Communication experts tell us that it’s critical to understand our audience. Whether we’re giving our teenage daughter a lesson in changing a tire, persuading a friend to support a particular cause or campaign, or selling a product or service to a client, it’s helpful to understand our audience’s frame of reference: educational background, interest in the subject, relevant technical knowledge, economic circumstances, and so on.
As we think about helping our church families expand their generosity, we ought to take seriously that same principle of knowing our audience. After all, how are we to help people move if we don’t know where they’re starting?
In general, people in your church fall into one of the following categories:
Non-Givers typically don’t participate in the offering or respond to other giving invitations—usually because of the “uns”:
- They’re uninformed. They haven’t learned the discipline of giving, maybe because they’re new to church. For them, it’s a discipleship issue.
- They’re unwilling, sometimes because of baggage from a previous church experience as it relates to giving.
- They’re unable . . . or they think they’re unable. For these people, they need help creating margin in their financial lives. Financial Peace University is a tremendous help to people needing to get their financial house in order.
- They’re uninspired. Perhaps they are very generous, but you’re not seeing it! They might be giving elsewhere—a place that that has done a better job of communicating vision and impact. (See my recent Stories series for more on this.)
Casual Givers offer occasional, small gifts—usually when they’re actually in a worship service. If there’s a small bill in their wallet when the offering is passed, you might receive it. Kind of like tipping God – “The service was nice, I have a little money here, I’ll drop it in.”
Regular Givers give a particular dollar amount and they give that amount consistently ($20 per week or $100 per month for example)
Proportional Givers commit to a percentage (as opposed to a set dollar amount), and they often desire to increase that percentage regularly. The risk for these people is that they perceive the tithe as a ‘goal’ or ‘finish line’. “Once I’m tithing, I’ve arrived! I am where God wants me to be.” Perhaps, but then there is the category of Generous Giving.
Generous Givers are those who no longer ask God how much to give, but how much tokeep. They don’t think about “arriving” at a particular amount or percentage; rather, they’re always in the process of expanding their generosity to a new level.
As you think about your communication around generosity, how might you use more intentional language to inspire people in each category? What sorts of “next steps” could you offer at each level?