Join us over the next five months as we take an honest look at the ways our churches handle a sometimes uncomfortable topic: giving. Originally written for Fishhook.
“God loves a cheerful giver! It’s more blessed to give than to receive. We want you to want to give. We’re going to take this time and collect the offering - would you consider giving?”
You can hear a pin drop amid the shuffling sanctuary as some reach to unzip purses or wrangle their wallets free from back pockets. As many as make moves to give, others remain uncomfortably quiet, shifting as the offering basket passes from one hand to the next.
The scene is an endless loop. Week after week, month after month, year after year. You talk, your congregation listens silently. Some give. Some don’t.
Have you ever noticed that when it comes to awkward conversations, we tend to speed through our task as quickly as possible, hardly pausing to take a breath, let alone stopping long enough to let another speak?
Are you relying on the weekly offering to disciple financial stewards?
Pastor Jeff Manion leads Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. With multiple campuses and over 25 years experience, he’s familiar with the challenge of talking about giving with your church. Rather than relying on the one or two minutes before an offering to prepare your congregation to give, Pastor Jeff suggests shifting the focus away from a one-sided monologue into an on-going dialogue of training and conversation.
Monologues are ultimately self-centered and self-serving.
Dialogues seek to present different ideas and leave room for conversation about those ideas—and maybe even alternative courses of actions too.
Pastor Jeff is straightforward, “The offering baskets give us the opportunity to say please and thank you, but that’s not where we attempt to do our training.”
The time you budget for an offering on Sunday morning will never be enough to disciple your church into good and faithful stewards. Instead, try turning that monologue into a dialogue.
Invest in Training
Ada Bible Church focuses on interactive Biblical financial training, which is by nature a participatory exercise. At your own church, this training might include a sermon series or the announcement before the weekly offering, but it will encompass much more.
Consider holding small groups to talk through the basics of stewardship, emphasizing discussion more than prepared material. Crown Financial Ministries or Andy Stanley’s Balanced are good places to start.
Figure out what the barriers to giving are and work to dismantle them
Try this exercise: invite your congregation to a time of sharing. Ask them why they give; ask them why they don’t give. Is it because you aren’t offering different ways to give? Do people not have enough money? Would they like to know how the money’s being used?
Imagine a church that actually creates a safe place where people feel comfortable answering those questions.
Depending on the symptoms, the prescription will vary. Maybe it’s something as simple as bringing digital giving to your church. It’s so important to make sure you aren’t leaving some out of the discussion by only offering one method of giving. It could be that there are a lot of younger people in your church who want to give, but don’t carry cash or check.
Maybe it’s more deeply rooted, and your focus should rest on financial discipleship or increasing transparency.
Engaging your congregation in a dialogue, rather than a monologue, brings the discussion down from an amorphous, unattainable, and often awkward ask to something you’d feel comfortable enough talking about around the kitchen table.
Engage your congregation in conversation
The best part about this sort of training is that it requires engagement. It requires your church to take an active role in their financial lives, regarding decisions made about spending, saving, and giving as interwoven ones, not mutually exclusive.
Speak with your congregation like stakeholders, sharing vision and inspiring them to take their role in it seriously. You want your congregation to legitimately buy-in, realizing the Church is just made up of a bunch of committed disciples of Christ, not a “corporation.” And it’s a responsibility they share to be able to support that work with time, treasure, and talents.
Kim Schneiderman, L.C.S.W. and author of Step Out of Your Story, puts it best, “While I may be tempted to redirect conversations that make me nervous, I know what I must ultimately do—put down my megaphone, toss out the script, take a deep breath, and say, ‘yes, I am listening.’ And mean it.”
If you want to dig in deeper and continue your church’s giving audit, subscribe for the next four posts in the series!