If you’re a pastor, talking about money can be hard. We get it. If you’ve been in ministry for long, you probably can remember a time you talked about giving & it didn’t go well. It’s common knowledge that there are many, many people who believe that “all churches ever do is ask for money.” So, most of the time, pastors don’t talk about generosity unless they absolutely have to- which tends to perpetuate these problems. (We’ll cover that in more detail later.)
However, even though talking about money at church isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to make you break out in a cold sweat. For a limited time, when you sign up for Ministry Pass, we’ll give you 52 offering talks that will help you encourage your congregation to live generously. We use the word “generously,” because that’s really what the practice of giving is about. It’s not about amounts or budgets or even rewards. As a pastor, your primary concern with generosity isn’t, “Will we be able to keep the lights on?” or “Can we hire another staff member?” The primary concern is the condition of people’s hearts.
When people give, they’re expressing that they trust God to provide for their needs. They’re allowing Him to use their resources to make a difference in the lives of the people around them. That’s a spirit worth intentionally cultivating in your congregation.
So, how do you begin talking about generosity? Here are some of our best tips:
9 Best Practices for Encouraging Generosity at Your Church
1. Don’t be afraid to talk about giving and generosity.
We know, we know- this is easier to say than to actually do. Let’s start by setting your mind at ease a little bit: we’re not saying that you can’t preach about anything else or that you have to ask for money all the time. However, talking about generosity is a skill that gets easier with time, so it’s best to start somewhere. Take advantage of the offering talks that come with your Ministry Pass subscription, and make a habit of consistently talking about generosity for a few minutes each week.
Once you have some intentional offering talks under your belt, it’s time to up your game and preach a sermon on generosity! Don’t worry- we’ll guide you there, too. We have plenty of sermon series that will help you preach Biblical messages on generosity. For example, we have one series, called “A Generous Life.” As you preach, you’ll be leading your congregation through a journey of discovering that generosity is much more than money. It’s an issue of the heart.
2. Assume people are already giving and speak to them that way.
Coincidently, using this tip will make it much easier to speak about generosity without fear. That’s because, whether you’re doing a whole sermon series on generosity or just a weekly offering talk, how you speak about it matters. Even if your giving numbers are low, don’t assume people aren’t giving. You have to project what you want to attract.
If “projecting what you want to attract” sounds counterintuitive to you, think of it this way: What are you going to gain by speaking as if people aren’t giving to your church? If you’re preaching from the perspective of “We don’t have enough money!” you’re encouraging people to give out of fear or guilt. You’re failing to thank God for the ways He’s already provided, and you’re risking offending the people who are already giving. Again, this is where the generosity mindset comes in. When we focus on the heart issues behind generosity, it frees us to treat people’s gifts- whatever the size- with thankfulness and honor.
Finally, when you talk to people as if they are already giving, it affirms the generous people in your congregation. At the same time, it makes the people who aren’t giving think, “Hey, I want that! I want to love and serve God with everything He’s given me.”
3. Generosity is not just giving to the church.
Generosity is a value of the church, because it’s a spiritual matter. As such, it’s not just about money- it’s also about being generous in life. The spiritual value of generosity is so important because it’s one of the hardest ways to “die to ourselves,” as Jesus called us to do. Believe it or not, there are people who would much rather give money than something else- time, for example, or maybe even emotional resources.
When you’re trying to encourage generosity, you can’t be constantly seeking financial wins for your church. If that’s your attitude, people will see through it. However, if you’re taking concrete steps to emphasize that generosity is part of a godly life, you’re going to have a lot more success in encouraging people to give.
So, how do you encourage generosity that goes beyond donating to the church? Here are a couple of ideas:
- Provide a resource list of organizations outside of your church that could use financial support or volunteers. These could be local food pantries, pregnancy resource centers, homeless shelters, or even global organizations like Samaritan’s Purse. Obviously, you want to make sure you’re pointing people toward organizations whose mission and vision align with the church and who steward their donations wisely. However, the specific organizations you choose aren’t as important as demonstrating to your people that you believe generosity is important, even when it doesn’t directly benefit the church.
- Teach people to be generous with their time. Giving money is just one aspect of generosity- and while it’s important, being willing to give up our desire to control how we spend our free time is just as spiritually significant. Again, generosity is about dying to self, not our financial ability.
4. Tithe your budget.
Tithing your budget is a way of teaching generosity by example, which speaks volumes. Suddenly, you’re not just telling the people in your church to tithe and donate money to organizations on your resource list- you’re practicing what you preach. At the very least, it’s a way to trust God, model faith, and partner with other organizations that are doing the work of God.
