These Reasons Are Why Giving is Down in Your Church

You are trying to comprehend why the giving levels in your church are down. You may know several possibilities, but you aren’t certain. As I have worked with several congregations, we have isolated the issue to one or a few causes. See if any of these causative factors may be at work in your church.

  1. Lower attendance. Okay, I may be stating the obvious here, but it is worth noting. I spoke with a pastor whose church’s giving is down 15 percent from a year ago, and the attendance is down 12 percent. There is a high correlation between attendance and giving, even if you have a strong online giving component. It is also worth noting that attendance frequency is down in many churches, if not most churches, as well. The family who attends three times a month is more likely to give more than the same family attending two times a month.
  2. Generational shifts. Builders, those born before 1946, are more likely to give to the church out of institutional loyalty. Boomers and Gen X have the highest family incomes, but their giving is not as consistent. Millennials thus far are not strong givers in our churches. In many churches, the Builders are being replaced with Millennials. In other words, more generous givers are being replaced with less generous givers.
  3. Giving to purposes rather than organizations. From the Builders to the Millennials, there has been a dramatic shift in the motivations for giving. The Builders, as noted above, are more likely to give out of institutional loyalty. Thus, church leaders could exhort this generation to “give to the church,” and they would respond positively. The Millennials, however, give to purposes rather than organizations. Church leaders must demonstrate with specificity how the funds in the church are being used for a greater purpose. And that greater purpose must be real, personal, and compelling.
  4. Little teaching on giving. The pendulum has swung too far. In an overreaction to the constant pleas for money twenty years ago, more church leaders are hesitant to even mention the spiritual discipline of giving. Frankly, many of our church members do not comprehend that giving is both a mandate and a blessing, because they have not been taught about it in their churches.
  5. Not as much discretionary income among churchgoers. Before you object to this point, I know fully our discretionary income should not be the basis for our giving. God should get the first fruits, and not the leftovers. But the stark reality is that many people who do give to churches only give their leftovers, or their discretionary income. Though the economy has improved over the past few years, most of the growth in discretionary income has been in the top 20 percent of household incomes. Yet those who attend our churches are more likely to be a part of the other 80 percent. Simply stated, most of our church members have not seen increases of any size in discretionary income.

There are obvious actions we can take toward this challenge. We can teach and preach unapologetically on biblical stewardship. We can be clearer on the purpose or the “why” behind the giving. And we can offer different mechanisms for giving to make it more like a spiritual habit rather than a negligent afterthought. My church, with under 200 in attendance, offers traditional giving, online giving, and text giving. Many churches still do quite well with envelope giving.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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One Change in Your Financial Approach that Changes Everything

Many pastors tell me they hate fundraising. I think there’s a legitimate reason for that. You see, the call of the pastor is to cast, carry, and shepherd the vision of the church. Meanwhile, it seems that the call of the fundraiser is to merely collect funds when resources are low. It can then be difficult for the call of pastor to be transformed into that of fundraiser.

I know the topic of money has a challenging history in the church, which is another reason pastors may be averse to the idea of fundraising. While we can’t change our history, understanding it can help a pastor transform his approach from fundraising to one of surplus and generosity. We can build a generous culture more closely tied to the call of the pastor and avoid establishing a culture of fundraising — which neither the pastor nor the church enjoys.

The History of the Church Fundraising Model

Here’s a brief overview of the traditional fundraising model in the church.

The first professional capital fundraising firms specifically focusing on the church can trace their roots to the 1960’s. Drawing on secular marketing influences, these firms helped churches create highly marketed, highly emotional, short-run appeals for large amounts of money (i.e. the campaign Charles Sumner created for the YMCA). These efforts for the church were very successful, and the church campaign industry began in earnest.

