The topic of money can feel a bit tricky. While you’re sensitive to culture’s perception of the church as “always asking for money,” you also know addressing people’s giving is a crucial part of ministry. That’s partly because your budget depends on your church family’s giving, but it’s also because you know how important generosity is to people’s discipleship journey.
In part one of this series, I helped you fix one of the biggest generosity mistakes I see on a regular basis—ineffective sharing of financial information. Today, I want to help you fix another common problem within the church generosity landscape.
The second biggest mistake churches make in regard to growing their generosity culture is not paying attention to the calendar. They miss strategic opportunities to teach their folks why and how they should become more generous. By building conversations about money right into your church calendar—often—you’ll develop a culture of generosity—which your people will experience very differently from “talking about money.”
Here are three things you can do to fix this:
Create an Annual Church Development Calendar
Many pastors make the mistake of talking about money once a year—during the annual “stewardship series.” Instead, create an annual timeline that defines a plan for promoting a strong generosity culture.
- Staff meetings. Make generosity a part of each staff meeting by encouraging your leaders to share giving stories from their ministry areas. Every week (or however often you meet), ask, “How have you seen the value of generosity lived out in our church and/or your ministry area during the past week?”
- High capacity giver/leader one-on-one meetings. Make it a point to have a weekly (at least) coffee meetings or meals with a person or couple you consider to be from your list of highest capacity givers and leaders. Often these people are highly visionary, entrepreneurial business leaders. They can provide valuable insight into your leadership. You can offer updates on what’s coming up in the short- and long-term future for the church. Pastors and nonprofit leaders who execute in this way have a much easier time garnering major gift support when a special funding (capital) project comes along. Relationships are the key factor. Don’t wait until that project comes along; work at building those relationships now.
- Offering introductions. This is one of your greatest opportunities: You get to speak to your givers every single weekend! Be intentional about who’s writing your offering introductions and who’s delivering them.
- Giving updates. Rather than placing weekly giving info in your worship bulletin, provide a more thorough and detailed giving update on a monthly basis. Your website is the most logical place for this update, but be sure to also reference it (and link to it) using all relevant communication channels: your weekly email newsletter, worship bulletin, printed newsletter, and so on.
- Giving stories. Invite givers to tell giving stories as a part of your offering introductions, sermon illustrations, testimonies, and more. It’s best to do these via video so you can post them on your website and social media channels. (Share these stories at least quarterly.)
- Giving statements. Generate and send quarterly giving statements, along with a bright and colorful cover letter that shares ministry successes from the past quarter.
- Legacy giving updates. An important part of whole-life stewardship is to have and promote a legacy giving program. Quarterly, provide updates in the program, celebrate new estate gifts as people let you know they’ve included the church in their plans, and describe how recent gifts received have been used to further the ministry of the church. Be sure to promote your Wills/Estate Planning workshops within these updates.
- Sermon series. At least twice per year, preach a series on generosity that’s not driven by a campaign of any sort. Simply teach the discipleship of giving.
- Small group engagement. Ask your small groups to study giving at least once per year. If your groups regularly use sermon-based curriculum, they’ll naturally engage generosity studies twice per year (because you’ll be preaching about it semi-annually).
- Discipleship classes. Offer generosity topics as part of your core curriculum. Many excellent studies and books exist on the topic.
- Financial Peace University (FPU). Many people want to give more, but they feel like they can’t because of debt and other obligations. To equip people to be more generous, offer FPU classes(or something similar) twice per year as part of your discipleship class offerings.
- Online giving/recurring giving refresher. Summer months and Sundays missed due to cancellations caused by weather are only two reasons to stress electronic and recurring giving. Plan a simple emphasis twice per year to get more and more people online and recurring to smooth out giving during the year, and to keep gifts coming while people are absent.
- The 11-month giving statement. Send a giving statement and cover letter in early December.
- End-of-year email. Email your entire congregation on December 30 or 31 using this formula.
- Annual report. Produce an annual report for delivery in January. Include previous year’s giving statement for IRS reporting purposes, and be sure to express your gratitude for people’s faithfulness.
- Wills/estate-planning seminar. People don’t often think about including their church in their estate plan. Hold a seminar once or twice per year to establish a culture of legacy giving in your church. This should be a vital and ongoing ministry in your church.
- State-of-the-church series. Each year, preach a message series that refreshes people on your vision and mission, and include generosity as a key component.
- End-of-year giving project. Determine a special, end-of-year project to which people can contribute—whether within your church or an effort in your community. This is an excellent on-ramp to engage new givers within your church.
- High-capacity giver retreat/gathering. In addition to your one-on-one meetings with high-capacity givers (and for the same reasons as stated in the weekly suggestion above), bring small groups of them together for a vision retreat or less formal dessert gathering. During your time together, update them on what’s in the future and ask how the church can better minister within the church and community.
Appoint a Generosity Champion
Someone on your staff must be held accountable for following through with the items on this calendar. Be sure to add it to their job description. Your generosity champion shouldn’t necessarily be “doing” the work, but they should be responsible for making sure each element of your newly planned calendar is carried out. This makes generosity development a core focus going forward.
Build a Generosity Team
Having a staff person assigned to these responsibilities isn’t enough. You don’t want that person to “go it alone.” Plan on enlisting a few people to serve on a generosity team. You could leverage your already existing finance or stewardship team, but if you do, be sure to update their team’s description and responsibilities list. I find most finance teams are wired to manage the funds received, and aren’t necessarily in tune with tasks designed to nurture and grow those gifts. Selecting a few people who have demonstrated the gift of giving to serve on your generosity team will put the necessary gas in the tank to really make your strategy move.
Remember—intentionality is required to develop a generosity culture. The goal of this calendar is to help create a greater culture of generosity in your church. Generosity must be woven into every ministry area throughout the year in order to truly make a cultural shift. Are you ready to start planning?