On the preaching side, tithing your church’s budget makes assuming that people are giving (tip #2) and showing people how their giving is making a difference much easier. When you’re tithing your church’s budget, you can say, “You are already not only supporting our church, but others in need. Thank you for your faithfulness.”
5. Communicate what you are doing in the community.
Aside from tithing your budget, make sure that you report on what your church is doing in the community. As a church, we are always looking to help people inside and outside. When your faith community has a chance to live on mission, make sure your entire church knows about it! This not only serves to reinforce your mission, but it’s a powerful (and guilt-free) way to encourage generosity.
People want to know that you’re stewarding their gifts well. It also opens the door for you to talk about giving in a positive light. After all, wouldn’t most of us rather support causes that we know are making a difference, instead of giving out of obligation?
Missionaries are typically excellent at this. If you’ve ever had a missionary visit your church, chances are you heard stories of the amazing work God was doing in their mission field. These stories encourage God’s people and inspire generosity. So, why don’t we talk about our local communities as mission fields? In the end, your people will be more cheerful givers if they’re giving TO something instead of giving out of guilt.
6. Be intentional.
In a recent survey, 77% of pastors said they didn’t prepare something for the giving talk at their church. That’s a big number, and it reveals a bigger issue- our lack of intentionality when it comes to giving.
This relates to something we said earlier about how avoiding the topic of generosity actually plays into the idea that churches are always asking for money. If you only talk about money during a capital campaign, or when the church is behind budget, there’s an added sense of desperation to your words. Instead of leading people to live more like Jesus, you’re forced to do whatever you can to get them to donate to your church.
Because generosity is a primarily spiritual practice, we can’t be lackadaisical about how we teach it. Preparing your weekly offering talks are a great start (and don’t forget, Ministry Pass has those 52 offering talks to help), but you should plan to talk about the impact of generosity in greater detail at least once a quarter. This may seem like a lot, but remember- most people don’t attend church every week. In order for the message to get out, you’ll need to seem like you’re talking about it too much.
Bottom line: You shouldn’t only talk about generosity when you’re doing a capital campaign or you’re behind on budget- that’s missing the whole point!
7. Sunday is just a start.
If you want to cultivate consistent generosity, you can’t relegate it to one day of the week. Talk about it on all channels- not just from the pulpit or during your offering talk. Here are a few ways to encourage generosity throughout the week:
- Send an email recapping a recent service project, and end it by saying, “Thank you for faithfully supporting the work God is doing through [your church].”
- Use social media to share stories of generosity & local opportunities to live it out.
- Have conversations about generosity. Be willing to listen to people’s concerns, and offer resources to help them lead more generous lives, when appropriate.
- Consider offering financial literacy classes at your church, so that people can learn basic principles of stewardship.
8. Prioritize recurring giving.
We live in a subscription society- Netflix, cell phone plans, gym memberships, the list goes on. The reason business owners love this model is simple: it’s convenient, and it keeps a steady stream of money coming in.
Recurring giving can help people live more generously, too. Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons that prevent people from giving. Forgetfulness is one, as are financial concerns, fears, and busy schedules. Recurring giving offers people a way to be generous without having to add writing another check to their to-do list.
At the same time, recurring givers tend to be more consistent givers- once people have committed to giving a certain amount, they’re less likely to think, “Oh, I need to hold onto that!” Once people have set up recurring giving, you have to fight fewer variables when people give. When you’re trying to budget and plan for ministry, you know what you can expect to be able to use. That peace of mind alone is worth making it a priority.
9. Don’t be afraid to challenge people
When you study the teachings of Jesus, you’ll quickly realize that He talks more about money than about heaven and hell combined. Here are just a few examples:
If we know anything about the way Jesus taught, it was that He was intentional when He spoke. So it’s crazy to assume that we, as 21st century pastors, don’t have to challenge people about money- after all, if Jesus talked about it, it was because it has deep spiritual significance.
Ultimately, it’s our job to help people grow in their faith, and talking about generosity is part of that. It may be uncomfortable. After all, no one wants to believe that they’re greedy. However, that very discomfort is required for growth, and it’s okay for you to create moments that challenge people to live for something greater than money. Generous people are unafraid, because they trust God to provide. Their faith is strong, because they’ve seen His faithfulness in their time of need.
Isn’t that worth sharing?