In an earlier post (See Stories – Part 2: Normalizing the Conversation), I briefly mentioned a critical paradigm shift related to our conversations about generosity in the church: shifting our thinking from giving TO to giving FROM. For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to take a deep dive into that idea.
For so long, we’ve talked about giving to church budgets, building campaigns, mission projects, special Christmas offerings, and more. Granted, identifying specific needs and inviting people to participate in meeting those needs can be effective. However, to develop a true culture of generosity—to help people move along the Discipleship Path of Generosity—it’s helpful to turn our thinking inside out.
For example, when we stand before congregations to introduce the offering, typical language (if there’s any language at all) is something along the lines of “It’s now time to give our tithes and offerings.” If we’re feeling a bit brave, we might say something like, “As the Bible instructs, let us now give our first fruits to God.” (Our first what? Did he say “fruit”? What is he talking about?)
In conducting literally dozens of Generosity Audits over the last four years, I’ve realized some very significant patterns. One is this—the primary motivation people have for giving. When I ask church leaders and regular attendees to talk about the reasons they give, almost without exception, the first thing mentioned is obedience. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that…unless it’s the ONLY reason they give. There are so many other motivations for giving.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with reminding people of their obligation to give. But obligation doesn’t typically move people or inspire them to grow. So what other language can we use? What would it look like if we could get people to think about giving for reasons other than just obedience. What about giving out of gratitude, trust, or compassion? Consider the following 10 motivations to give:
I realize the list may not be complete, and sure, the first four could sound quite a lot like obligation. And they’ll sound that way to your church family, too, unless you’re more intentional about your language. Next, I’ll explore each “motivation” and offer some creative ideas to help people begin thinking about generosity from the inside out.