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How to Cultivate Generosity in the Church

People want to be generous! My wife and I watched a 12-year-old BBC television series called Monarch of the Glen not long ago. It’s a lightweight, fun program with all sorts of interesting dramatic twists and turns. A number of episodes into the series, a 30-something female banker has come on the scene to tighten the ship at the sinking McDonald Estate.

We found it fascinating how the writers have typecast the young banker as such a black-and-white businesswoman that she fails to juggle both the whole of the family as well as the estate. I told my wife the other night, “This character is actually playing out as a Scrooge!”

Do you have a few folks (Scrooges) like that in the church you serve? It’s all about the pennies, nickels, and dimes and nothing about the mission for them. Fortunately, most pastors are blessed with wonderful people who are extremely generous. However, there are always times when we can challenge others and ourselves to a higher level of generosity.

Over the years, I’ve discovered six ways to cultivate generosity in the church. This certainly is not an exhaustive list, but I think it’s a good one to consider as you plan any efforts to encourage giving in your church.

1. Pray

First things first. Whenever you embark on an effort to encourage people in any area of their lives, always pray first. Don’t start in with your own plan and then in the fourth quarter of your effort say, “Oh, I should probably ask God to help me here.” No. Pray first. Ask for His guidance on every effort to lead and teach the body about anything—especially in the area of generosity.

2. Model

It is important for leaders to lead. You’re the leader, and while you may not be telling everyone the amounts you’re giving, the church needs to know you are leading the way in giving. Tell them that you believe in the principles of giving as articulated in scripture, and you practice them.

3. Broaden the focus

While at the end of the day we do need to pay the bills, it is critical we talk about generosity in terms beyond money. Are people generous with themselves, their time, their non-cash resources, their spirit, etc.? Help people understand the breadth of generosity. It may impact them and the church in phenomenal ways.

4. Teach tithing

I’m amazed at the number of pastors and churches who are afraid to talk about tithing. In simple terms, God has put a plan in place for all churches that (if implemented) can adequately support the work of ministry at that church, whether large or small. A tithe is ten percent of a person’s income. Don’t be afraid to teach it. I’m confident you are doing so in your own life, so why not teach and model the blessing to the congregation?

5. Share testimonies

There is nothing better for increasing generosity than hearing stories of how people have learned to give. You have people in your church who, after being challenged by you to tithe or give in some special way, have watched God do amazing things in their own lives and finances. Get the story on video and share it with the church. It will encourage everyone.

6. Tie to mission

People give to people, and people give to causes. People don’t give to things. We may think our budget needs things, but what our budget should really reflect is the mission of the church. People want to give to efforts bigger than themselves. Don’t challenge people to replace the carpet. Challenge them to create spaces for life change.

Concluding Thoughts

After a few decades of ministry in the local church, I’m more convinced than ever that people want to give. They want to be generous. Some of them just don’t know how. Some of them need to hear encouraging stories of how God responds to our generosity. They need to understand how their generosity ties to the mission of the church.

I can assure you, if you pray, model, broaden, teach, share, and tie to mission, you will watch an increase in generosity in your church. “Give and it will be given to you” is still true. Whatever you do, embark on this journey to encourage generosity with enthusiasm. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll experience as a result.