Can your people afford to give? Can they afford not to? Here’s the current reality: Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency.
That statement caught my eye in a personal and revealing article called “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans“ that recently appeared in the Atlantic. And as a ministry leader, this should sound a huge wake up call.
In this article, which is lengthy but definitely worth the read, the author admits his dismal failure in managing his own personal finances. He takes us on a very raw and personal journey through his trials of financial management on which we soon learn that, while his outside appearance reflected a financially secure lifestyle, behind the curtain hid the true realities of living paycheck to paycheck. And he’s one of almost half of all Americans.
Statistics shared include:
- When asked how they would respond to a $400 emergency, 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. (Federal Reserve Board survey)
- Only 38 percent of Americans would cover a $1,000 emergency-room visit or $500 car repair with money they’d saved. (Bankrate survey, 2104)
- A total of 55 percent of households don’t have enough liquid savings to replace a month’s worth of lost income. (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2015)
- Of 56 percent of people who said they’d worried about their finances in the previous year, 71 percent were concerned about having enough money to cover everyday expenses. (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2015)
- The American Psychological Association conducts a yearly survey on stress in the United States. The 2014 survey—in which 54 percent of Americans said they had just enough or not enough money each month to meet their expenses—found money to be the country’s number one stressor. Seventy-two percent of adults reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time, and nearly a quarter rated their stress “extreme.”
I recently had the chance to do something I really enjoy doing – talking with a pastor who just finished up a two-year generosity initiative using our One Fund approach. This particular pastor leads a growing church that has surpassed its goals, so the conversation was encouraging for us both.
Because I value sharing with you what I see working in other churches across the country, I wanted to let you in on a few key points he shared with me. Whether you are considering accelerating generosity in your church in the near future, or you just need a healthy dose of encouragement today, this post is for you!
So here is Pastor Matt Miofsky giving you five keys to a successful generosity initiative, based on his experience over the last two years at The Gathering. (These stories you’re about to read are just amazing – too good not to share!) Thanks Matt for your willingness to share your journey with us!
1. Prepare yourself ahead of your congregation
The winter before we launched our One Fund initiative called Chain Reaction, Rusty issued a challenge: my wife and I should go through some personal generosity introspection first, ahead of our people. And we did.
We were in the process of buying a new home at the time. When we stopped to talk about our personal levels of generosity, we soon realized we couldn’t be the generous people God was calling us to be and still move forward with the purchase of that home – at least not at that time. It would have throttled our ability to give at the generous level we sensed God challenging us to attain.
So we made a commitment. The topic of home buying was off the table for the next two years. We set a goal of doubling our tithe for Chain Reaction, and we gave more than we have ever given before. My wife and I found so much joy in being generous! It helped us be content in our home for two years. We could now talk with authenticity about what we were learning. And it equipped us to lead stronger conversations and to ask better questions.
The Christmas season has once again come and gone. You might already be seeing New Year’s resolutions in the rearview mirror. And your people may be settling right back into life as usual. It’s always interesting to see just how quickly that happens, isn’t it?
Your people may also be getting back to their normal routines in giving. But now is the optimal time to reinforce the message of generosity you shared during your special Christmas offering (or your Thanksgiving offering) late last year. Now is the time for celebration!
Here are three ideas you can use in the upcoming weeks to create a celebration of your church’s holiday generosity:
1. Videos, Photos, and Social Media
A picture is worth a thousand words and video is an impactful way to evoke heart-level emotion. With social media channels today, your message can quickly travel far beyond your inner core of people. Any opportunity you have to show your people the result of their generosity is a moment worth taking. (Showing these as introduction to your weekend offering is also tremendously effective!)
Check out this example of how The Gathering used video and social media to celebrate the impact of their previous year’s generosity to encourage this year’s Christmas Eve offering. If this isn’t motivating, I don’t know what is! (Nicely done!)
Then they sent out this message and video to build excitement for the upcoming results announcement of this year’s Christmas Eve offering!
This fall has been filled with the busyness of another campaign season. Much like you, I’m running from one meeting to the next. And when I’m not in a meeting, or traveling to one, I’m preparing for the next video conference, giving analysis, or on-site visit. It is a true blessing to be very busy in this ministry!
