Leading your church to live and love like Jesus takes time.
You can’t press an “easy button.”
There’s no way to “update” your church like an app on your phone.
And teaching the Bible doesn’t work overnight.
Why bring this up?
Recently, many church leaders have asked us for advice on how to increase giving in their churches. From being behind on the church’s budget to desiring to raise more money for foreign missions, there are countless reasons why you, like them, would like to see your church’s giving increase.
Before addressing specifics, we encourage church leaders to take a step back. In other words, don’t focus on the tactics (fruit). Instead, focus on the heart (framework) of your church.
This isn’t some sort of Jedi mind trick or strategic move from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
But here’s the deal:
A new tactic in giving will only provide short-term results if you don’t cultivate the heart of your church. I’m not saying you shouldn’t implement new tactics until your church is ready. But it’s a good idea to have a two-pronged approach to increase giving in your church.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through steps you can take that will help cultivate a giving heart in your church.
These steps are:
- Talk about money
- Model generosity
- Cultivate relationships
- Cast a vision
- Share compelling stories
- Make giving easy
We’ll also cover some practical ideas you can use.
Let’s dig in!
#1 – Talk about money
Living out the Christian faith doesn’t come naturally—or easily.
When it comes to money, you can’t assume everyone in your church knows what to do. I’m not talking about making a deposit, donating money, or creating a budget. What I’m talking about is handling their money in a way that glorifies God and is good for them and others.
In short, you need to help your church know what God says about their finances.
From understanding what the Bible says about money and possessions to generosity and money management, you need to provide practical help for your church.
To do this well, there are four big categories you’ll need to address:
- Money management
The first thing you need to help your church see is that how we handle our money is a reflection of our relationship with God. In other words, money is an issue of discipleship.
Issues of money are really issues of faith.
In the words of Jesus, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). What Jesus is saying here is that how you (or your church) handles money boils down to your heart. In other words, do you worship God with your wealth or worship your wealth? There’s a big difference between the two.
Practically speaking, as a church leader, you have to help your church see that money and faith are closely connected. As you encourage your church to give and manage their money well, you have to get to the root of the issue.
Budgets and plans are helpful, but they’re not the gospel. They can provide short-term results, but lasting change requires us to look at the heart of giving.
Boldly speak into what the world says about money and possessions. Like a skilled surgeon, you have to cut to the heart of the matter by addressing the lies the world promotes. While you’re making these incisions, you must replace the lies with truth from God’s word.
As your church grows in their relationship with Christ, their relationship with money and possessions will change too.
To help your church connect the dots between money and faith, you’ll need to teach them about biblical stewardship, which leads me to my next point.
The second thing you’ll need to consistently do is talk about stewardship.
As you talk about money, help your church to understand what God says about the topic, and the vision he has for them with their finances.
Here’s the deal:
Your money and possessions technically belong to God.
Whether or not we acknowledge this reality, God calls us to manage our finances in a way that brings him glory and is good for ourselves and others.
Not sure where to start?
Download this free guide: The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship.
But here’s one caveat:
There’s more to money than stewardship.
Stewardship focuses on how you handle your money with God. It’s a vertical relationship. However, God also talks an awful lot about giving and generosity, which influence our horizontal relationships. Said another way, show your church how giving is good for others, which leads us to the next point.
Giving itself is a third key component to getting to the heart of giving.
You’ll find countless verses in the Bible that command, challenge, and encourage you to live a generous life. Not only with your money. But with your time and possessions too.
I’m going to assume you agree with this point.
But here’s one thing I’d like to stress:
Giving is sacrificial.
This sounds obvious, but hear me out.
When you give money, you are giving away your money—literally.
Does God call you to give?
Does God ask you to steward your money?
He sure does.
But at the end of the day, you have to make a choice.
You have to decide how much you’ll give.
To make a donation, you will have to rearrange how you spend your money.
This is why giving is called a sacrifice.
Speaking of making sacrifices, most Christians desire to give. It’s a part of who they are. But many Christians can’t give or give as much as they’d like because they’re mismanaging their money.
As a church leader, the fourth thing you can do to encourage giving is is to provide your church members with practical money management resources.
Here’s the deal:
Likely many people in your church struggle with debt or money mismanagement.
This isn’t a judgment, just a statistical observation.
To encourage your church to give, help your church members break free from the bondage of debt and manage their money well. As your church experiences financial freedom, your church will be in a better position to give.
To do this, you don’t have to be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). From Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to Ron Blue’s God Owns It All, there are numerous resources you can provide your church.
#2 – Model generosity
As a church leader, you need to set a good example.
Not only is this true in the way you live and love like Jesus, but it’s also true about the way you and your church handles money.
There are three ways you need to model a generous life for your church:
- Reveal God’s generosity
- Be generous
- Lead a generous church
First, God is a giver.
He gives us the life we live, and he gave us the gift of his son—Jesus Christ.
As Christian, we give because God gave.
Even though this line sounds like a quote fit for a coffee mug, it’s true. This point ties into teaching your church about stewardship and giving. But it’s also important to point out that God models generosity himself. Help your church to reflect his example.
Second, you’ll need to be generous.
I’m not saying you need to let everyone look at your bank account or watch you make a donation. What I’m saying is that you should lead your church members in giving to your church.
Like a general leading his troops into battle, be prepared to lead your church in the areas of money and possessions.
