Church Generosity Mistakes: Neglecting Your High-Capacity Givers

Generosity+Leadership // May 14, 2019

What keeps you up at night?

If you’re like most church leaders I’ve met, your answer likely boils down to three things:

  1. The vision God’s given you for your church.
  2. Where you are now as a church.
  3. The gap between those two.

Depending on your particular restless night, that vision could be broad (We need to reach more people for Jesus!) or specific (We need to expand our partnership with our community food pantry!).

As I continue this “Church Generosity Mistakes” series, I want to address a specific gap related to discipleship. God’s vision is for your congregation to use their whole lives—all their gifts—for Kingdom purposes. You sense your people are making progress, but there’s still a long way to go. There’s a gap.

If you’ve tossed and turned over this one, I hope you’ll find this post helpful—especially in regard to a frequently overlooked group in your church: high-capacity givers.

First, Let’s Talk About Gifts

God has placed people within your church whom He has uniquely gifted in specific areas: hospitality, music, prayer, leadership, finance, organization, teaching, and so on.

We typically work pretty hard to help people find their giftedness. Perhaps you even employ a spiritual gifts assessment of some sort in your assimilation process. Once discovered, we invite people to use those gifts to serve others in and through the church.

I find one area of giftedness is often left un-developed—even ignored—and it’s a mistake of leadership: those whom God is blessing financially.

Have you ever considered a ministry to those who are gifted financially? What would it look like? What would be the motivation and desired outcome? And how can it happen while honoring the call to not treat people preferentially (James 2)?

Check Your Motivations

If you’re considering a ministry to people who are gifted financially, it’s critical to think about your “why.” If it’s just about their money, you’re entering into this with the wrong motivation.

So what’s the “right” motivation? Ministry.

Wealthy people have the same issues in life that you and I share, plus an additional one or two related to their financial status. (Yes, having a lot of money can be an “issue”!) Many people who are blessed financially feel overwhelmed by God’s generosity—and because the Bible speaks clearly, even warns us, about the dangers of wealth, they’re unsure how to manage it. “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matt 19:24 (NIV)

We owe it to them to provide counsel, to encourage good stewardship, and to help them understand biblical principles related to money and possessions. More often than not, people of means don’t have someone in their life that can help them explore these topics—because few people can relate to their situation. Loneliness is not uncommon.

Also, wealthy people have plenty to offer beyond money. They often possess skills in leadership, running a business, and visioning. While you’re counseling them, they can offer ideas and feedback for you as a leader.

Ministry to People of Means

So, what could it look like to be intentional about discipling people who are financially gifted—your high-capacity givers?

It sounds more complicated than it is. First, simply identify your list. Whom has God placed in your midst?  Then, start meeting with those folks. Develop a rhythm of regular 1:1 meetings—once a week or month (you pick the frequency). If you need some accountability, give your list to your assistant, and ask them to schedule the meetings for you. If you have 20 people on your list, two coffees a month will allow you to connect with each person twice a year. You could also consider running focus groups with 3-5 high-capacity givers at a time. Interaction breeds ideas and input!

OK, So Now What?

Even if you agree whole-heartedly with the idea of discipling high-capacity givers, and even if you’re happy to do 1:1 or focus group meetings with them, it can feel awkward trying to figure out what, exactly, to talk about. I suggest:

  1. Opening with pastoral care. How are you doing? How’s your family? How are we doing in meeting your needs as a church?
  2. Giving a church update. Talk about recent wins. Share a story or two of impact.
  3. Casting some vision. Talk about upcoming emphases or significant seasons in the life of the church. Share what God is laying on your heart for the next six months, year, or three years, and ask for their input, reaction, and thoughts. These folks are often entrepreneurial decision-makers, people who understand being in positions of authority and leading businesses. They will have thoughts for you—good ones.
  4. Closing with prayer. How can I be praying for you and your family? If you’re approaching a project and want them to engage further with you in that, ask if they’d be open to a second meeting to discuss further. Perhaps invite them to a small group setting as mentioned above, where you gather several together to hear their thoughts and reflections after having time to discern.
  5. Following up. After the meeting, send a handwritten thank you. This is rare in our society today, and you’ll stand out.

What You Can Expect from High-Capacity Giver Development

Remember, your primary motivation for developing high-capacity givers is not financial. As you engage with them, you can expect:

  • A higher degree of ownership within this leadership group.
  • Stronger relational connections.
  • A willingness to assist and come alongside you when you need support for an upcoming season of growth.
  • And yes, an openness and acceptance to financial asks you might make in support of an initiative that requires resources outside of the annual ministry fund.

Real-World Results

I have been amazed to see how God uses strategy such as this to impact the Kingdom. The stories are many. Here are a few I’ve been privileged to witness, and while financial in nature (I usually see these things happen while coaching a church through a generosity initiative) they were made possible through intentional development efforts implemented well in advance of the initiative.

  • A major gift originally intended at $250,000 moved to $1,000,000 as the pastor shared vision and how he personally planned to sacrifice to make the vision a reality.
  • At a church planning to launch a multi-site campus strategy, the pastor shared the vision with a group of high-capacity leaders. The church later received a suggestion from an attendee regarding a possible geographic area to launch the campus. When the church expressed willingness to explore the area as an option, the giver gave a commercial building to the church for the church to use to launch the new campus, at zero cost to the church.
  • A high-capacity giver with passion for gift planning and legacy giving, offered to lead and help develop a legacy giving strategy for his church. The endowment will help to fund future facility needs, missions, and future campus expansion.

Minding the Gap

The “gap” I mentioned at the top of this post is a reality in most churches, and often it’s a financial one. Over the past two decades, I’ve helped hundreds of church leaders improve their culture of generosity so they can close that gap. They stop feeling stuck, and they gain the financial freedom to fulfill their mission. Sound good? Let’s talk.

Catch up on the Generosity Mistakes 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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