By Tobin Perry
Developing generous givers isn’t about your church’s budget. It’s about discipleship. Jesus’ commission to make disciples and teach them everything he commanded (Matt. 28:18–20) means teaching people that giving is part of the church’s mission.
In difficult economic times, people naturally cling to their money and fight calls to give it away. So how do you foster generous giving in tough times? Start with these five actions.
1. Tie your church’s vision to generosity
You’ve heard the adage that people give to vision, not need. True, your church has needs. You need to pay salaries, utilities, ministry costs, etc. Well and good, but recognize that most people do not give to those needs. They give to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
In times of financial difficulties, that’s even more important. Make the effort to show the correlation between giving and your ministry plans. You may think it’s obvious that giving will be important as you start a new ministry or engage a new community with the gospel, but it’s often not clear to those sitting in the pews.
2. Have a strategy in place to nurture givers
Especially in recessions, it’s easier to cultivate those who have already given than to encourage first-time gifts. Your givers already know your ministry. They already have a level of financial commitment to your work.
You need a strategy to help people take their next steps toward more generosity. You want to turn first-time givers into occasional givers and occasional givers into regular givers (and eventually into proportional and sacrificial givers). If you have a church management system, you can create an automated development process through a series of nurture emails that help people take these steps.
3. Make generous giving easier through technology
Giving is always tough. It’s particularly difficult during a recession. You don’t want to put artificial barriers to giving in front of people who genuinely want to give. Good giving technology makes generosity easier by allowing people to give whenever God leads them to do so.
If you’ve not yet invested in an effective digital giving solution, now is the time to do so. The recent COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings have likely accelerated the digital revolution that has been on the move for the last few decades. More and more people will engage with your church digitally in the coming months and years. A good, easy-to-use digital giving solution ensures people can give even if they don’t come to your campus to worship.
4. Model generosity as a church
Sometimes churches are tempted to be less generous during tough times because they anticipate tight budgets. While it’s always critical to be a good steward, make cutting ministry expenditures the last resort. Do what you can to trim administrative costs, but leave yourself the freedom to help people as much as possible.
Of course, this is important because needs in your community are likely climbing. Your response to great need will tell the people around you whether you really believe what you’re preaching each week. But it’s also important because it gives you an opportunity to model the behavior you hope your givers will show. Your givers have tight budgets that have been impacted by an economic downturn. If you want them to demonstrate the faith necessary to give even when it makes little sense, you must model it for them.
5. Build giving into your church’s DNA
Your body’s DNA provides the instructions for the building, functioning, and growth of your body. A healthy body will always follow the instructions of its DNA.
The same is true of the DNA of your church. As your church grows and changes, you’ll go through a variety of financial situations. Recessions are a natural part of how an economy functions. Building generosity into your church’s DNA ensures that it remains a critical part of your church no matter what the economy is doing.
Tobin Perry is a content creator in Evansville, Indiana, with over twenty years of experience writing and editing for organizations that engage churches. He has previously served as a small church pastor and on the staff of Saddleback Church and the North American Mission Board. You can find out more about him at www.tobinperry.com.