Steps to generosity

By Paul Clark

With so many articles being written lately about declining receipts in church giving, I’ve taken some time to think about why I believe giving has been strong at Fairhaven Church. We exceeded our 2009 budget by a large amount and we’re ahead of budget this year, all that on top of an $8M capital campaign that’s on track.

  1. Present the budget with stories, pictures, media, vision and enthusiasm. Make it exciting!
  2. Stay out of the weeds. However you need to do it, move the congregation away from discussing details that are too specific to add any value. In my opinion, you should never discuss specific account budgets in a congregational setting. Present the vision and stay at the 50,000-feet level.
  3. Be sure the tools are in place to insure that the church family can give with confidence such as, an annual audit by a qualified CPA. When that audit happens, use it to affirm the church family and your desire to be wise and trustworthy money managers.
  4. Make your money, stewardship, or generosity (whatever you call it in your church) sermon series an annual, multi-week, high-impact event. Make this series as intentional and strategic as any series you’ll present all year long. Our series is going on right now: A Generous Life. It’s four weeks long and has response tools built in to help the church family ACT on their desire to be generous with their lives and their stuff.
  5. As you periodically report finances, connect financial information with vision and results. Finances should never appear as disconnected from the ministry of changed lives. Include metrics if you use them.
  6. Tell stories of impact and transformation. Tell stories of people reached, lives changed and vision made reality. Generosity cuts against the grain of our popular culture, especially in a recession. People need to know that their generosity is accomplishing something eternally significant.
  7. Communicate to the congregation how the church is being generous to the community. Make sure you’re walking the talk. You must model generosity to inspire generosity.
  8. Affirm the congregation’s generosity every chance you get. People need affirmation. That’s just human nature.

You can’t create a cultural shift overnight, but you can move people’s thinking a little at a time if you stay focused and consistent. It’s happening at Fairhaven, though we’ve got a long way to go. But the exciting thing is what can happen down the road as we continue to see God capture people’s hearts and their possessions.

Paul Clark  is executive pastor of operations at Fairhaven Church, Centerville, OH.


3 Responses to “Steps to generosity”

  1. Eric,

    Some good thoughts. Thanks for the dialogue. I believe that generosity must be addressed in a specific way, i.e. through a purposeful sermon series, otherwise people employ “selective hearing” and simply won’t get it. But that said, you’re right about the need to weave generosity throughout the year, when it’s natural and appropriate to the passage/message. Making a regular reference to “giving” scares me a bit though, in that people will begin to feel badgered. At Fairhaven, we consistently affirm the congregation’s gifts and connect their generosity to what’s happening throughout the ministries (stories). That consistent communication makes an obvious, yet more subtle connection between the need for generous funding of the ministries and the church’s ability make a Kingdom impact. Blessings, Eric!

  2. Hi Paul, thanks for sharing this article – some great advice, here.

    I particularly like what you say about making the connection between giving and transformation apparent. Regarding your point under #4…rather than dedicating a sermon series each year that is multi-week and high impact, I’d love to see generosity become a consistent theme in all sermon series—giving as an aspect of each cause we consider, even more than giving as a subject in its own right. The question is whether generosity is one theme among many themes that the Bible talks about or whether it is a consistent thread that runs through just about all of them. Given how often the Bible talks about money, I’m inclined to vote for the latter. If that’s the case, there should be a way to make the giving dimension explicit in just about every sermon, i.e., “In light of what we talked about today, how does this relate to your giving?”

    What do you think?

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