By Chris Willard with Warren Bird
It used to be one of the things that church leaders dreaded hearing most from weekend service attenders: “You talk too much about money at this church.”
Today my advice to pastors is to use those times as teachable moments—and maybe even wear them as a badge of honor indicating that a generosity culture is building in a congregation.
When a pastor really plans and thinks about what to say and do during the offering time of church services, we’re seeing the number of givers increase, we’re seeing people’s enthusiasm for responding increase, and finally we’re seeing people observe, “Pastor, we’re talking about money more often.” That’s a positive not a negative.
I encourage pastors to use such comments as an opportunity. You could respond, ‘I’m so glad you noticed that, because the Bible says that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, and I care about your heart. So we have to talk about money and giving.”
In my work with large churches around the country as I oversee Leadership Network’s generosity initiatives, I see many influential churches leading a trend in strategically using the offering time in weekly church services to consistently teach giving principles and shape a church’s culture.
We’re absolutely seeing an increase in people’s enthusiasm for generosity, stewardship and giving when churches are more intentional about leveraging the weekend experience.
One such church is the 7,000-attendance Sun Valley Church in the Phoenix area. In the first installment of this article [HOTLINK to previous article], lead pastor Chad Moore laid out two practical ideas for how to approach the offering in every weekend service. Here are two more:
Don’t Apologize for the Offering
Chad thinks North American churches have “moved past” the need to excuse guests from giving to God in the worship service.
“I think subconsciously when you say, ‘If you’re a guest here today, don’t worry about giving,’ that you’re apologizing for that part of the service—which is unacceptable for us,” Chad says. “We believe you can’t follow Jesus without giving being part of your life.
“Giving is a normal part of following Jesus, so we can be confident in teaching our people that. I’m not going to apologize for it. If a guest wants to give, great. If they don’t want to give, that’s between them and the Lord.”
I would add that excusing guests from participating in giving would be similar to giving them an out on other parts of the service that are deemed important.
The pastor never says, “Hey, I’m about to spend 35 minutes teaching from an ancient book. But I know you’re a visitor, so don’t feel like you have to follow along.” If we don’t excuse any of the other really important elements of the service, or suggest they’re not really for the visitor, then why do so for the offering?
Take the Opportunity to Teach
On top of it all, Chad says Sun Valley uses the weekly offering time to teach biblical principles of giving. Borrowing from the popular Give-Save-Live formula of giving to God first, putting money in savings next and living on the rest, worship leaders can hit those principles in a short setup for the weekly offering.
It’s a simple mantra that is repeated often enough that most people at Sun Valley can finish the worship leader’s sentence.
“They will say something like, ‘We’re going to receive an offering this morning because here’s what the Bible teaches about money: We’re to give first, save second and live on the rest,’ “Chad says. “God gave first so we’re a give-first church. Giving first honors God. Saving second builds wealth, and living on the rest teaches contentment.’
“In that short statement, in essence we’ve communicated it’s not just what God wants from you, it’s what He wants for you.”
I believe those teachable moments, along with the act of boldly receiving an offering, are raising the temperature on generosity at churches around the country.
More Than a Transaction
But there could be one downside that church leaders need to address. If we’re not careful with how the offering is handled and how leaders tie it to spiritual formation, it can become “transactional.”
Pastors might communicate without knowing it, “When you give, this happens: We get to do more children’s ministry, do more local outreach, etc.,“ That’s a great thing, but not the only thing.
To avoid that pitfall, leaders need to express regularly that giving is a heart issue, and giving generously can contribute to spiritual growth.
We also need to say, “When you give it grows your heart, it addresses greed, it stretches your faith.“ When all you’re emphasizing is giving “to” more than giving “from,” you miss an essential spiritual teaching: What God wants to do for your heart is more important than what God wants from you.”
Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to www.leadnet.org