But I saw something recently that helped me slow down. It helped me remember the main reason why I do what I do. My guess is that you could use a reminder of why you do what you do on occasion too, so I took out the smartphone and snapped a picture that has already become a favorite in my library.
I’ve said it for 15 years now – ever since beginning my work in generosity and stewardship consulting. It’s not about the building (or the renovation, or the money, or the fill-in-the-blank). As churches conduct generosity initiatives to fund God-inspired vision, we always need to remind people that while the building they are hoping to fund is a desired outcome of the project, it in itself is not the true vision behind the initiative. The building is but another tool in the ministry toolbox that we pray God will use to reach others with the good news of Jesus Christ.
People just don’t like to talk about money. Maybe you’ve already come to that conclusion. But did you know this? More people dislike talking about money than death or politics or taxes. (Yes, you read that right!)
A survey from Wells Fargo last year revealed “nearly half of Americans say the most challenging topic to discuss with others is personal finance.”
It’s not just your church. It’s not just the people at your church. No one seems to like it!
Interestingly, although conversations about money seem to be avoided or heated, financial concerns are staying top-of-mind. Two in five people in the survey said money is the source of the most stress in their life, and one in three people said they’ve lost sleep worrying over finances.
And when you look generationally, 71% reported learning to spend and save from their parents, but only one-third of today’s parents reported teaching these principles to their children. You see, there’s a fallout happening.
Giving is perhaps the best spiritual tool we have in our inventory – and often the most ignored. As a result, many church leaders find themselves in a giving rut, stuck in habits and routines that limit the generosity of their people. (We talked about those habits in my last post.)
But today I’d like to focus on the solutions. What can church leaders do when they find themselves stuck in routines that actually work against growing the generosity of their church? I’d like to propose six solutions to get you started.
1. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO IMPLEMENT CHANGE. SLOWLY.
When you realize you need to make a change, the first thing to do is give yourself permission. Change things up when they need to be changed. But do it slowly. Gradually.
Do you limit the generosity of your church? Now, I have to believe you would never intentionally limit the generosity of your church. In fact, I believe you would love it to improve, to grow, to flourish. But are there things you are doing unknowingly, or habits in place at your church, that hinder or interfere with your giving culture?
I just returned from the UnEarth Conference in Jacksonville this month, and I was blessed again to share information with church leaders from across the country on the topic of generosity. This time the topic was “8 Ceilings that Limit Giving to Your Church” (and several solutions to fix them). My thanks to colleague Brad Leeper, President of Generis, for contributions to this content!
Today I’ll share with you these “ceilings” and we will explore the solutions in my next post, so stay tuned!
First, let’s look at something quickly to get us started. From data collected through Generosity Audits and giving analyses of hundreds of churches, Generis has found the following to be the typical pattern in church giving:
OF 100 PEOPLE
- 50 give nothing
- 20 give $1,200
- 30 give more than $1,200
- If you have 10 elders/deacons/trustees, 2 are likely not giving
- 1/3 of your staff is likely not giving
Now those figures might surprise you, but here’s what is typically going on behind the scenes to create such skewed giving metrics.
We are continuing in our “You Asked For It” series with another question that came from our reader survey late last year.
In case you missed the first two topics in this series, you can quickly catch up on recent posts: encouraging generosity outside the offering moment and 3 steps to creating a culture of generosity.
Today we tackle a question multiple pastors submitted with their survey. It’s one I hear quite frequently in meetings with church leaders across the country as well.
Q: How often should we preach on the subject of giving, stewardship, or generosity in general?
A: What I find in many churches today is that many pastors only preach on this topic once a year, either in a single sermon or in a sermon series. Often, the sermon or series occurs during the church’s fall “annual stewardship campaign,” in which everyone is asked to make a giving pledge for the following year. I call it “The Hunt For Green October.”
As we continue in this string of “You Asked For It” blog posts, we visit a topic today that could apply to any church anywhere: creating a culture of generosity.
This is our second post in a series of questions raised by pastors across the country through a survey I sent out late last year. (In case you missed the first post about encouraging generosity outside the offering moment, you can easily catch up.)
So, without further ado, here’s today’s question:
If we want to create a greater culture of generosity in our church, where do we begin?
Fantastic question. But before discussing where you want to go, it’s important to first determine where you are. Here are three steps to take to begin the process of creating a greater culture of generosity in your church.