Fast forward to the 1980’s when church scandals involving money and impropriety took center stage. Oral Roberts told his church he would die if he didn’t raise $8 Million. Jim Bakker was accused of adultery, and conning people out of millions through his televangelist ministry. Jimmy Swaggart was accused of misappropriating funds, having affairs, and blackmail. These very public falls from grace led to church silence on money. We stopped talking about money or asking for money. We went from campaigns to scandals to silence.

By the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s, pastors like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels ushered in a new way of talking about money. They encouraged first-time visitors, or nonmembers, to let the offering plate pass them by. Even though Hybels is known for being a frugal money manager and Warren is known for his generous lifestyle, their passions for stewardship and generosity did not translate to the church. Most pastors adopted the “let offering pass” statements for newcomers, but never embraced the financial generosity plans behind the scenes of these two great churches. As a matter of fact, in many churches passing the plate is a thing of the past and the offering is now collected in a box hanging on a wall. Thus, the silence on money, in many congregations, persisted.

Meanwhile, church capital campaigns were still status quo. A positive culture around money no longer existed, yet churches produced marketed, emotional appeals for funds every three years or so.

The first 10 years of the 2000’s brought money back into the social conversation, perhaps more than it had been for quite some time. 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 market crash, the Iraq War, and other national catastrophes meant everyone was talking about the need for resources. Celebrities began stepping into the conversation with philanthropy and acts of service. Shows focusing on resources started to hit the airwaves: Oprah’s Big Give, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, American Idol Gives Back, etc. Generosity had become a national conversation, yet the church was still silent. We had simply never recovered from the scandalized 80’s. We had not redeveloped a positive culture around generosity. If we aren’t talking about money, it is difficult to talk about generosity.

Generosity in the Church Today

Today, several influential pastors have helped spur on a new conversation about generosity for the church. Rick Warren’s Peace Plan and Andy Stanley’s book Be Rich are two examples of that. Pastors like Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas and Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Oklahoma City, OK have continued to highlight the model of generosity through their churches. Quite possibly the church with the strongest financial policies, principles, and practices is Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL where Chris Hodges serves as the pastor. Yet even with these strong generosity leaders in the church, we are still very far behind the national conversation and cultural expectations of generosity. Many churches are still, by and large, running emotional, short-term capital campaigns in three year cycles while otherwise remaining silent.

The Generosity Tides are Changing

What if I told you we didn’t have to fundraise this way? What if I told you there was another path to resource vision? It can be tempting to recreate your previous year’s budget with an increase of 5-10% each year, it can be tempting to rely on capital campaigns to create margin and drive funding, but relying on capital campaigns often stands in the way of leading with vision and cultivating generous disciples.

A recent survey done by LifeWay Research of 500 large churches (over 1,000 in weekend worship attendance) noted several trends. 100% of these churches had conducted a 3 year capital campaign in their past. Still, they had major financial concerns of debt load, aging donor base, and lack of a generosity strategy. The commitment to capital campaigns was not solving their long-term challenges. It was only meeting their short-term needs.

Here’s are my suggestions:

  1. Begin with a year-long generosity strategy. At LifeWay Generosity we have created a year-long Generosity Cycle consisting of six modules: Believe, Lead, Teach, Practice, Celebrate, and Thank.
  2. Engage in a comprehensive digital giving tool. Your digital giving platform should enable your people to give anytime, anywhere, and almost anything. Generosity by LifeWay’s digital giving platform allows you to do just that.
  3. Train your people to live ready and to respond generously to God’s leadings. We call this the Generosity Pathway. All the resources you need to grow a thriving generous culture where you are experiencing freedom and surplus can be found at LifeWay.com/Generosity. Check it out.

I would love to hear your thoughts and know what you are learning about generosity and how it is applied in your church. You can connect with me on Facebook, and Twitter.

> Read more from Todd.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd McMichen

Todd McMichen

Todd serves at the Director of Generosity by LifeWay. His generosity roots arise from leading multiple capital campaigns for local churches that together raised over $35,000,000 for their visionary projects. Since 2000, Todd has been a well-established stewardship coach, generosity leader, author, and conference speaker.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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Money Matters: Cultivating Generosity Every Day

Does asking for money and discussing financial needs not feel very spiritual at times?

