Late last year I reached out to more than 500 church leaders across the country with a survey on the topic of generosity. At the end of the survey, I offered an opportunity for respondents to ask me any questions they had on the topic.
I must say, you and your fellow church leaders posed some great questions. Thank you! (In fact, one of the most common questions has started developing into an e-book I’m eager to get into your hands soon, so stay tuned for more on that!)
But first, I’m excited to start answering these questions one by one with a string of blog posts in a “You Asked For It” series. Today’s question was one raised by several respondents, so I figure that’s a good place to start.
Q: How can we include generosity as a regular element in worship beyond the weekly offering?
A: Great question! I particularly love this question because most people aren’t thinking this way. Most pastors want to downplay the topic of money like it shouldn’t be discussed. Many pastors are under the false impression that as long as they say a prayer and pass an offering plate (or basket or bag or whatever you use), that giving will spontaneously follow freely from the pockets of your people. But I’ve seen example after example to prove that this approach simply doesn’t work as well as it could.
As church leaders, we must do more. We must normalize the conversation. (You’ll remember we’ve talked about that before. Here’s a refresher on that idea.)
So you’re on the right track in wondering how you can include generosity in ways outside your offering time. The church with a strong generosity culture works intentionally to infuse generosity into every area of the life of the church, so I’m pleased to know you’re considering this too.
So how can we do this? Here are several practical ideas you can consider and start trying right away:
One church I work with prepares a weekly “ministry moment.” They highlight one specific ministry, they share what is happening in that area, and they tell a story of impact from that ministry. Even if you didn’t do this on a weekly basis, a monthly rhythm would be a terrific start. (It is also a great way to drive volunteers to different ministry areas – an added benefit!)
Is there a stronger link than the one between witnessing a baptism and generosity? Through baptism we are reminded of God’s generosity through Christ. With your next baptisms, share each person’s story or testimony at the time of baptism. If you plan baptisms in advance, roll a video of them telling their story to share how they came to the life changing decision. Or you could have someone read their written testimony live, too. Pick an approach that works well for your church.
This is especially important for churches in which missions play a big part in the overall vision. Next time a missionary visits your church, share a live update in your worship service. There’s nothing like hearing from a missionary in person! If they’re not visiting your church for a while, share videos from the mission field to show the faces and the lives of the people you are reaching through generosity. Here’s an example.
It’s amazing how often the Bible gives a pastor the chance to make a generosity point in the weekly message. I’m not talking about a full blown sermon on stewardship. I’m suggesting that, within many different sermons throughout the year, a pastor can take the opportunity to relate one important point to our generosity journey. There are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible related to money and possessions. A pastor who desires to “normalize the conversation” about money in the church would be wise to address it often, if only for a brief 2-3 minute sub-point in the weekend message.
For example, in a sermon about families and parenting, you could be speaking about the various things we as Christians want to teach our children. One sub point could sound like this:
“One Godly lesson we need to be sure to teach our children is how to be good stewards of the resources God has entrusted us. Children learn so much by watching you, their parents, in the ways you behave and the choices you make. Are you modeling a good example for them? We have a responsibility to lead by example to help our children learn to return a portion of what the Lord has so generously given as an act of worship. When children at an early age learn to give cheerfully through the Biblical principles of tithing and generosity, it is likely something they will carry with them throughout their lives. And most importantly, it honors God, the most generous giver of all.”
NEW MEMBER INTRODUCTIONS
Take a moment to introduce new members who have a compelling story to share. It’s both refreshing and encouraging for people who have been with you for years to hear the story of how someone new was attracted to the church.
One quick example might go like this:
“I found this church through a water bottle. One day it was handed to me at a stoplight – you guys were giving them out on a really hot summer day. The label on the bottle was about this church and I decided to come. My life was falling apart but the bottle encouraged me to come. I knew I had to try something different because what I was doing sure wasn’t working. I’m so glad I came – my life has been changed as a result. Thank you for taking the time to hand out water that day. I know Christ today because someone at this church handed me a water bottle!”
There are two kinds of stories we can tell to encourage generosity. Of course, there’s the story centered around generosity itself. But any story of life change and ministry impact can also encourage generosity. Hearing examples of people coming to Christ, the stories of the people you’re helping through outreach, and much more can help your people understand the difference your church is making, thus it encourages generosity. These kinds of stories can be used in any of the examples given above.
Now, there is one crucial element you must implement in every one of the above scenarios. A pastor or church leader should come behind the story and say, “Church – thank you for your generosity. It is through your giving of resources, of time, of talents, that this (life change, mission, outreach, baptism) is possible. We couldn’t do this without you. Your giving is making a huge difference in our community, in our region, and around the world!”
Try a few of these examples in the coming weeks and months, and please let me know the results you start to see!
Have a related question? Let’s start a conversation!