Side note: It’s okay to talk about what you give with your church. You don’t have to share the details. But let them know—when it’s appropriate—that you give, and make sacrifices too.
Finally, lead a generous church.
The way you do this is by encouraging your staff and church leadership to live a generous life and to ensure your church is generous with your church’s budget.
Regarding your church’s budget, make room to give to local missions, foreign missionaries, and members of your church who may need financial support.
Don’t be afraid to talk about how your church gives.
Your church members will appreciate the fact that you’re sharing with them how the money they give is being used, which leads us to the next point.
#3 – Cultivate relationships
Creating a generous church culture is about way more than padding your church’s bank account. It’s primarily about helping your church handle their money in a way that honors God and is good for them and others.
As you preach about money and teach biblical stewardship, be prepared to walk alongside of your church members during this time. Whether it’s one-on-one or in a small group setting, lock arms with your people to help them reorient their life and money in a way that aligns with God’s word.
Here’s the deal:
It’s uncomfortable to talk about money.
No one—including myself—is really cool with opening up their ledger statement or online bank account to show you what they spend their money on.
Don’t expect the members of your church to jump right on board with living a generous life. There are a ton of different things people may have to work through, including:
- Poor spending habits
- Limiting beliefs about money
- Lack of desire to give
- Bad money management habits
- Lack of earnings
- Little money to give
- As you’re involved in the life of your church, ask questions and listen.
You’ll be able to accomplish a lot by preaching about money and providing financial stewardship training. But you’ll be able to help people personally transform when you create a safe environment for individuals and families to talk about their struggles.
One last thing.
As a church leader, consider keeping an eye on your church’s giving patterns. If you or your staff observe changes, in particular, a decrease in giving, then treat this as a clue. There’s probably something going on in the life or heart of your church. This doesn’t mean you have to directly approach members about their giving. But it may be a good idea to be more observant of what’s going on in their lives.
#4 – Have a common vision
At their core, your church members want to make a difference.
They’ve placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and they want others to hear the gospel and experience deliverance from sin, Satan, and death.
To create a giving church culture, one thing you’ll have to do is rally your church members around a common vision.
Here’s what you need to know:
People don’t want to support your administrative or staff costs per se.
What people want to do is support a cause they value.
Sure, your church members know that a part of their donations supports the church’s operational costs. But they also want to know that their giving is helping to further the mission of your church.
Practically speaking, lead people by casting a vision of what you can accomplish together. Help them to clearly see that their financial support allows your church to reach more people with the gospel, feed and clothe people in your community, support foreign missionaries, and extend the love of Jesus however your church is able.
Throughout the year, share stories of transformation.
These can relate to any of the following:
- Commitments to Jesus
- New baptisms
- Increase in attendance
- Small group participation
- Number of volunteers serving
As you cast a vision for your church, remember to avoid abstract ideas. Snatch these thoughts from the skies, and give them life by practically showing your church how their giving makes a difference.
Since storytelling is so powerful, let’s talk a bit more about it.
#5 – Share compelling stories
Your church probably has some “doubting Thomases” sitting around.
You know, the people who can’t believe without seeing.
Don’t worry if you do.
There’s at least one in every crowd.
Sharing stories from the life of your church will not only appeal to the doubters. But telling stories is also a great way to capture the hearts of all church members.
Think about it.
Talking about your annual report by simply sharing accounting facts is enough to lull anyone asleep. Instead, demonstrate God’s work through your church by sharing stories of life transformation.
Here’s one more idea to add to the list above:
Share stories from generous people in your church.
A generous person doesn’t have to be the person who gives the most. Depending on the size of your church, I imagine there are plenty of people who give sacrificially, and I bet they have an amazing story to tell too.
Here are some ideas to consider sharing:
- Stories from first-time givers
- Stories from people who decided to give
- Stories about people getting out of debt
- Stories about people or families making financial sacrifices
- Stories about people being delivered from money worries
There’s not just one story you should or can share.
God is at work in the life of your church, and you probably have a few ideas in mind after reading these words.
As you communicate these stories, your church members will have an opportunity to hear from others about their experiences giving to the church.
#6 – Make giving easy
Days, weeks, and months have passed.
You’ve taught your church about biblical stewardship.
The members of your church see how their money supports your mission.
They’re now ready to give.
Now, to help your church express its generosity, you have to make it easy for them to give.
Placing unnecessary hurdles in the way of people interested in giving may discourage them from making a donation. Practically speaking, you have to provide more than one way for people to give.
There’s nothing wrong with accepting cash and check donations, and it’s totally fine to pass around an offering plate or bucket during your worship service.
But do you know what’s not okay?
Not providing online or mobile giving options.
Here’s the deal:
Every year, more and more people give online.
Whether it’s with their smartphone, tablet, or computer, people are making donations online. Basically, many (perhaps most?) people in your church prefer to give online.
Make it easy for this group of people to give by providing them with digital options they prefer, and you’ll experience an increase in online giving.
The heart of giving
Creating a generous church culture takes time.
If you rush this process, don’t be surprised if you break things—namely, your church members.
Treat this as a dance.
Take a step, and see how the members of your church respond. All of their responses will look different, and there will be times when you step on each other's toes.
In whatever you do, be sure to always point your church to Jesus Christ—the Giver who is the ultimate reason for our generosity.