Do what you love and the money will take care of itself.
That’s been a popular phrase for as long as I can remember.
Wouldn’t it be great if it was true?
I’ve also heard this related phrase for as long as I can remember: just preach the gospel, love people, reach out to your neighbors, and the money will take care of itself.
It would be even better if that was true. But it’s not. In even the healthiest and strongest of churches and ministries, finances are never automatic.
In a previous post, 4 Assumptions Pastors Can No Longer Make About Church Giving Patterns, I wrote about how a downturn in church giving is no longer the early and accurate indicator of a problem in the church. Giving patterns have changed. Even people who love the church and are fully committed to its mission are not giving as much as they once did.
In this post, I’d like to walk you through some of the steps our church has discovered by trial-and-error in the last couple of years that have helped us slow down, then reverse a downward giving trend in our church.
(This article is part of an ongoing series, Money and the Small Church.)
1. Emphasize generosity, not just giving
Giving is like any other skill. Very few people are born with an inbred desire and ability to give. Everyone needs to be taught how and why giving matters. And that’s up to us, pastors.
Thankfully, the Bible is full of great teaching about stewardship and generosity, but we must always remember that God’s Word is not as concerned with our money as with our hearts. Which is why we need to teach more about generosity than giving.
It’s possible to give without being generous, but no one can be generous without giving.
The size of the heart matters more than the size of the gift. If Jesus’ teachings about generosity tell us anything, they tell us that.
2. Teach stewardship, not just giving
We must never limit our financial teaching to trying to get more money out of people’s pockets. That always ends badly. Because that’s not what generosity is about.
Actually, I’ve met very few pastors who fit the stereotype of the smooth-talking, money-grubbing preacher. Instead, most of us are so concerned with not coming across that way that we swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and don’t talk about finances enough.
As pastors, we have an obligation to God and the church to teach a balanced, biblical view of stewardship, not just giving.