If you missed the first post in this series on radical generosity in large churches, click or tap on this link to read: How Do You Create a Culture of Radical Generosity in Your Church? | Part 1. In this post I unpack the first of 6 questions you and your team should work through together to build a strong culture of generosity in your church.
Let’s dive into the next two questions.
Question #3: Are we modeling good stewardship?
This is so important. It is so important for pastors to realize that generous churches are led by generous leaders and we need to model that we are also being generous with the resources that God has entrusted to us. That modeling goes in a couple of ways: 1) how we are spending the dollars that God is entrusted to us and then 2) how we are releasing them into ministry elsewhere.
Are you spending money in a way that is wise and is good stewardship? Do the people in your congregation know that and see that?
It’s possible that you’re spending money wisely and well but you’re not telling anyone. You’re not providing information or reports or data that can show them a model of good stewardship.
It’s also possible that there may be some spending going on in your church that is kind of hard to explain or that people don’t get. I was working with a large multisite church and talking to some of their largest major givers and I asked this question of one woman who was in the room: “What keeps you from giving more than you do now?” She was already a pretty generous giver. “What keeps you from giving more than you do now?” When she gave her answer, it floored me. She basically said “Well, I just feel like if I give more money, they’ll just buy more flat-screen TVs.”
Her response communicated that she did not fully get why the leadership was spending resources on technology in the church. Now, I know that church had a good reason for why they were spending money on technology, but they were not communicating that well so it didn’t look like good stewardship to the congregation, at least in this woman’s case.
Another thing to keep in mind is your staff. I think Andy Stanley put it this way,
“Never use your payroll for benevolence.” In other words, do you have anybody on your staff team that you are spending God’s money on who is really not doing their job or doing the job the way they could? Are you simply keeping them employed because they’re a “part of the team,” they’re connected, you love them? You really have to be very, very thoughtful about how it is that you are spending money in your congregation because your stewardship models for others the kind of stewardship which causes them to want to be more (or less) generous with your congregation.
So you are modeling generosity in the way you’re spending inside the walls of our church. Are you also modeling generosity in the way you’re releasing dollars outside the four walls of your church? Is your church generous? Is your church raising funds to spend only inside the four walls of your church, or are you sending dollars out and communicating that to your church in a way that is understandable and compelling?
I’m so blown away by some churches that model generosity outside their own walls. I think the very first time I heard about this was from Dave and Jon Ferguson at Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois. Basically, they budget their year on 51 weeks and they give one full week of offerings away every single year in something they call the Celebration of Generosity. I love that. It’s amazing and in fact, listen to this: that weekend is one of the highest attended weekends of their church year all year. It’s like Christmas and Easter for them because people say “Listen, you got to come to our church. You’re not going to believe what’s going to happen this weekend. Our people are going to give all this money away.” So what they’re doing is they are communicating “We’re not holding on tightly just for us to the resources that you’re giving. We’re actually using it well outside the four walls.”
Question #4: Do we talk to different types of givers differently?
You know what’s weird about church is that we have this model where one person stands in front of a group and talks to them all at once. The problem with that is you can never actually nuance your communication because you’re trying to communicate in a way that everybody understands. In giving, this can really be a problem. Here’s why: how many times have you stood in front of your congregation said something like this: “Hey, I just want to thank you all for giving so generously here at our church”? The problem with that statement is not everybody who heard that statement is giving and not everybody who’s giving, to be honest, is getting generously. But because you were speaking one to many, you sort of communicated this “blah” blanket statement for everybody.
Instead, our goal is to speak to different kinds of givers differently. Speak to non-givers in a way that is very different than people who are your leading givers. Speak to brand-new givers who are just starting to grow in giving in a different way than the mature givers who need to be challenged to take a step of faith and really go for it. You have to speak to different kinds of givers differently. There are all kinds of different audiences in your church. Let’s think about millennial givers for a moment. I’d like to have a dollar for every time a pastor said to me “What are we going to do about millennials? Golly, these millennials are not giving.” The truth is that millennials will be motivated to give if we can communicate with them in a way that is compelling.
By the way, if you want to listen to a great podcast, listen to the episode we did with Julie Bullock on millennials and giving.
