Church Generosity Mistakes: Avoiding the Topic

Communication+Generosity // March 14, 2019

Most church leaders find the topic of money exceedingly uncomfortable—so they talk about it as seldom as possible. But more and more pastors are discovering the benefits of talking about generosity more, not less.

(If just reading that sentence made you a little anxious, this post is for you.)

When Are You Most Likely to Preach About Money?

How many times in the past 24 months have you preached about money? When I’ve asked client pastors that question as part of the Generosity Audit process, their lists are typically short—maybe a once-a-year series and a couple of random messages mixed in. Why is that? Because most pastors only preach about money when they need some:

  • The finance committee worries that giving is falling behind budget, or worse, cash flow is negative. We’ve spent a little more than we’ve brought in this year, Pastor, so we need you to preach a sermon on giving.
  • The building and grounds team identifies some needed maintenance and repair issues approaching. There isn’t enough money in the maintenance account, and there isn’t any margin in the budget to move money around. Pastor, we need you to preach a sermon on giving and have a special offering to fund the needed repairs.
  • It’s October, which means it’s time for the annual stewardship campaign when people pledge their giving to the budget for next year. (I call it “The Hunt for Green October.”) Pastor, we need you to preach a sermon on giving leading up to the pledge moment.
If we think of giving from a needs perspective, we’re missing the point. Giving isn’t a funding issue. It’s a discipleship issue. Click To Tweet

The Sermon on the Amount

If you’ve ever had someone resent a sermon on giving (and most pastors have), that reaction is likely triggered by the fact that the only time they hear you preach about money is when you need some. It becomes “the sermon on the amount.”

When you allow your balance sheet to determine when you talk about money, you’re unintentionally training your people to miss out on what God has to say about generosity. You risk making it about what you want from people, instead of what you (and God) want for people.

Generosity is part of the spiritual formation of every Christ-follower. If we want people to grow in discipleship, we’ve got to talk about it, preach it, and teach it. So what should it look like over the course of one year?

  • Sermon series. Plan at least two generosity-based sermon series per year—one between New Year’s and Easter and the other in the fall.
  • Highlighting generosity in other messages. Beyond those series, be sure to incorporate generosity into as many messages throughout the year as possible. Generosity is a consistent theme that runs throughout the entirety of scripture. Often, you can (and should) draw out a single teaching point in a sermon that connects the story to generosity. You don’t have to work hard to do it. Once you’re intentionally dialed in to the core message of God’s generosity in sending his son to us, you’ll run into the message of generosity throughout scripture.
  • Small groups. If your small group ministry does sermon-based studies each week, great! If not, groups should be encouraged to do a generosity study at least once per year. There are excellent studies out there, and most run 4-6 weeks.
  • Discipleship classes. In addition to your groups plan, offer a couple of studies in your discipleship/elective classes. Specifically, I would offer a minimum of two:
    • Generosity and giving. This could be a similar study to what’s used in small groups.
    • Basic finance. Your people desperately need to get their financial houses in order. Help them by offering courses like Financial Peace University or Crown. That is ministry. With margin in their financial world, they are freed up to give more generously.

There are other ways to weave generosity into the fabric of your ministry. Next time, we’ll talk about the most obvious one: the offering moment.

Generosity Audit

Despite feeling anxious about the topic of money, most pastors truly want to help their congregations grow in financial discipleship. But they aren’t sure how, and so they feel stuck and even a little inadequate. With a Generosity Audit, you’ll understand your church’s current financial health and start developing a more generous culture. Contact me to learn more.

Church Generosity Mistakes Series

This is the third post in a series designed to help you avoid common mistakes I’ve uncovered in Generosity Audits over the years. Catch up on the rest of the series:

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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