Here is the final post in my six-part series about stories.
What do you suppose is going through the minds of your church family when you mention money? Sure, there’s the standard, “Oh, great. Here we go again with the money sermon again.” But what else might be going on? Is it possible that some, if not many, are thinking one or more of the following?
- This guy just doesn’t get it. If he saw my bills he would understand why I don’t give.
- Seriously? In this economy, she really wants us to give more? What is she thinking?
- I work hard for what I earn, and I deserve to spend it on whatever I want.
- Ten percent? Before taxes?! Who’s he kidding? That’s a lot of money!
- Well, of course he gives generously. He’s the pastor! He kinda has to, doesn’t he?
- He’s super-spiritual, so he probably doesn’t mind giving a bunch of money.
- I wonder what he actually gives, anyway. Maybe he’s exempt or something.
That’s right. Many in your church family think you don’t get it. They think you don’t have—or even understand—financial struggles.
They might think you give generously and that you do so easily – always cheerfully and with no hesitation, ever.
If that’s true for you, then that’s awesome! However, my guess is that even if it’s true now, it hasn’t always been.
Hey guys, I’ve been in the generosity ministry for 12 years now. This is all I think about. And yet I am still tempted by the enemy to focus on my mortgage, our bills, college tuition (yeah, we have two in college), the economic noise in the media, all so that I might begin to lose faith, doubt God’s provision, begin to think I can’t afford to give as much, this time.
At some point in your life, you had to make the decision to give financially – in addition to your student loans and mortgage. You did this without regard to the newer car, Bayliner, or beach vacation you’d had your eye on, in spite of appliances in disrepair and yet another night of Hamburger Helper.
Sure, it may be easier now than when you first began giving, but most of us have at least an occasional month when we hesitate, take a deep breath, realign our priorities, and renew our trust in God’s provision. Your church family needs to hear about that …from you!
No, they don’t need to know your AGI, and you don’t need to include copies of cancelled checks in your newsletter. The amount isn’t important. It’s the story of the struggle that matters.
“Thumbing through my wallet to find a $5 bill to toss in the offering basket was easy. Choosing the $20 bill instead was a little more difficult—but still manageable – occasionally. Writing a check with several digits before the decimal point? That was tough.”
“Then growing into that level of generous giving – giving beyond the tithe – the first time I was prompted by the Spirit to give at that level – wow, now that was a challenge that I hadn’t even considered earlier in my giving journey.”
“For those of you who learned tithing from your parents at a young age, you know, the 10-10-80 rule, then it may have been easier for you. But that just isn’t my story. (If that is your story – great! But you can likely still talk about the struggle to move beyond the tithe in your giving, right?)”
“Sometimes, there’s been way too much month left at the end of the money. It’s this weird economy, though; when I put God first—difficult as it can be sometimes–things always seem to work out. It makes absolutely no sense, and I know it sounds sort of crazy . . . and honestly it took more than a few of those months for me to really TRUST that it was going to be okay.”
“I have to admit, there are times when I’m tempted to just—you know—skip a month. God doesn’t need my money anyway, right? But boy, my family sure needs a vacation. Even as your pastor, those thoughts go through my head sometimes.”
By sharing your personal stories of giving, and not editing out the not-so-spiritual parts, you aren’t giving your church family an out; you’re letting them know you’ve been right where they are.
People won’t follow you as readily if they think their starting line is three miles behind yours. They’ll give up before they even begin.
Start thinking through your own story: How did you learn to give? What did that feel like? What sort of faith did it require for you to begin tithing? What hiccups did you have along the way, and what did you learn from those experiences? Talk about the tremendous blessings you receive by being generous.
How can you encourage and challenge your church into a lifestyle of generosity? By sharing openly about your own journey?