One of the things that Julie said was the problem with pastors and millennials is we think of millennials as a homogeneous group. Just because a person is in their 20s or under 30 doesn’t make them like everybody else in that category. There are some 20-somethings who are sleeping on their parents’ sofa and delivering pizza. There are others who are married with kids and running their own business or have a professional career. Saying millennials don’t get it is really missing the point. It’s often that we don’t get that there are different kinds of people. We need to speak to different kinds of givers differently.
One of the other audiences that we need to speak to differently, believe it or not, are women. Many of the messages from pastors to the congregation about giving are targeted “man-to-man” if you will. We’re forgetting that in many cases, women have a God-given unique perspective on money, on giving, on why they give, and on how they enjoy hearing about giving opportunities. And if you’re not careful, you can miss this audience entirely. It’s important to recognize that we have to have different kinds of conversations.
The diagram below nicely illustrates this issue. The people that God has blessed with wealth, those that are have the most financial capacity, are generally speaking a small number of people in your church. But when they give,
the percentage of the dollars given is larger than one might expect. Then the biggest group of people, the rank-and-file members of your church, when they give, there’s a lot of them but their giving often results in a small amount of money. Then there’s everybody in the middle.
Now if you were just trying to raise money, if you were just doing fundraising, all you would do is talk to the people that God has blessed with money. You wouldn’t even talk to these regular “Joe Lunchbucket” people. “Golly, they don’t have any money anyway.” But we don’t do it that way, right? We don’t talk just to the wealthy because it isn’t about raising money from them. It’s about helping them grow spiritually. It’s about helping them get it.
Ask yourself this: Are we fundraising or disciple-making? Now the reason why this follows what we just said a moment ago is because if you were just trying to raise money, you wouldn’t really bother with just the regular people, just the normal people in your church, right? Because when you talk to them, their giving doesn’t really amount to much by comparison. But we talk to them, we encourage them, we reach out to them not because of what we want from them but because of what we want for them.
We want them to grow spiritually. We want them to see that stewardship is part of discipleship, that giving is part of growing. We talk to everybody about generosity and stewardship and giving because it’s a part of spiritual formation. It’s a part of discipleship. It’s a part of what it means to be a growing Christian. It’s really important that you get that, that you recognize that at Leadership Network, our goal is not to help you be a better fundraiser in your church, but rather to help you recognize that generosity and stewardship are part of spiritual formation, part of discipleship, part of what it means to be to grow in Christlikeness. As leaders in the church we want to help people move in that direction. We are in the people-raising business, not in the fundraising business, and this is really, really important.
In order to help people grow spiritually, to help them grow in this journey of becoming a more generous person, often we need to give them a pathway, we need to give them a model, we need to help them see what it looks like to grow in this area. At Leadership Network, one of the things we like to say is that “no model is perfect but some are useful.” So I’d like to show you an imperfect model of what it looks like to help people grow in this area of giving. But I think this model will be very, very helpful. It’s called the Giving Ladder or the Generosity Ladder. This was first put together by Nelson Searcy who wrote a great book entitled The Generosity Ladder. His language and his wording is a little bit different than what you see here. Frankly, the language and the wording on this generosity
ladder is not perfect, right? It’s an imperfect model. But what it shows you is the progression of a person who goes from first-time giver to extravagant giver.
Now again, don’t get too bogged down in this particular model because it’s not perfect. But the question is this: Are you showing your people what it looks like for them to grow in this area of generosity and giving? Have you given them a tool that helps them to quickly assess “Here’s where I am and here’s where I need to go next”?
I referenced this in the post, but if you want the opportunity to listen to a variety of perspectives on topics related to generosity, stewardship and giving, tune in to our Generosity Strategies and Tactics Podcast. There are currently 18 episodes on topics that range from working with couples, the role of the campus pastor in generosity, how to inspire generosity in others, and more. You can find this podcast via the link above, or search for it wherever you subscribe to podcasts. Take a listen!
In addition, we recently released a resource for lead pastors titled Senior Pastor Role in Discipling High Capacity Givers. If you haven’t downloaded this resource yet, you should. This eBook, sponsored by Empower Generosity, will show you 3 critical areas of focus for the senior pastor’s vital role in moving high-capacity givers in your church from potential donors to fully-devoted disciples. Click or tap on the image below to be taken to the download page.
Find the third part in the series here: How Do You Create a Culture of Radical Generosity in Your Church? | Part 3