessions. Every week in the worship gathering, churches have the opportunity to set the tone for their culture of giving and generosity.

And yet, for far too many churches, the offering moment is on auto-pilot and falls flat. This moment misses the focus and intentionality of the other segments in the worship service. This became especially true during the pandemic season when many churches that passed an offering plate or basket needed to stop doing so.

Online giving became the normal and primary mode of giving. But, it evolved into an awkward moment for churches that were accustomed to passing the plate. “OK, now what do we do?”

The offering moment became transactional: “Here is how you can give to our church.” There is nothing inherently wrong with this; communicating ways to give is important. However, if you are only providing instructions on how, you’ve missed the opportunity for significant transformation in the life of the Christ-follower. Take the moment to intentionally teach biblical generosity and enhance disciple-making in your church. Online giving is here to stay, so we’ve got to get this one right.

There is much to say about the offering moment. We have written a few resources about it: an eBook you can download and a video you can check out.

Let’s focus on one key idea: Giving TO versus giving FROM.

Giving TO my church versus giving FROM a transformed, surrendered heart. As church leaders, when we communicate with our people about giving and generosity, the conversation tends to revolve around giving TO my church. Giving TO our ongoing ministry. Giving TO our next building project.

That’s all well and good, but what if we framed it differently?

Don’t misread this. We’re not saying to ignore the perspective of giving TO, rather we’re emphasizing the perspective of giving FROM.

What if we emphasized that giving and generosity are the outgrowth of a transformed, surrendered heart?

This shift can take our disciple-making to another level. When Christ-followers can get the money and possessions part of their journey right, it is a significant maturity step in Christian life.

Free Resource: Thriving Churches Checklist

In a rapidly changing culture, pastors and church leaders are facing never-seen-before challenges. The good news? You’re not alone. With the right tools and resources, you can weed out the unhealthy areas of your ministry and lead a thriving church.

Churches that aren’t just surviving but thriving in this season share 8 common traits. Download the Thriving Churches Checklist & e-Book to discover these traits and lead a healthy, growing church.

#3: Your Quarterly Giving Statements Lack Intentionality

The quarterly giving statement is a highly recommended “two-for-one” in giver communication strategy.

  • It is an excellent opportunity to celebrate ministry impact.
  • It’s a quarterly reminder to your giver of their contributions thus far.

Most major church management systems (CMS) can easily produce a report; however, those autogenerated giving statements can be sterile. While you can send that CMS-produced statement as is, we suggest you resist that temptation and instead take the opportunity to cast vision and communicate the impact your church is having in your community and beyond.

Vision and mission drifts, even in the best of churches. People need to be reminded, encouraged, and inspired. The quarterly giving statement is the perfect time and place to do just that. When your church is living out its vision, there is impact and opportunity to celebrate.

Oftentimes, givers miss hearing the stories of life-change happening in and through the church. Let your givers know that their gifts make that possible. Keep them from wondering where their giving is going, and instead bring them into the celebration of how God is moving within your ministry, community, and beyond.

Use photos from recent community outreach events and student camps, drawings from your kids’ ministries, renderings of that new facility — anything that can show them how their generosity makes ministry possible.

The quarterly giving statement is an excellent opportunity for those stories. Here’s a free resource to help you rethink your quarterly giving statement strategy.

#4: You’re Ignoring Your First-Time Givers

When a person gives for the first time, it is not a small action for them. In many cases, when you see the first gift, it may not be the first gift to your church. They may have made a few anonymous cash gifts. But, now they are giving in a way that allows you to know who they are.

This is a perfect time to let them know how much you appreciate the gift. Send them a note. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate communication. It’s a moment for you to thank them and let them know how much the church appreciates their gift.

Our tendency is to think that people don’t want to be recognized when they make their first gift to your church. But the reality is, that people really appreciate it. They want to be thanked and recognized. It sends the message that you see them and are not taking their gift for granted.

Another great time to connect with and recognize first-time givers is during the offering moment.

Here are two ways:

  • Regularly invite attendees to begin their generosity journey. It’s as simple as saying, “If you have not
    started your giving journey, today could be the day.” Be sure to have your team available to talk through
    any questions and ensure new givers have a fundamental understanding of giving and tithing.
  • Every couple of months, share how many people gave for the first time last month. “Friends, this morning, as you give, I want to thank the 17 people who gave last month for the first time to our church!” Celebrate it! Because what you celebrate, you accelerate!

If you want to know more, here’s a resource on engaging with first-time givers. You can also watch this short video on the importance of recognizing first-time givers.

#5: You Don’t Look At Your Data

Churches generally have a good grasp of these two financial stats: how much was given and how much we spent. But many of those same churches overlook significant opportunities by diving deeper into their giving data. These metrics are important markers of the life of your church.

Your decisions may be more anecdotal than data-driven by not regularly going “under the hood” and getting a complete picture of your church’s financial reality. However, when you periodically review your data and have clarity around giving trends and cash flow, you can make a game plan for your ministry with confidence.

If your church needs help with this, we invite you to schedule a free Pulse report — learn more about that here.

But most importantly: Giving issues are pastoral issues.

If we believe our giving to God is a spiritual matter and not a financial one, then the giving data tells us much about the spiritual lives of our people.

It will uncover what is happening in the lives of your church community, creating pastoral care opportunities.

People who are flourishing in their giving tend to be thriving in other areas in their lives — let’s come alongside them and celebrate that.

The reverse is often true as well. When the data suggests someone is struggling in their giving, see that as a signal for pastoral care. Check-in with them, see how things are going, pray for them, encourage them, and help them with their giving journey when needed.

There is a multitude of reasons why giving patterns change. Don’t miss the moment to show up for your givers and connect with them.

Pay attention to your data, begin to measure what matters in your church, and use data to help you make better decisions and make deeper connections. Data is likely the most significant untapped tool in your church.

So if you see any of these generosity killers in your church, make it a priority to deal with them.

Unfortunately, they’re often silent, and their fallout can be devastating.

However, you can transform these generosity killers into generosity accelerators by prioritizing these areas and taking action.

The season ahead is an opportunity to reset key areas of your ministry, engage your church community, connect with your givers, and prioritize a culture of generosity and stewardship.

Schedule a FREE Generosity Pulse Report

The Generosity Pulse Report is a snapshot of the health of your generosity culture. By assessing the long-term health of your church’s giving and providing a clear view of your current finances, the Generosity Pulse Report eliminates the guesswork and offers your team confidence and understanding of your financial reality.

You can schedule your FREE Generosity Pulse Report at generis.com/carey.

Or, if you prefer to connect with a Generosity Strategist to learn more about Generis, you can schedule a complimentary 45-minute discovery call by visiting generis.com/carey.

What’s Stopping Your Church From Growing? 

Over the years, I’ve worked with thousands of church leaders to help them understand the dynamics of church growth.

And here’s what I've learned.

It’s almost never a lack of passion or effort that leads to stagnation, it’s that growing churches are effective at removing the barriers that stand between them and reaching more people.

And that’s exactly why I created The Art of Church Growth course.

By taking a thorough evaluation of your leadership team, volunteer core, missional alignment, and culture, you'll create an action plan to:

  1. Discover and eliminate the barriers that keep your church from growing
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While only God can grant growth, you can position your church for it. The best time to do that is now.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.