Ministry income is a subject many church leaders struggle to think about from a spiritual perspective. We often see fundraising as a necessary but unpleasant secular activity to support spiritual action. Or we might even believe that the need to ask for financial support reflects a failure to plan well or trust God enough to provide for our needs. Unfortunately, we wait until a crisis to engage the spiritual potential in financial participation.

Generosity is cultivated, not discovered.

THE QUICK SUMMARY –  God and Money by John Cortines and Gregory Baumer

Two young Harvard MBAs on the fast track to wealth and success tell their story of God’s transforming power and how Scripture brought them to the startling conclusion that they should give the majority of their money away to those in need.

Packed with compelling case studies, research, and practical strategies, God and Money offers an honest look at what the Bible says about generous giving. No matter what your salary may be, God and Money shows you how you can reap the rewards of radical generosity in your own life.

John Cortines and Gregory Baumer met as Harvard MBA candidates in a men’s Bible study and stopped asking, “How much should I give?” and started asking, “How much do I need to keep?” With their top-notch education and rising careers, Cortines and Baumer were guaranteed comfort and security for the rest of their lives. However, when their plans for saving and spending collided with God’s purposes for extravagant generosity, they were each compelled to make a life-changing decision that challenges the values held by mainstream America and many Christian commentators. Cortines and Baumer show not only how to radically give, but also explain how to do so responsibly.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The model of a generous church comes in all shapes and sizes. We must patiently pursue God’s unique calling as our part in the kingdom. We need to cooperate with the people down the road and around the world to present the complete gospel to those who are not walking with Him. Your church has a generous future that is God’s perfect design.

To embrace your unique future requires hard choices. Generosity ministry is a mountain to climb, not a sprint to run.

The love of money causes us to become insecure, unsatisfied, and self-absorbed. It deceives us into embracing a false system for measuring our self-worth. Conversely, being generous with our wealth eliminates its power over us.

Once we decide to up the ante in our financial generosity, what are the nuts and bolts of doing so in the right way? As we reflected on stories and case studies, some common characteristics of giving well emerged. We believe that there are three key criteria we see as best practices for getting the giving game right.

  • First, gifts must be Gospel-centered. If not, they lose their eternal value. We are indeed called to address material needs where we find them, but to do so in a strictly humanitarian sense, devoid of the Gospel, is to leave out the greatest cause for hope that we have to offer.
  • Second, great gifts are aligned with the giver’s personal ministry calling. Why not give our money to the same place we give our time and talent, where we have strong relationships, to an area where God has called and enabled us to make a difference? When we take on a piece of God’s mission on the earth, it is only natural to apply every resource we have, including money, toward advancing that mission.
  • And finally, giving is best done when it is done with maximum effectiveness. This is a self-evident statement, but it’s often hard to work out in practice. Watching giving veterans has shown that we should bring our whole suite of abilities and knowledge to the charitable giving process, ensuring before God that we maximize the Kingdom-utility of the dollars He allows to pass through our hands.

We believe that the best giving manages to satisfy all three of these key criteria.

John Cortines and Gregory Baumer, God and Money

A NEXT STEP

Have you heard the saying “Your vision will always outpace your resources”? Can you relate? Do you find yourself in the position where you always need more money for more ministry? For the majority of churches the answer is a resounding YES! When it comes to money there always seems to be more month than money. Unfortunately, great opportunities come and go simply because we lack the resources to take advantage of them.

What if it doesn’t have to be this way! What if the issue isn’t a lack of available resources? What if the lack of resources is a leadership issue? For many of us I believe this is the case. Let’s be honest. Many of us lack the skill and competency to move from a deficit to an abundance of resources for kingdom impact. It isn’t that we are bad leaders. It just happens to be where we are at and the good news now is we can do something about it. Where do we start? Why not determine that the one big thing for this next year is going to be moving our financial needle from deficit to abundance.

