Finance Fridays: A Culture of Generosity
This week I read three different blog posts that have me thinking about the way we handle developing a culture of generosity in the church. Jeff Brooks wrote a post on his blog called Uncomfortable Fundraising which argues that far too much time is spent making sure that people won’t feel uncomfortable when they are asked to make a gift. Brooks says that this is exactly the wrong way to go… that you need to be making people feel uncomfortable enough that they are willing to contribute to your cause.
Later in the week Jason McNeal had a post entitled Why Better Story Telling Won’t Lead to Larger Gifts. McNeal suggests that telling people what to feel doesn’t matter, instead you need to be listening to their story and what they are passionate about in order for them to connect into the vision of your organization.
I then read a post that Will Mancini wrote a few weeks ago on communicating vision to your congregation. I could feel people getting uncomfortable as soon as I read the title: Why Preaching Should Not be the Primary Vehicle for Your Church’s Vision. Will’s point is that if the vision of your church is really going to catch on with your congregation, your people need to be the primary communicators. If an average small group leader is able to communicate the vision of your church with passion to a new family, your vision will stick. If the average small group leader doesn’t really know why your church is meeting on Sunday morning… it may be time to rethink your five year plan.
So why does this matter, and how does this fit into the whole Finance Friday thing? Much is made today about how to communicate need in the church, and how we ask for money. I recently read a post where someone was questioning the idea of telling first time visitors not to contribute to the morning’s offering, because we actually secretly DO want them to give. I don’t know that I agree with that mindset, and most pastors that I have met are far more concerned about the spiritual condition of their people than they are with how much that they are giving each week. That said, the way that we approach the idea of generosity in our congregational culture is hugely important to the spiritual condition of the people that we are ministering to.
So how do we approach generosity in a way that allows us to care deeply for the souls of our people, without having it feel like we are in it for the money? I think that each of the three posts that I mentioned gives us a part of a framework which helps us to instill this in our culture:
- Making People Uncomfortable. In order to lead people into a closer relationship with Christ (or any relationship with Christ) they need to be uncomfortable with where they presently are. Part of our job as church leaders is to shepherd our people along the journey of discipleship… and this does not happen until they begin to sense a holy discontent. Bill Hybels does a great job of explaining this in his session at the 2010 Leadership Summit when he spoke about moving from Here to There.
- Connecting Deeply. Relationships are key to being an effective pastor. Knowing the stories and the passions of your people are key to both leading a church well and connecting them with the vision that the Holy Spirit has given your church. As you are going through the discipleship process you need to be helping your congregation connect their passions first to Christ, and then to the vision of your church.
- Release Your People. Once you know the stories and passions of your people help them to connect into the life and rhythm of the church, and release them to worship our God in the way that he gifted them. This may be through working with youth, leading a small group, or by being a part of the sound team on Sunday mornings. As you are able to do this, your people will begin to resonate more deeply with where the church is headed, and begin to communicate not only your church’s vision, but how God is moving in their lives… and sharing their faith story with the world around them.
Throughout all of this we teach about a Jesus who was and is generous… and as we lead our people towards a life more like Christ’s we need to be actively modeling and encouraging that generosity with our time, our talents, and our treasure. Regardless of what we communicate before the passing of the offering plates on Sunday morning, a congregation engaged in the vision of a church will actively give to that church.
How do YOU engage your people in the vision of your church?