Cultivating a Culture of Giving
Church leaders that embrace stewardship as an identity rather than an activity embrace giving as an act of worship. “Pastors and congregations will be encouraged by asking: What does God want us to do next? instead of What do we have to cut to survive?,” advises Joel Mikell, president of RSI Church Stewardship. Joel recently shared his “Top 10 Church Stewardship Difference Makers” at the Texas Ministry Conference in Houston.
Several years ago, Joel felt called from the music ministry into a ministry that helps churches fund their kingdom vision. “I thrive on reminding church leaders of Galatians 6:9, “Do not grow weary in well doing…for in good time you will reap if you faint not.”
He shares these insightful ways to make annual giving ministry-driven rather than spreadsheet-driven:
· To change a culture, you must change the language. Knowing that giving is an emotional response, remember that the term “budget” does not inspire giving. Instead of giving “to” the church, speak of giving “through” the church to accomplish a Ministry Action Plan and a Ministry Spending Plan. One church chose the non-traditional theme “Crazy Love Journey” for a capital campaign and captured the hearts of the members wanting to express their crazy level of love for God, recognizing He had demonstrated that unfathomable love on their behalf.
· Resources follow relationships. Connect giving to transformation and life change as often as possible. Report to the congregation, for example, “Your faithfulness in providing 10 scholarships to youth camp enabled (insert your specific story) this to happen.” What a great ROI- return on investment!
· Seek 100% participation. People support what they help to create. Invite members’ input on ministry priorities and specifics, and challenge them to start somewhere, regardless of the size of the gift. Nonprofits thank first-time givers in a special way; churches should do the same.
· Be transparent. Individuals like to know how their money is being spent. Accountability fosters integrity and vision/ministry alignment. A popular way to communicate this is through descriptive graphics such as a dollar bill that is graphically sliced and labeled by ministry beneficiaries.
· Give members many “on ramps” for giving. For longtime members, the envelope in the pew is a visual pathway to give, but millennials and a growing number of baby boomers expect -- and often prefer -- to pay online. Some churches are even printing QR codes in bulletins that link to quick and easy e-pay options. Special offerings, campaigns, and requests to meet urgent needs also allow churches to provide multiple giving opportunities and thus reinforce the habit of allowing God’s resources to continually flow “through” to the mission field.
· Provide ongoing stewardship education. Over the next 5 years, there will be an inter-generational transfer of nearly $4.6 trillion, which provides a great opportunity for the church to be “top of mind” as families outline Planned Giving and Legacy Gift goals. The pulpit offers a platform to inspire giving, and small groups offer the forum to reinforce and teach the Biblical view of finances – a topic addressed in the Bible more than heaven and hell combined.
“Churches that avoid talking about biblical stewardship risk losing it all,” Joel adds. “We believe that creating a strategy for an ongoing Mission Action Plan is a dynamic process, blessed and even mandated by God. Building a habit of measuring effectiveness -- via lives transformed -- will ensure your members see a connection between their giving and impactful ministries.”
While more money = more ministry, generosity is not always financial. It costs nothing to offer praise, forgiveness, or a smile.