Five Keys to Our Successful Generosity Initiative

Leadership // January 27, 2016

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 giving you five keys to a successful generosity initiative, based on his experience over the last two years at his church. (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.

Generosity is a doorway to talking about our priorities. Are we willing to actually live this faith we profess? Are we willing to adjust our lifestyle to follow God? In the end we made a better decision. We moved out of the “tithe” mentality and into one that asks, “how does this decision impact our ability to grow in our generosity?”

Generosity is a doorway to talking about our priorities. Click To Tweet

When the time came for me to preach generosity in my sermons during the public phase of our initiative, I could share our personal story. This was also especially helpful in the quiet phase of our initiative because I could tell people the questions we had worked through, and I could encourage them to go through those same questions. This went a long way with our people, as they saw us leading the way in truly living out our faith. We were not asking them to do something that we were not willing to do ourselves.

2. Ask your people the right questions
When we launched Chain Reaction, we started asking our people this question: where are you with Jesus? The process of digging deep to answer this question was a healthy exercise for our people. Generosity is a great way to lead into that question. The One Fund approach is all about discipleship – growing step by step in generosity as God calls us. This question really helped people take next steps, and it prompted many to get into the generosity game for the very first time.

One of my favorite stories we saw as a result of that question is something you don’t hear every day. A couple in our church purchased a brand new car just a few months prior to the launch of Chain Reaction. They were on our initiative leadership team. After a few team meetings with Rusty, hearing the first few sermons, and participating in small group conversations, they realized the purchase of this new car didn’t line up with how they were being challenged to grow in their giving. So they literally took the car back. They told the car dealer why, assured him there was nothing wrong with the car, and they purchased a car with a price tag $40,000 less than the car they just returned. Now they had resources to be radically generous.

3. Take ownership of the outcome
As a pastor, I knew it was my responsibility to take ownership and drive participation in our initiative. This being our first one fund experience, I knew I needed to lead the charge.

I went overboard with one-on-one meetings with my people before the public launch. Of course, it would have been easier to take the approach that those conversations might be uncomfortable, but I went the other way intentionally. What drove participation in our initiative was the number of people I approached with personal appeals. These conversations were not limited to our highest capacity givers, but involved many leaders in our church. Just as it was for me, it was important that they be challenged on this journey before being asked to lead others down that same path.

Yes, these efforts cost me quite a bit of time and energy for sure. But I engaged Rusty for his expertise, and I was going to listen to what he recommended. And it worked. I gained lots of credibility and grew closer to our people in the process. In fact, holding one-on-one meetings was the most effective thing I did in the midst of all that was going on.

4. Intentionally talk about money
At our church, we have been willing to talk about giving from the beginning, although this was the first time we put everything into it – six weeks of preaching, core group teachings, etc. But weaving that message throughout everything we did showed people that we think it’s important and we’re serious about it. We need to talk about the hard topics and squirm a little to grow in our generosity. We actually took the approach that if people didn’t want to hear about money or giving, then this wasn’t the church for them. But hardly anything negative happened as a result of that. People stayed and grew and gave.

I have since intentionally been working generosity messages into other sermons here and there. The One Fund approach we have now embraced helps to normalize the conversation about money and the church. As a pastor, I can reinforce that message throughout my preaching/teaching schedule.

I recently shared a single message on giving – the story of Zaccheus. A man was in attendance – his very first visit to our church! After the service, he said he had needed to hear that message and asked if we could meet later in the week. So we shared a meal and he again told me how he had needed to hear that sermon. Early in the meeting he took out his checkbook and set it on the table. He had forgotten to give his offering in the service, and asked if I would take it back to the church for him after we met. We talked about the ministry of the church, and our vision for the future. I answered all of his questions. He wanted to be a part of what God is doing at the church. As we prepared to leave, he handed me the largest check I’d even received in all my years of ministry. It was unbelievable, and it was all to be used to fulfill the vision I had shared. Wow!

People with high financial capacity need someone to talk to about what God has given them and how best to steward those resources. In fact, the more wealthy they are, the more they need trusted people to engage with in a healthy way. Jesus went right to Zaccheus. We should follow his lead with the people he puts in our path.

5. Celebrate generosity
This is one you simply can’t overlook. When your people step up in their faith and become more and more generous, it’s important to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate.

We are working to build a culture of generosity – we want it to be part of our DNA as a church. In December we held our annual Christmas Eve offering. This is a special offering for us, as 100% of it is allocated to dig clean water wells for the people in Mozambique. I was blown away by our people who collectively gave $215,000 for this offering!

We placed pictures of the new wells being opened on our social media pages, celebrating the win and our church’s generosity.

These are excellent insights from a pastor who has just completed a very successful initiative. We wrote the play book together, and he did an outstanding job of executing the strategy.

You may recall hearing a similar story from my last blog post—3 Ways to Celebrate Your Church’s Generosity—and you’d be right. Pastor Matt and his team are definitely doing something right and we can all learn from their experience!

There are few things in my work that are more fulfilling than learning about growth in the discipleship of generosity and the successes that follow.

Do you have a generosity story to share? I would love to hear it and celebrate with 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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