You Asked for It – Encouraging Generosity Outside the Offering Moment

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.

You Asked for ItI 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?

The Next Steps of Generosity

In a recent debrief with the senior pastor and generosity team of a current church client, we spent time reviewing the just concluded public phase of their recent initiative. (I always value this conversation with my clients - What did we learn? What worked? What didn’t? What should we change next time? It’s most helpful to get that information while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.)

giving pathwayThe most significant takeaway for the pastor in this instance was a tool we implemented together to help establish some “generosity next steps” language the church can continue using from this point forward.

I’ve written about the concept before. We’ve discussed creating on ramps to the giving path, the discipleship path of generosity, and even a prayer journey of generosity. It’s a good idea to check back on these posts to regain a big picture perspective when you review your church’s process.

This particular church has an extremely clear (and very effective) next steps philosophy for the assimilation of new people. They are brilliant at this implementation (as is reflected by their appearance on Outreach Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Churches list).

Lack of Vision Reflected in (Lost) Giving

It has been an amazing few months in my ministry with Generis. God has allowed me to witness several magnificently extravagant gifts as part of accelerated giving initiatives where I’ve been blessed to participate as consultant and partner to my church clients.

church vision

I’ve seen individuals and families make commitments of $500,000, $1,000,000, $1,500,000, $2,000,000 and $3,000,000!

It is amazing to see God move in the hearts of those He has blessed financially to make huge differences in Kingdom initiatives for church ministry, local outreach, and national and international missions efforts.

Discipleship Path of Generosity – Part Two – The Prayer Journey

In the spring of 2011, Andrea and I had reached giving goals that we had set for ourselves the year before. We were feeling great that God had so blessed us that we were able to give at levels we had never attained before.

discipleship of generosity

Having given beyond the tithe for years, this marked a new level of generosity for us. And, to top it off, these goals were reached during the same year our youngest entered college.

Now we were paying the expenses for two to be in full-time higher education, and yet, giving at never-before-seen levels! Thank you, God.

Accelerate Generosity at Year-End

Non-profits have recently begun their year-end appeals. Why? Because they know that the largest percentage of charitable giving occurs during the last two months of the year.

year end church generosity

What are you doing to accelerate generosity toward your ministry in 2011? As people begin to consider how to invest the last of their charitable dollars this year, you will want to have top-of-mind position with your congregation.

To do this effectively, consider all your communication channels. E-mail news, newsletter, worship bulletin, pre-service slides, pre-offering stories and updates, video blog, and weekly e-mail communications.

Does God REALLY Own Everything?

So often we hear the word stewardship and we think of “time, talent and treasure.” Good old T3. If you’ve been in church for any time at all, you’ve likely heard stewardship in this context. We have been ingrained to focus on those things that the church preaches and teaches during the generosity emphasis. (At least I hope the church is preaching it!)

God owns everything

Years ago it was impressed upon me that stewardship goes way beyond T3. You see, God owns everything we have – absolutely everything. He owns the cattle on a 1,000 hills – he owns the hills! Nothing exists that He did not bring into being. “…for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” Psalm 50:12b (NIV – emphasis mine)

The Intersection

I served a church client recently and had opportunity to engage in conversation with a high capacity donor couple who had demonstrated extreme generosity towards the church’s ministry over the years. As the campaign neared its conclusion, the donor, encouraged by his wife, inquired about the progress of the initiative and my reaction to the results that had been attained up to that point.

church generosity intersection

As we talked, the donors indicated a desire to increase their gift from $500,000 to $900,000. Then he said, “Oh, just make it $1,000,000”. As his wife walked away celebrating their decision to increase their gift, the husband rolled his eyes and said “I just gave a million to [name of his Alma Mater]!” Of course the pastor was ecstatic when he learned the news of the revised gift. Yet I left thinking that we could have had $2,000,000!

A New Revenue Stream for 2011

Beginning January 1, 2011, working Americans are going to realize a 2% increase in their paychecks. As part of the extended Bush tax cut plan passed by congress in December, payroll taxes (also called FICA taxes) have been reduced from 7.65% to 5.65%.

church revenue stream

Payroll taxes go to fund Social Security (6.2% on income up to $106,800) and Medicare (1.45% with no income limit). For a person earning $106,800 in 2011, their tax savings will equal the maximum $2,136.

For those ministries who have been diligently encouraging their congregations to “step up” their giving, there is now a new source from which giving can occur. If your church is in a capital campaign season, your participants have a new pocket from which they can fulfill their financial commitments.

IRA Charitable Donations Reinstated Through 2011

Another provision under the Bush tax cut legislation involves the reinstatement of a very popular benefit for those aged 70 1/2 and older.

church giving

The provision expired at the beginning of 2010, but has now been reinstated. Here are the details that you need to share with those who are in the qualifying age bracket:

  • The provision allows someone over 70 1/2 years of age to donate up to $100,000 of their IRA assets to a charitable organization.
  • The donor’s contribution can satisfy the required minimum distribution for the year and does not have to be counted as taxable income.
  • Those who qualify to make this gift, need to seek counsel from their tax attorney or licensed financial planner for the details.

The Wall Street Journal did a nice article on this provision.

Here’s a point of URGENCY – through January 31, 2011, the donor can make a gift that still counts for 2010. This means the individual can make an IRA contribution this month that counts for 2010, then make a second contribution later this year for 2011.

Get this news out to your congregation and constituents as soon as possible!