No matter if you are a small church or a multi-site megachurch, ministry funding will always be an important conversation. Here's the good news though: generosity is contagious, so one way we can inspire generosity is to start talking openly about its benefits when it comes to our faith and family.
Recently, four generosity leaders connected to have a strategic conversation around generosity, analytics, and discipleship. The conclusion was that building a culture of generosity was an intentional effort that begins with strong leadership and vision.
Why Does Generosity Seem so Elusive?
Building a culture of generosity can mean many things. It can vary from simply fully funding your ministry plan to launching into a capital campaign for an expansion project or debt elimination. Either way, it will be helpful to identify the most common myths about generosity.
Much of the gap that exists between a leader’s expectations and a disciple’s habits are influenced by how well they’ve been discipled in the area of generosity. You can’t assume that everyone comes to the generosity conversation with a healthy and complete perspective. In fact, there are many negative experiences believers bring with them into any conversation about money, especially generosity.
It’s important to develop your donors’ biblical understanding and habits over time through intentional discipleship. One of the best tools for this is your weekly offering talk, through which you have 52 opportunities to connect giving to life-changing ministry, the donors need to give as a spiritual discipline, and to express gratitude to your donors. When people recognize the abundance that is in their lives and the impact they can make through your ministries, it is empowering and transformative.
Where Do the Myths Come From?
Home: You can’t assume everyone saw generosity modeled for them at home. And without a role model, many people are left with roadblocks that they may not even recognize until much later in life.
Peers: If you don’t have someone in your circle of friends or influence who is practicing generosity, then you won’t see the joy others have when they practice generosity. It’s hard to describe it to someone else until they’ve seen it. And it’s hard to explain it until you’ve experienced it yourself.
Church: Unfortunately, many people bring with them unhealthy experiences related to generosity that hold them back from experiencing it today. You don’t have to apologize for it because the gap didn’t result from your leadership. However, you will have to recognize and resolve it as part of your discipleship strategy.
14 Popular Myths
There are certainly challenges ahead. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to navigate the uncertainty you’re experiencing right now. It can feel impossible because you’re likely experiencing things you’ve never experienced before. But with the right tools, strategies, and insights, you can find your way forward.
The people in your church and ministry are already talking about it. The pandemic has made everyone more grateful for what they have and more aware of the challenges others are facing. Philanthropy, overall, is growing. But the sad reality is that giving to religion, per Giving USA’s recent data, is falling. If you’re not talking about generosity, you are losing the opportunity to provide a Biblical perspective on the issue. Everyone is being discipled, but far too often, it is by others instead of the church.
If you’re only paying attention to total contributions, you may be missing the key trends that will help you understand the health of your generosity culture. Leading indicators will tell you what is likely to happen long before you see it manifest within your actual contributions. This means you have the opportunity to know if your decisions today will produce the results you want in the future.
This is a key part of your worship experience, whether that is online or on campus. When you tell stories about how generosity is making a difference in the lives of people in your church, your community, and around the world, you reinforce a key narrative that your donors are making a difference through their giving.
Every number tells a story. When you are able to clearly articulate how your church is helping others through the generosity of your donors, you are providing evidence of an eternal dividend. The greatest evidence of generosity is captured in the story of a life that has been changed.
Donors are more empowered than ever with information about where they can give and make the greatest impact. If you’re not measuring effectiveness, you’re not going to be as compelling as you could be. That means you’ll be at a disadvantage with a growing number of donors, even in the church, who want to know the impact of their giving.
Giving is an outward expression of an inward commitment. When people give to you in ways where you can connect the donor with their gift, they want you to notice. They are telling you they are standing with you, in solidarity, and believe in your ministry plan. This is a moment to celebrate, and that begins with saying thank you.
Building a culture of generosity is a proactive move. Only talking about money when contributions are down is a reactive one. Your donors don’t want to bail you out. Instead, they want to help you accelerate toward Kingdom impact.
Rather than thinking about your ministry plan as a one-time event, you should use it to frame your core messaging throughout the year. This also affords you the opportunity to create a common measurement framework you can use to demonstrate progress toward your ministry goals throughout the year.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Your financial leaders want to help you succeed. That means they want to contribute their wisdom, perspective, and influence as much as they want to support you financially. When you bring them close, they will help you achieve more than you ever thought possible.
Funding your ministry budget today takes a year-round strategy. Most churches with well-funded ministry plans focus on developing generosity year-round. Put the same emphasis you do on developing your annual ministry spending plan (ministry budget) into developing an annual ministry funding plan that is multi-dimensional, multi-channel, and deeply integrated into your discipleship programs.
When you try to do it on your own, most churches find they are limited by their own training and experience. Doing what you have done in the past and expecting a similar result is an especially risky proposition when so much around you is changing. This strategy is one of the main reasons a recent Horizons survey found 44% of church giving is down in 2021 compared to 2020. An experienced guide can help you develop a generosity strategy that is uniquely designed for your church and will help you deliver the impact you want to achieve.
Debt isn’t an exciting subject for many people. But there is nothing that will free up your capacity to do more ministry than eliminating debt from your financial commitments. This is also a key opportunity to motivate your financial leaders to change the future of your ministry capacity in a powerful way. Debt and deferred maintenance campaigns have been especially successful during the pandemic.
While capital giving is often an important part of a successful ministry funding strategy, be sure that your strategy is an extension of your generosity development strategy. You can fundraise without the Holy Spirit, but our calling is not to “get more money” but to grow disciples. Regardless of if you are funding your annual ministry plan, raising capital funds, or developing planned giving, your focus must be on what you want for those you are working with, not what you want from them.
Wherever You Are, Grow from There
You have the opportunity to influence your church and ministry in a powerful way by intentionally building a culture of generosity. When people begin to see their time, talents, treasures, temple, and testimonies as opportunities to invest in Kingdom ministry that will make a meaningful and measurable impact, then you will see them grow as disciples of Jesus.
If you want to change your culture, begin by growing disciples. Generosity is more than just funding the ministry. It is about helping people recognize their abundance and the agency they have to use that abundance to help others around them. Sometimes it’s financial and sometimes it isn’t. Either way, it will change lives forever.
Generosity isn’t out of reach. If you’re unsure where to start, begin by signing up for Giving365, our free, on-demand generosity and stewardship resource library. And if you'd like to connect with a certified, trained, and experienced coach, we can connect you with someone who has helped leaders like you experience how a culture of generosity can shift your ministry potential in a powerful way.