How would you complete the following statement? “More ministry dollars would allow us to _______________?” Let me suggest a few potential responses. More ministry dollars would allow us to:
I could go on and on. Let’s face it, we could all use more money for more ministry. Not only that, but as a pastor of a local church one of our key responsibilities is to see that our ministries are funded. If you don’t believe that, ignore the finances and see what happens and who gets the blame.
However, this is much more than about avoiding blame. The critical issue here is how do we finance the vision of the church?
There are two critical components. We must 1) discover a shared vision and 2) create a culture of generosity. The focus of this article is going to be on creating a culture of generosity. At the same time, the starting point for generosity is always vision. Let me begin by defining what I mean by generosity culture: Generosity Culture is an intentional process to develop generous disciples who continually fund the vision. God’s vision to Kingdom expansion through the local church is always a primary driver for generosity. As we often put it, in the organization in which I serve, “Clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything.”
Imagine for a moment leading a church with clear vision for Kingdom expansion, with an abundant harvest of generous disciples who are committed to partnering together to fund the vision that God has for that particular people (for more information on vision please visit www.thevisionroom.com).
Once we do the hard work of vision, what are the key processes for developing a culture of generosity? Let me suggest five specific processes we must address. They include:
Name that Depicts
The beginning place for creating a generous culture is to name the culture you want to create. A good example of this is Life Church in Edmonton. Many of us benefit from their generosity. They are the creators of the Bible App. The Bible App is a free app that many of us use everyday on our smart phones. While they could literally make millions of dollars selling downloads of the app for a very nominal fee, they choose to give it away. This isn’t the only thing they give away. They also provide many of their programming resources to churches free of charge. The reason they do this and are able to do it is their culture of generosity. However, what I want to point out to you is whenever they talk about generosity they refer to it as irrational generosity. In other words, there is nothing rational about the kind of generosity they live out. As a result of naming the “what” of generosity they are developing thousands of irrationally generous disciples that are partnering with them to finance the vision that God has given them for Kingdom impact.
What’s in a name? Everything is in a name. How you talk about generosity, the words that you use will go a long way in creating a generous culture. How do you talk about generosity? Go ahead and take a stab at naming your generosity culture.
Principles that Define
I’ll never forget the words of a dear friend of mine, Casey Graham, the founder of Giving Rocket. Casey, referring to an organization I was starting, said, “Your organization will be generous because you are generous.” Here’s the point, if you want your church to be generous then it must start with the point leader, but not end there. You are going to reproduce who you are. If you are a generous person, then those around you are going to be generous. At the same time, adding intentionally to your generosity and the culture you desire to create goes a long way. This is what I’m referring to as principles that define our generous culture.
When we work with churches related to creating a generous culture, we use specific tools that are designed to help them identify their core principles around their generosity model. This is an important step to multiplying that very culture. A good example of a principle that defines our generosity culture is Model the Way, which is illustrated in the text box above.
Pathway that Guides
Often we stand behind our podiums or on our stages and declare people “ought” and “should” be faithful to God by giving a Tithe, but we offer them no pathway for onboarding. There are at least two challenges with this approach.
First, God wants so much more for His people than simply to give a Tithe. Imagine for a moment a people who have no limit to what they are willing to share to see God’s Kingdom advance. Imagine for a moment, as a church, living with a surplus where you can quickly release resources to seize strategic opportunities and moments. This can and should be a reality, but it begins with moving from a tithing mentality to a generosity mindset.
Secondly, in my work with churches, and specifically doing analysis of their giving patterns, there is only a small percentage of people, in most churches, that we can classify as Biblical tithers. I believe that people often find it too challenging to go from a non-giver or a new-giver to a biblical tither. When this happens they often opt out of giving all together. A more systematic approach that takes them from non-giving to giving, giving to regular giving, regular giving to tithing, and finally tithing to giving beyond the tithe is a potential alternative.
For us this means developing an intentional pathway we call the Generous Discipleship Pathway. This pathway uses your data to determine the different types of givers in your church body in an ascending order. Our goal is to develop a clear path with intentional steps that will allow someone to navigate the journey from a non-giver to one who gives a significant amount of their time, talent and treasure to kingdom work. Without going into details, the illustration below represents one church’s Generous Discipleship Pathway.
Rhythms that Ensures
A fourth component is a rhythm that ensures a Generosity Culture. Our goal is to assess all of your current financial and stewardship systems to determine what exists and what is missing in the area where we inspire, teach, advance, and administer generosity. We add a level of clarity by looking at each one of these threads through the lens of a church’s rhythms, which are most often: weekly, monthly, quarterly, seasonally, and annually. In doing this we build out a strategic plan that supports our generosity culture.
Inspire. By Inspire we are referring to what happens in our large group environments most often associated with our worship environments. Planning our Inspire thread would cover things like preaching on giving, how we receive our offerings, the stories of generosity that we celebrate together, etc., in those worship environments.
Teach. For Teach we are referring to our rhythm of teaching a solid biblical theology on money with all age groups. This would include basic financial training for adults, age appropriate training for preschool, children, and students, etc. If you refer to the Generous Discipleship Pathway, it involves developing and identifying resources and curriculum for every milestone along the pathway.
Advance. When it comes to financing the vision by creating a generosity culture, nothing is more important and more overlooked than the Advance thread. By advance we are referring to how we work with key leaders and donors to advance large financial gifts. Churches that have resources to advance the gospel have a key donor strategy and intentionality to how leaders relate to these key donors. Churches that often struggle when it come to financial resources seldom have any kind of key donor strategy and usually resist implementing one.
Manage. The final thread in the Generosity Culture is the Manage thread. How we handle and manage the financial resources we are entrusted with are paramount when it comes to building a generous culture. This includes all aspects of management and administration including how we set and manage the church’s budget. Many churches have a habit of setting a budget larger than the one they set the previous year. This is almost always a bad idea and a bad practice. Our goal with a generosity culture is to increase giving, while decreasing spending, in order to build a surplus of resources for growth and Kingdom impact. This is one simple example of what it means to manage our resources.
An Initiative that Launches
Once the previous components have been carefully developed and implemented, we are now ready to launch our Generosity Culture. We most often do this by developing a four to five week spiritual initiative that we launch as a series during our weekly worship rhythm. Our goal through this initiative is to introduce everyone to the Generous Discipleship Pathway, encourage them to assess where they are, and offer them practical steps for moving to the next milestone. This can be a fun and exciting way to begin discipling your entire church body in generosity.
Let’s face it, we could all use more money for more ministry. At the same time, it is more than simply about more money. It’s about taking an entire congregation on a journey, through an intentional process for developing generous disciples who continually and intentionally fund the vision God has for you.
For more information don’t hesitate in reaching out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Putman is founder of PTG and a Lead Navigator for Auxano.