The idea of a “giving pathway” isn’t a new concept. We’ve talked about the Next Steps of Generosity before, and I have shared a generous giver’s prayer. But what if we stopped thinking about this journey of generosity so much in terms of percentages and numbers?
First – why is a pathway important? For the same reason you likely have a formal assimilation program in your church – you desire to move people from where they are, to where you (and God) want them to be. You have developed a logical “next steps” process – for example:
If you’re a first-time guest with us this weekend, we invite you to our monthly “Open Mic” night – come and learn anything you’d like to know about our church, mission, and ministries. At Open Mic night, you talk about their next step – attending your New Member class. Then in the New Member class, you talk about the importance of getting plugged in – take a spiritual gifts assessment, and get involved in a small group. Once engaged in the church and involved in a small group, you work to get them serving in a ministry area that aligns with their gift assessment. And so on. There is a logical, and easy-to-understand series of steps that helps the worship guest know how to engage with you and the church.
A similar process is wise in your giving discipleship program:
- Non-givers need help understanding what their first step might be. “I’ve never giving before – where do I start? How much am I supposed to give? How/where do I give?” These may seem like easy questions for you, but consider the new believer who wasn’t raised in the church. Don’t assume even the most basic of questions – anticipate and answer them all.
- Casual givers need a nudge to become a consistent giver.
- Those who are tithing often believe they’ve “arrived” – that there is no next step for them. They believe they are right where God commands them, without considering that there is room for them to grow in their personal journey. We know that to be wrong, don’t we? Isn’t God always challenging us to grow with him in ALL areas of discipleship? Prayer, Bible study, service, giving, sharing the Gospel. A pathway helps to understand that we are always challenged to grow in our giving.
Often a giving pathway (or “Generosity Ladder” as first coined by Nelson Searcy in his book by the same name), is somewhat organized by gift amounts or income percentages. The first level is initial giver, while a higher level represents a tithe, and a still higher level represents an amount above the tithe. Well…can’t an initial giver begin giving at the level of a tithe? Do we have to wait until a higher step to reach that amount?
Today I want to challenge you to consider this pathway from a new perspective. Let’s look at this concept in terms of behavior. Rather than defining each step by an amount given, or a percentage of income, let’s define each step with a new behavior. How can we define each step in the pathway by a new behavior?
Let’s start at the beginning – with someone giving for the very first time.
An Initial Giver is someone who decides to give for the first time; someone who decides to give something and trust God and the leaders of the Church with this gift (2 Corinthians 8:7; 15). Before doing so, there are five things a first-time giver will likely need to know before they will give. These five things educate them, reassure them, and provide logistical information to empower them to give for the very first time. And as church leaders, that’s our job – to empower our people in spiritual growth. The new behavior – practicing generosity through a tangible act of giving.