One of the major reasons church giving is in decline is that we often ask for gifts in a way that causes failure rather than success. Our “ask” leads to failure. Let me explain by giving you two examples.
A couple of years ago in the midst of the summer a church sent me an appeal letter to give that was mailed out to all their members. The first paragraph began by telling how they were behind budget and that their electric bill was very high due to the heat of summer. They then asked their members to give additional funds. Seriously, you want me to give to help pay the electric bill? By the way this church has a $2 million dollar budget and runs close to 1,000 in worship. They do a lot of things right but they were asking to fail with that appeal letter.
A few years ago my wife attended a Bible study where the leader got up in front of several hundred women and said the following. “We have not found anyone who loves the Lord enough to help us in our children’s area.” I want to believe the lady who said that regretted saying it later. I hope so at any rate. She may have been frustrated in her lack of recruiting anyone. The situation might be dire in terms of volunteers. Still, it was asking to fail. That kind of comment never gets the right response. Even if someone does respond it all too often is for the wrong reasons and ultimately no one wins.
Too Often Churches Ask Using Guilt
I find that we in the church world use guilt all the time. It is amazing that we celebrate and sing about grace and then turn right around and try to guilt people into serving or giving. When it comes to stewardship guilt is the wrong method to use to increase your offerings. While preaching guilt laden sermons might increase the offering that Sunday those that struggle with giving will not make long term changes in how they approach stewardship. They will either forget what you said or worse, leave your church for somewhere else. It is asking to fail.
Guilt puts burdens on people’s backs. Love puts a passion in people’s hearts. When I serve or give out of guilt it’s a burden on my back that weighs me down. I will quit, stop giving or move on. When it is something in my heart then there is no weight but joy in serving and giving.
People will give when they know their gift matters. I believe the vast majority of Christians know they ought to give. Why is it then that most of our conversation and preaching is what I call “ought to preaching.” Instead why not show them what their gifts do? The best way to motivate people to give is to show them that their gift matters. Let me give you some suggestions in how to do that.
Show them God’s promises to those that do give. He has promised to open up the windows of heaven to those that give. While we don’t give so that we will get it none the less helps me know that when I give God will give back to me. Talk about a return on investment.
Be positive rather than negative. Sermons on giving do not have to be a drag to listen to. If you set the mood right at the start you can gain the hearing of those that you are preaching to. A positive approach will always get better results than a negative one.
Offer them help. If you truly want to develop generous givers in your church then you need to offer help. There are many programs out there that you can use in your church. Find one that fits your church and regularly offer that to your members. While it might take a year or two to get them up to speed it will pay off in the long run.
Teach stewardship regularly. The church does not talk about money too much. The church does not talk about money enough! It is not that we preach on giving too often that turns people off it is how we typically preach on the subject. .
Take some time to honestly evaluate how you are motivating people to give and serve. Are you guilty of guilt? Look over the notes of your last sermon on giving. Was it based upon grace or law? Think back on the offering times in the last few services. Was guilt used to attempt to get people to give? Look over any past letters and emails you have sent out about giving. Were they based on guilt or love? Guilt is the work of the flesh. We need people to serve and give. We simply need them to do so for the right reasons. Not because WE made them feel guilty.
Mark Brooks- The Stewardship Coach
Founder and President, The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions