You Asked For It: How Often Should Pastors Preach About Generosity?

Leadership // April 7, 2015

We are continuing in our “You Asked For It” series with another question that came from our reader survey late last year.

In case you missed the first two topics in this series, you can quickly catch up on recent posts: encouraging generosity outside the offering moment and 3 steps to creating a culture of generosity.

Today we tackle a question multiple pastors submitted with their survey. It’s one I hear quite frequently in meetings with church leaders across the country as well.

Q: How often should we preach on the subject of giving, stewardship, or generosity in general?

A: What I find in many churches today is that many pastors only preach on this topic once a year, either in a single sermon or in a sermon series. Often, the sermon or series occurs during the church’s fall “annual stewardship campaign,” in which everyone is asked to make a giving pledge for the following year. I call it “The Hunt For Green October.”

In these cases, people are only hearing messages about giving in conjunction with the pastor asking for financial commitments. There is an ask associated with the only message they ever hear on the topic, and that’s not good.

The other time I hear of sermons on giving, is unfortunately when the church is falling behind “budget.” There is a financial shortfall, and leadership decides they need to help fill the gap. “So…pastor,” the elders say, “you should preach a message on giving.” (And the pastor prepares another one-hit message with an ask.)

After a while, people don’t like to hear giving sermons because they directly associate it with the church asking for money. In fact, they’ve been conditioned to do so.

(And it doesn’t help your congregation’s views on church and money when they continually see the mega-church evangelist asking for it with questionable motives. You may know of the most recent scenario that made national news. A pastor asked everyone in attendance and watching on TV to contribute $300 or more to help him purchase a $65M jet so he could “continue reaching a lost and dying world.”)

Between our tendencies and a backward culture, it’s no wonder there’s a stigma on giving. As a pastor, you are traveling uphill to reverse this thinking, but it can be done! You see, hearing about generosity once a year simply isn’t often enough. And being asked for money isn’t the right message every time either. Instead, generosity should be part of an ongoing conversation.

Generosity should be part of an ongoing conversation. Click To Tweet

So how do you get your people to stop assuming your preaching on giving is motivated by the church wanting more of their money?

First of all, stop asking people for money at the end of every giving sermon or series. Stop asking. Every once in a while, you should preach your sermon and not ask for money.

That means you have to preach on the subject when there is NO ask, NO commitment card. Preach it because of what you want FOR them, not what you want FROM them.

Let’s get practical for a moment. Here is a suggested calendar and strategy for this approach:

Preach a series on generosity, perhaps even in January when people are thinking about newly made resolutions. Talk about getting our financial houses in order, reordering priorities so we have more to give away, etc. And don’t ask for anything. It’s about discipleship, growing the hearts of your people into a brighter reflection of the amazingly generous God we worship.

Can it be any easier to connect the generosity of God during Easter to God’s call on our lives to also be generous? Make it a point in your messages leading up to Easter. And yes, even on Easter, speak it again. I know there are guests in your service on Easter, but what a great opportunity to let them see that your church is a generous church. Generosity is the new evangelism! Generosity is contagious!

Let them see that you’re not after money for money’s sake, but so you can make a larger impact in the community and the world. Consider a giveaway offering on Easter. Identify a local mission partner and bless their socks off with the generosity of your congregation.

Plan a series on generosity in the fall to approach the topic again and reinforce what you’ve been doing so far. Talk about your ministry successes thus far in the year, or preheat your congregation to the generosity plans you have in the works for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

If you do your annual campaign in the fall season, it’s ok to have the financial commitment as a part of this series. Just be sure to connect generosity to ministry impact in your messages.

It’s very easy to tie generosity into your holiday messages. Just do that – not the entire sermon, but offer a sub-point within the message that ties to generosity. Again, there is no ask, but an opportunity to tie generosity together with ministry impact for your people. These are also good times to consider that giveaway offering to bless a missions or ministry partner.

Let’s break the inaccurate perception that we only talk about money in church because we need it or want more of it. Let’s teach on giving for the purpose of discipling people into a greater and deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

In doing so we will help people:

  • strengthen their faith as they place a greater reliance on God.
  • invest in the things of God and not in the things of this world.
  • loosen their grip on earthly possessions and focus on things that offer true eternal results.
  • realize that we as Christians need to stand against what our culture says is important.

Tim Keller said it well:

“The early church was strikingly different from the culture… the pagan society was stingy with its money and promiscuous with its body. A pagan gave nobody their money and practically gave everybody their body. And the Christians came along and gave practically nobody their body and they gave practically everybody their money.”

So that’s how often I would suggest preaching about the topic of generosity. But remember, the church with a strong giving culture works intentionally to infuse generosity into every area of the life of the church. How are you weaving generosity into the DNA of your church?

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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