By Chris Willard with Warren Bird
The problem might stem from a matter of convenience more than anything else.
Pastors and ministry leaders—many of them men—find it easy to grab coffee with other men to talk together about the church’s vision and how to plug into it with generosity.
There is a vital missing link in many of these crucial conversations about giving: the women in your church who have a heart to invest in the Kingdom, and want to contribute their resources, but might not be as easy to connect with.
My friend Sharla Langston is on the forefront of understanding this issue. As one of the founders of the organization Women Doing Well, she has a unique perspective fueled by her group’s research with women around the country.
She offers some great advice for church leaders who want to engage women in this fundamental discipleship issue, and bring them into the fold of generous givers in your church.
Have the Conversation
“Women want to talk about their giving,” says Sharla, who is also the Director of Ministry to Women at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. “They want to be heard. It’s not so much that they just want to yack; their voice is part of the church.”
Sharla says her organization took the posture of “listening first” when discussing giving with women. Those conversations unearthed some roadblocks to more joyous and generous giving for women—roadblocks that can be overcome starting with including women in conversations about generosity.
“From the church stage, in groups, or in meetings with couples or individuals, include women in the conversations about giving,” Sharla says. “Men and women approach giving so differently, but that’s OK. God designed us to be different. Including her in the conversation is first and foremost.”
Don’t Skip the Data
You might think women are inspired to give only by the feel-good stories related to our missions. They do want to hear stories of impact, but Sharla says they also can be challenged to generosity by the return-on-investment and finances behind an initiative.
“Women may process at a much deeper level than some men do, and take in a lot more information before they make giving decisions,” Sharla says. “But it’s not that they are risk-adverse. They just may require a different set of data before they make the decision.”
Sharla adds that male brains can compartmentalize, and men can move in and out of financial conversations easily and quickly. Women, on the other hand, use a different set of filters—a family filter, a community filter, a church filter—as they process giving decisions.
“The amount of information may look different that she is taking in,” Sharla says, “but don’t assume she’s not going to be able to make a good decision.”
Women Desire Community
For women especially, giving has a direct link to community. When Sharla’s group conducted its research in focus groups a few years ago, the women didn’t want to leave when the group was over. They wanted to stay and talk together more about the topic of giving and generosity.
“There is very little joy in giving alone for women,” Sharla says. “Giving alone is no fun for them.”
Relationship brings value to the giving conversation, whether it’s with a church or ministry leader, other women in the church or in a small group. Women often learn best about giving through community experiences where they can share the joy of giving and discover biblical truths about giving.
As popularized by Andy Stanley, at Leadership Network we like to say, life change happens in circles, not rows. Putting women in conversation about their opportunities to give and support the work of the Kingdom of God and the church can be powerful.
“This is about discipleship,” Sharla says. “Your journey in generosity is just that—a discipleship journey. Any discipleship opportunity has to include giving and generosity.”
That journey is just as important for the women in your church as the men. As co-laborers and fellow-travelers on our discipleship journey, women deserve the same strategic, intentional thinking and planning as the men in your church. Don’t forget them.
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.