Three Keys to a Strong Giving Culture in Your Church

Leadership // April 4, 2014

I just returned, blessed after the 2014 UnEarth Conference in Jacksonville on March 31, and was also able to share information with church leaders from across the country about the topic of generosity. This time I spoke about three specific keys that can impact the giving culture in your church.

Giving in the US (as a percentage of GDP) is lower today than it was during the great depression of the early 1930s. Why is that? Could it be that people don’t have a giving problem, but a giving-to-your-church problem?

Could it be that people aren’t seeing the results of their giving to your church? They want to give where they know their gift will make the greatest impact. Could it be a decrease in loyalty? The “that’s my church” mentality is on the decline.

It could be any of these reasons, or it could be something else entirely. The point is, there are a number of things you should focus on to have an impact.

Here are three keys to get you started…


The stark reality is that generous people have many choices for their gifts. With more than 1.2 million non-profit organizations in the US, people have more than enough options.

When faced with choices to allocate their resources, givers will almost always choose the place where they anticipate their gift will make the greatest impact.

Givers want impact. It’s the responsibility of the church to show that impact. You cannot just expect givers to keep filling the annual budget bucket.

You have to make the case that a gift to your church is a worthy investment. If you don’t show it, I promise another charitable cause will!

You have to make the case that a gift to your church is a worthy investment. Click To Tweet

Can you show how a gift to your church will impact the lives of hurting, hopeless, helpless people? If you struggle to do that, it may be worth taking a hard look at what you’re doing.


As important as vision is, culture is even more important. Culture, the behaviors and beliefs of your members, is either a headwind or a tailwind to everything you try to do. Quite honestly, you can have the greatest vision on earth, but as Sam Chand says, strong vision will die in a toxic culture. Bad culture trumps good vision every time.

The culture in a church is not created or changed overnight. It happens over an accumulation of years, and it plays a significant role in what you can accomplish. You will never advance your vision beyond what the culture will permit.

 #3 – STRATEGY –

I find many churches locked into a church-centric paradigm as it relates to their generosity strategy.

If the only time you teach/preach on giving is during your annual stewardship drive (what I’ve called “The Hunt For Green October”), then you’re in a church-centric mode. It’s more about the need of the church to receive, than the need of a believer to be generous.

Similarly, a church that stresses the importance of giving during a capital campaign appeal, and only then, going silent the rest of the year, is a church in a project-centric mode. It’s about the project – we need your money to fund this project.

Now, are there times when a project-centric model is appropriate? Absolutely. But if that’s your only strategy, you are really missing what it means to develop radically generous followers of Christ.

Instead, consider a strategy that is giver-centric. Develop a regular and on-going model of teaching and preaching the discipleship of generosity. Preach the subject when there is absolutely no commitment card or ‘ask’ at the end of the message.

Preach it because of what God wants FOR your people, not because of what you want FROM your people.

Other questions to help you develop a winning generosity strategy include:

What is your giving philosophy?
(For example: Here’s what we believe about giving at XYZ Church, we stress tithing, we don’t teach the tithe, etc.)

What is the “giving pathway” at your church? In other words, how do you disciple your people so that they know their next step on the giving journey.

Are you regularly addressing the different giving audiences in your church? You can’t send the same generosity message and expect all these different people groups with varied backgrounds to get it! You need to know your audience:

  • non-givers
  • casual givers
  • proportional givers
  • those who tithe
  • generous givers who give beyond the tithe
  • those raised in a Christian home who learned giving from mom and dad growing up
  • young adult new believers who were not raised in a Christian home and didn’t know there is a money thing that is part of their spiritual decision
  • mature believers who have been tithing for generations but never considered giving beyond the tithe
  • couples who do not agree on how much to give or where to give it
  • college students who don’t think they can afford to give
  • youth
  • children

Have you developed an annual plan for generosity development, and is each detailed step on your calendar and to-do list?

Is someone on staff assigned the responsibility and held accountable for generosity development?

Is legacy generosity on your radar? (It should be!)

What are the different opportunities to on-ramp new givers throughout the year?

How often are you telling your personal giving story?

How often are others sharing their stories of generosity and how they learned to give?

Will you do what it takes to affect change in your giving culture?

As a leader, you have the opportunity to shape and impact the giving culture of your church. You CAN be all about a giver-centric ministry! You have the chance to make a change by encouraging and discipling your members.

You can share stories of life change and impact that will have a ripple effect in generosity. How will you take a step this month to accelerate generosity in your church? Can I help you?

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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