Whenever I talk with pastors and church leaders about generosity, I often hear two premises underlying their assumptions about giving:
1) People will give to the church because the Bible tells them to.
2) When people DON’T give, it typically comes down to a lack of discipline.
To be fair, there is a measure of truth in each of these statements, but the problem with them is that they overlook the important role The Church itself plays in fostering generosity. Yes, at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the giver to give. But it is also the responsibility of the church to create opportunities for generosity. A friend of mine calls these opportunities “giving on-ramps.” I like that.
In the same way that our churches are busy providing “on-ramps” for fellowship, discipleship, service, and worship, we should also be endeavoring to provide multitudinous ways for members to engage in lifestyles of generosity. Here are five of my favorite on-ramps for giving.
1) The Offering Moment
Somehow, one of the oldest “on-ramps” has now become one of the most staid and ineffective. At some churches I’ve attended, the offering was routinely taken with little more than a hasty, “we’re now going to take a moment to collect the offering.” It was almost apologetic. With this approach, it’s easy to see why so many people don’t participate. And why so many churches have stopped passing the plate altogether.
Poorly executed offering talks represent some of the greatest generosity “misses” in the church today. And all it takes to improve them is a bit of time and preparation! Take 30 seconds before the offering to thank your givers for one specific thingthat their giving has helped your church accomplish. Cast a vision for the year ahead. Share a story of a life transformed by giving. Just do something! Pastors get 52 opportunities a year to “preach” on generosity. Don’t let these opportunities slip away!
2) Outreach Projects/Special Giving Campaigns
At nearly every church there are multiple ministries running simultaneously. Missions, outreach, youth, singles, seniors, young couples, the list goes on. Each of these specific ministries represents an opportunity for generosity, yet far too often churches offer only a “general fund” for giving. While we cannot overlook the importance of The General Operating Fund, it is also important to recognize the role that outreach and targeted giving campaigns play in increasing overall giving.
I can almost guarantee that there are members in your congregation who snooze through the offering each week, but who would LOVE to help provide meals for needy families in your community. Or maybe sponsor a high school student to spend a week serving in Haiti. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter to provide these opportunities! Find ways throughout the year to connect your givers with the needs in your community. Remember, the goal here is to simply get people giving. In many cases, a single gift to the Benevolence Fund is enough to transform a former “Offering Abstainer” into a consistent monthly tither.
3) Online Giving
Full disclosure: I’m employed by an online giving platform. So, yes, I’m not exactly unbiased on this matter, but that doesn’t mean I’m uncritical! After three years in the trenches of stewardship technology, here is my critical analysis of online giving: it works! And it works especially well when it comes to new givers. In fact, one industry leader reports that as many as 1 in 4 online givers are first time givers. That fact alone is worth our consideration.
But consider this as well: 20% of Americans carry less than $20.00 cash on them at a given time. Conversely, the average gift given through Mogiv last year was $166.06. A not insignificant delta. In our increasingly digital age, online giving creates opportunities for larger gifts, more consistent giving, and first time givers. Is it any wonder that it has been consistently linked to increases in overall giving?
4) Automated Giving
How important is automated giving to churches? So important that I once wrote an entire eBook on the subject! And it’s easy to see why. When giving is automated, it is consistent and reliable, which is an advantage both for givers and church finance teams. Church teams are able to predict in advance what their monthly giving will look like, which makes ministry planning much easier. Members are able to ensure that illness, travel, cancelled services, or just plain forgetfulness will never come between them and their gift to your church.
Better yet, it’s incredibly easy to implement! Most banks will allow customers to setup monthly auto-payments right to the church. Any online giving platform worth it’s salt will offer a recurring giving option. Or – if you want to go low-tech and low-budget – churches have been using physical “pledge cards” to setup recurring gifts for decades now. Find the solution that works for your church and make it happen!
5) Mobile Giving
You don’t need statistics to know that smartphone usage has exploded in the past five years. All you need to do is look around your sanctuary after (maybe during?) a service! But here are some statistics anyway:
- 58% of adults are smartphone owners (83% of adults aged 18 - 29)
- 63% of adults use their phones to access the Internet
- 34% of adults say their phone is the primary way they access the Internet
- 81% of adults use their phones to send and receive text messages
What do these numbers have to say about generosity? Simply put: your church needs a mobile giving strategy. From church apps, to text giving, to mobile responsive giving forms, mobile giving comes in many shapes and sizes. Different options will work better for different congregations, but your church can no longer afford to ignore this rapidly growing giving channel. When it comes to connecting with disengaged givers – especially young givers – mobile is the way to go!