By Kent Woodyard
As a churchgoer, recreational observer of Evangelical trends, and — most significantly — a redeemed (albeit imperfect) follower of Jesus, one of the most encouraging recent shifts I’ve seen in American Christendom is the emphasis more and more pastors are placing on kicking people out the doors of their churches.
Certainly there will always be a place for evangelism and invitation campaigns; but — with the rise of The Missional Church Movement and others like it — churches are behaving less like social clubs and more like military outfits. Instead of collecting members, the focus is shifting toward training, equipping and sending Christians out into the world to make a difference (a real difference!) in their respective neighborhoods, towns, cities and states.
As Pastor Choco de Jesus of New Life Covenant Church said at a conference I attended recently: “Churches need to do more for their cities than occupy a street corner.” Indeed! It seems more and more churches are rising to answer this call, and — as they do — they are discovering that impact-driven ministries can’t be sustained without a generous congregation behind it.
And that’s what I want to talk about today. Generosity is my “beat,” and — as I talk and listen and learn more — I’m becoming ever more convinced that Outreach Campaigns must play a central role in every church’s stewardship ministry. (Yes, even the ones struggling to make ends meet each month.)
How can I say that with such confidence? Because here are just a few of the things outreach ministries, service projects and the like can do for generosity at your church.
1) Inspire by example
This is especially true for the financially strapped churches I mentioned above. Want to inspire your congregation to exhibit the kind of radical, sacrificial generosity we see praised in the scriptures? (Mark 12:41-44) Then, you go first!
Members aren’t the only ones who can (and should) be offering their “first fruits” to The Lord. When your church commits to funding missions, outreach or church planting as the first item on your monthly budget, your members can’t help but notice and follow suit. As Pastor Choco said (in the same address referenced above): “Don’t allow what’s coming in on Sunday mornings to dictate your ministry. Do ministry. God will send the money.”
2) Increase overall giving
With concerns about monthly budgets and operating expenses abounding, pastors and finance secretaries can be forgiven for balking at the thought of further dividing an already small pie. But that concern misses the important role outreach projects can play in expanding the size of the pie!
I’m certain there are members in your congregation who snooze through the offering each week, but who would LOVE to help provide meals for needy families in your community. Or sponsor a missions trip to Haiti. In many cases, a single gift toward a service project is enough to transform a former “Offering Abstainer” into a consistent monthly tither. Just get them giving. God can handle the rest.
3) Helps you cast a BIG vision for your church
The Church has been gifted with the greatest mission statement ever created! (Matthew 28:16-20) And yet, at so many churches, the “call to give” is no more inspiring than, “Bad news folks. We’re [X amount] behind in our budget this year. Won’t you help us close that gap?” Is it any wonder that giving to The Church continues to suffer?
Our conversations around giving must improve. That starts with closing the gap between money and ministry. Why have Stewardship Sunday one weekend, and then an Outreach Sunday on a different weekend? And a Missions Sunday the week after that? We need to stop discussing giving in a vacuum. A straight line should be drawn from the offering to the outreach. Help your congregation see the direct impact their giving is having on their community and on their world. And see if that doesn’t encourage them to give more!
Has your church made Outreach and Missions a focus of your finances? What has the impact been? Share your stories in the comments below!
Kent Woodyard is the Director of Business Development for Mogiv, a multi-channel giving platform created specifically for pastors and churches. When he’s not talking to pastors about giving, Kent enjoys drinking coffee, being outside, and watching Green Bay Packer football — sometimes all at once.