Review the following five thoughts and best practices developed by the Resourcing Team at Auxano and begin a process of moving from deficit to abundance.

  1. Start with Vision Clarity

There must always be a clear and compelling vision behind a cause you ask people to give toward.

General appeals for resources get a general response. Abundance begins when we give people a compelling reason to give within the local church. People want to be a part of something significant. They want to do more than turn on the lights. They want to solve a problem that creates a better world.

  1. Budget on Last Year’s Income

It doesn’t stop with vision. If we are going to have an abundant harvest of resources to invest in the kingdom, we must look at how we operate. A common practice in setting the church budget is to take last year’s receipts and add a certain percentage to that number based on anticipated growth in attendance and giving. If last year’s income was $500,000 we may anticipate a 10% growth in giving, so we set our new budget at $550,000. This is not necessarily a best practice or even a good practice.

What if instead we budget on last year’s income or even went a step further and budgeted on less than last years budget? What if instead of budgeting on $550,000 or even $500,000 we budgeted on $450,000?

What if while we budgeted on $450,000, our giving grows to $550,000? Now we get to live in abundance. Instead of fighting for budget we have a surplus to invest in the kingdom, margin for the lean times, and/or a head start on the next big capital need.

  1. Rethink Your Percentages

In addition to budgeting on last year’s numbers, we need to rethink how we spend our budgets. A consistent model for budget planning allocates 50% on staffing, 25% on facilities, and 25% on ministry and missions. Whenever our staffing cost goes up, it has to come from somewhere. If the cost of our facilities increases, then a church has to cutback on ministry, staffing, raise additional dollars, or they enter into a deficit.

Driving down your numbers can be another way of creating an abundance of financial resources. Some churches have found the best way to do this is by lowering their staffing cost. This doesn’t mean that they pay their staff less and reduce the level of their benefits. It simply means that they expect staff to equip volunteers to lead ministries.

These churches often operate with 35% to 40% of their budget going to staff. This is radically different for many churches who budgeted to grow by adding staff even when they can’t afford it. Churches often rationalize these actions by saying things like, “A good staff member always pays for himself or herself.” To be completely honest, it seldom works like that. The usual response is to cut something or someone deemed less strategic. It was the constant proverbial rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  1. Develop a Robust Leadership System

You can’t reduce your investment in staff without developing a robust leadership system. To do this we need volunteers that can lead. Paul put it this way, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV).

It’s common to find an abundance of volunteers, but a deficit when it comes to volunteers who are actually leading. Churches that are able to dial back on staffing have an intentional process in place to raise-up an abundant harvest of leaders who can serve in strategic places eliminating the need for paid staff in certain places.

  1. Create a Generous Disciple Pathway

At the end of the day we will never experience abundance if we don’t develop generous disciples. Disciple making at its core is about worldview transformation. We need to disciple people to think about their resources differently. For abundance to take place, we need the mind of Christ. A generous disciple pathway will help disciples navigate toward this new mindset regardless of where they begin. Imagine an intentional pathway that helps occasional givers become regular givers, and regular givers to become tithers, and tithers to become extravagant givers.

If we did this alone it would have an incredible impact on our ability to impact the kingdom. At the same time let’s face the fact that creating generous disciples without the other practices may not lead to abundance. Abundance is the result of a discipline approach that includes all of the practices mentioned above.

Chances are your financial systems are perfectly designed to get the results you are currently getting. Making lasting changes aren’t a matter of doing business as usual. We often believe that change is the result of our wills. Unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Lacking the skills or competency as a leader to create abundance isn’t a failure. Failing to reach out to those who can help you learn new skills or competencies can be. Don’t be a leader that says that you will figure it out and don’t. There’s too much at stake.


Taken from SUMS Remix 45-3, published July 2016


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.