As a pastor or church leader, you know there are some topics that are easy to talk about, and then there are some that are just so so difficult. Probably the number one hard topic that comes to mind has something to do with money.
Do you ever feel like money is a subject that no one wants to hear any more about, there’s nothing new to say, and no matter what is said it won’t change what people think? We get that, but there’s more to discuss regarding money than asking people to give. And that’s stewardship.
We’ve all heard the buzz words and familiar verses.
Giving. Tithing. Talents. Generosity.
Malachi 3:10 – “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse…”
Proverbs 3:9 – “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first-fruits of all your produce.”
Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
And of course, 2 Corinthians 9:7 – “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
All of this boils down to stewardship and why giving isn’t just writing a check or figuring out what’s leftover after all of the bills have been paid.
A culture of stewardship is Biblical and necessary for your church and its needs because without it ministries and programs won’t happen, salaries won’t get paid, missions can’t be supported, and buildings can’t get repairs.
And none of these go away. They are ongoing needs for church and people growth.
As a result, we believe there are ten areas a church needs to address annually regarding stewardship.
What are your financial goals? This will require discussion with the pastor, church leaders, staff, and committee members. If you have been meeting the budget, do you think that’s a good place to “stick” or is there room for a budget increase? If there are specific areas of need, like a facility improvement or a new ministry program, planning will need to take place to address these. What are the actual costs? Are there other, better options or other needs that would take precedence?
Planning what needs to be done is important, but so is when. Take time to map out when things need to happen. Does the church need a new heating system? That’s time-sensitive and waiting until November is probably not going to work. Are you planning to have a Vacation Bible School in June? If so, consider the financial needs that must be met before then.
Spend time mapping out your financial needs and goals and what these look like throughout the year.
Data can provide a unique insight into your church’s financial situation. Consider the following about the givers in your church:
What percentage of people give regularly?
How many times, on average, does a person visit the church before giving?
Do people give more in church or online?
What percentage of people tithe?
Has giving increased proportionately from five years ago?
Which months see the greatest giving? The worst?
What is the average age of the regular givers?
Does giving increase with special events?
How many new givers did you have last year?
How many regular givers/tithers did you lose last year?
Knowing the answer to these questions, for starters, allows for better planning and understanding of the overall financial picture.
Each year evaluate your current financial systems. This evaluation might include considering how, when, and where you are asking people to give. Are people able to give other than during the Sunday church service? If someone wants to give but isn’t able to be at church, is there a way to give?
What about visitors? Do visitors know and understand words like tithing, offering plates, and stewardship? Would a visitor, or even a regular church attender, know where the money is used?
Try sharing stories and showing pictures of where the money goes. For example, if you’ve helped a family in need, share that. When Vacation Bible School is over, give an update in the service of the number of children who attended, the activities that were offered, and how many children came from other churches or who have no church affiliation. These conversations help your congregation see what being a good steward is all about.
Some churches publish their budget on the church’s website. This kind of transparency helps to see where the money goes and how the church is being a good steward of what is given.
Churches help people grow in various ways…in their faith, in their relationships with others, in their service to others, and hopefully in their financial training. We believe that there are four stages to becoming a generous church giver.
These are struggling, stability, surrender, and sacrifice. Understanding what each of these means and how to disciple your people and move them from one level to the next is vital to increasing your church’s giving.
Being a first-time giver is a big deal. It may be the first time a person has given in YOUR church, or it may be the first time that person has ever given to ANY church. You probably won’t know which it is, but that doesn’t matter. Celebrate that person. This shouldn’t be done publicly and an amount should never be mentioned, but a hand-written note of thanks is extremely meaningful and doesn’t take long to write. For example,
Thank you so much for your financial gift. Your donation helps us as we serve our community and beyond by caring for the needs of others and sharing the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to have you as a financial steward at _____ Church.
As Bob Dylan sang, “For the times they are a-changin’,” and it couldn’t be more true for how people manage their money. Think about it. You can now use your phone to schedule and pay bills, transfer and deposit checks, or send money to friends for last night’s shared dinner and Uber ride. Gone are the days where everyone wants an offering envelope, writes a check, and places it in the offering plate as it is passed on Sunday mornings. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you’ll still have some who want that, but no longer can that be your only system of giving.
There are many options for digital giving. In fact, INJOY even has its own platform for online giving. If your church wants more information on this, you can find it at https://www.giveinjoy.com/. GiveInjoy has some of the lowest rates in the country. Check them out today!
Once you have started with your digital giving platform, be sure to provide clear and repeated instructions for your congregation, emphasizing the security and ease of giving.
There are times when special offerings will be taken, and these might include:
Supporting a specific missions initiative
Replenishing food pantry supplies
Assisting a community project
A love offering for a visiting musician or speaker
Unexpected expenses or repairs
For these giving opportunities, decide when they will be taken and how this will be communicated and executed. Give your church attendees advance notice and multiple reminders that the offering will be taken, why it is being taken, and when and how it can be given. People like to know what their money is used for, and this is especially true when it is an “out of the ordinary” time of giving.
A unique idea is to offer a giving challenge. If people have been skeptical of tithing or have never given it a shot, try this out. Challenge your congregation to give for the first time if they never have, for a certain time period. We say 90 days, for example.
At INJOY, we call this our 90 Day Giving Challenge. Encourage them to watch what God does in this time period (see Malachi 3). This is a way you can shepherd your people through the process of testing the Lord in their tithe for the first time, and we want to help you create this experience for your people.
This can be an amazing time of celebration. Excitement is generated when people share their stories and what they see God doing, spurring others on to join the challenge. Take time during the service or in a newsletter to give updates and testimonials of what is happening as a result of the challenge.
Education is important. For our purposes here, financial education is key.
Try the following:
Offer help with personal finances and how to get those in order. There are many tools you can use, such as Joe Sangl’s free resource you can access [here].
Preach sermons that help define Biblical giving and stewardship and why we are called to give.
Hold workshops or seminars on financial planning and budgeting. These could be taught by local Christian businesspeople.
Provide specific information and learning opportunities for the various demographics represented in your church. For example, recent college graduates are just beginning to earn an income and learning to budget. Young couples are realizing that adding children to the family adds a whole new financial element… and, “wow! how will we ever pay for college?” Empty nesters are thinking about retirement and how that looks financially for them. Every person in your church has a different financial situation, and there’s not a “one size fits all” plan, so be prepared to offer more than one financial educational solution.
Some people will tithe. And sometimes you will also have those who are gifted givers. They give far more than a 10 percent tithe. In fact, they have the ability and willingness to give abundantly. This is a blessing (to them and to the church) and should be celebrated. Privately. It is never appropriate to recognize these gifted givers publicly by name or amount given, but it is acceptable and important to thank them. This celebration can be done face-to-face, with a phone call, or a written thank you and a reminder that the church appreciates their “gift of giving.”
Becoming a church with a culture of stewardship takes effort but is definitely worth it! If you have questions or need more information, consider talking with one of our stewardship experts.