By Chuck Klein and Dean Byler
In the September / October 2014 issue of Church Executive, we launched our discussion on “Church Growth Essentials” by explaining how heart transformation sets the tone for church growth. We built on that in the November / December 2014 issue by looking at the role generosity plays in fueling growth, as viewed through the lens of “Big Picture” thinking.
In this issue, we wrap up our three-part series by exploring how to create momentum in the heart of the generous giver.
If you were to ask a random sampling of your staff and key lay leaders to write out your church’s vision and / or mission, how varied would their answers be? Many churches think they are doing a good job articulating these concepts, but we routinely discover otherwise.
How often do you ask your churchgoers this question: Do you “get” what we’re trying to accomplish? How well is your church really doing in communicating vision? Do you even want to wrestle with the answers?
Anyone with resources — whether believers or not — will only give generously to what they understand and value. If your givers can’t articulate the result, or if they don’t fully support the outcome that their gift is meant to achieve, they won’t give much. Typically, they won’t give consistently, and they certainly won’t give lavishly or at great sacrifice.
Clearly communicating vision provides both the roadmap and the destination for the generous heart. Over-and-above giving will be sustained in your congregation only when individual motivation aligns with corporate vision. Generous people must know where you’re going as a ministry, while grasping a clear understanding of the process you propose to get there.
Consider taking your church through a “Vision” series, or invite your leadership team to a weekend “Vision Retreat.” Use your Sunday school and / or small group environments to foster discussion on how this topic relates to your church, to households, and to individual destinies.
“[I]f your church is growing simply because more people come in the front door than leave via the back door, then it’s time for a serious look at why — and how — you do what you do.”
Promote creative giving
Many people, when challenged on the topic of giving generously, respond similarly: “I’ve been a believer (or attended ABC Church) for 25 years, and I know how to give.” While that is probably true with respect to giving out of their income, we have found that most donors have never been informed or challenged in the area of creative giving. Even though income is a logical place to start, for many in your church there’s already too much month at the end of their money. Most households work with a finite amount that can be given out of income.
In our work with churches, we bring great focus to this topic. We invest significant time developing a fresh perspective within their giving base. From tax-beneficial asset contributions, to numerous “why didn’t I think of that” ideas, we nurture prayerful creativity. Our training prompts people to consider the following points, among others.
Appreciated assets given directly to your church entitle the donor to avoid paying any capital gains tax while still getting a fair market value deduction based on its current value. Land, homes, investments and retirement accounts are just a few of the possibilities in this category.
When it comes to “stuff,” we move it, we store it, we insure it, and we dust it. Items in this category might be collectibles such as stamps, coins or memorabilia, or perhaps valuable antiques, art or jewelry. How about giving a 1966 Mustang Shelby GT worth $200,000? (Yep. True story!)
We talk “sacrifice,” but we need to walk it more purposefully. According to USA Today, the average family eats out more than four times per week. Five-hundred families giving up a typical $40 meal, every week for a year, can increase campaign or general budget giving by more than $1 million!
Series Summary: Assess > Adjust > Advance
Forgive the cliché, but if your church is growing simply because more people come in the front door than leave via the back door, then it’s time for a serious look at why — and how — you do what you do.
Church growth must be assessed in the context of advancing God’s Kingdom, which is inextricably tied to making disciples. Givers who grow in relationship with God and with others, and who buy in to your vision, are going to be inclined to stick around, get involved and actively support what you’re doing. If that’s not happening, ask the hard questions and take the bold steps needed to move your church off the status quo treadmill, and start making true forward progress.
Chuck Klein leads Impact Stewardship, a capital stewardship ministry headquartered in Nashville, TN. Serving churches for more than 15 years, he brings a seasoned perspective to all aspects of church financial health, guiding churches to fulfill their vision through heart transformation and radical participation.
Dean Byler serves as Impact’s Education Coordinator and Director of Business Development.