In an ideal world, every member of your church would financially partner with you to accomplish your church’s mission. Unfortunately, most churches fall victim to the 80/20 rule, where 80 percent of the total giving is done by just 20 percent of the people.
If you want more people to give to your church, you need to understand and address the reasons why they don’t give. Sometimes it’s a lack of spiritual maturity. Other times it’s a knowledge gap, a logistical challenge, or a financial difficulty. As you remove these barriers to giving, more of your congregation will be able to participate in your church’s generosity.
Here are five reasons why people don’t give to your church:
1. They don’t know why giving is important
It might surprise you how many Christians don’t give simply because they don’t know generosity is an important part of the Christian life. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we’re all stewards and that we’re called to use what God has given us to accomplish his goals. Generosity is a sign of spiritual maturity, and a lack of generosity can be a sign of spiritual immaturity.
You can address this by making sure your church talks about why Christians give to the church. The early Christians gave everything they had to the church because they knew that was the best way to share the love of Christ and meet the needs in their community (Acts 4:32–35). Talk about why giving matters to your church, but also discuss how it impacts their own personal growth as they learn to trust Jesus to meet their needs and use their resources.
2. They don’t know what you’ll do with their gift
Nobody wants to feel like they’re paying to keep the lights on. And there has been an unfortunate number of very public stories about pastors abusing their congregation’s generosity with extravagant displays of personal wealth. After hearing about pastors buying multiple jets, it’s understandable why some would be cautious about giving to a church.
This is where it’s really important for your church to talk about the impact of your church’s generosity. You don’t need to launch into a budget meeting every time you talk about giving, but you should make a point of sharing about some of the projects you’ve completed recently and the ministries that rely on giving.
Ideally, you should have some tangible examples of what giving empowers you to do. When you can say, “Every $2 provides a meal for a person in need in our community,” that’s going to inspire a lot of people to give for the first time. It creates a clear connection between the act of giving and a meaningful outcome.
Testimonies are another great way to help people see the impact of giving. Find the stories in your church and share them through videos, interviews, blog posts, emails, and other formats to ensure that your church sees the ministry you’re doing and understands how they can participate.
3. They already give to other organizations
Unfortunately, when it comes to your congregation’s generosity, you’re competing with local and global charities and ministries.
You can celebrate that generosity and acknowledge the important work these ministries do while still emphasizing why it’s important for people to support the church too. Talk about the needs your church addresses in your community, the missionaries and ministries you help fund, and the unique tasks God has called your church to do. You could also discuss what it means to be part of your church and how their giving helps support the ministry that regularly serves them.
You don’t know where people are directing their generosity or why they’re choosing those ministries and charities instead of your church, but you can remind people why you and the work you do depends on their support.
4. Giving is too inconvenient
Many churches still primarily rely on non-digital giving methods. While passing the offering plate is familiar to those who have grown up in the church, it’s also pretty inconvenient.
People carry less cash and write fewer checks every year, and even the local taco truck accepts card payments. If digital giving isn’t the norm at your church, you’re asking people to make a pitstop at the ATM or grab their checkbook on the way out the door—which they never do at any other time. So no wonder they don’t give!
But even if you do encourage online giving, there are some ways it may still feel inconvenient to non-givers at your church. Pushpay takes seconds to use for the first time, but we still recommend that churches regularly demonstrate how it works—because if you don’t, some people will assume it’s more complicated than it is.
You also need to make sure your digital giving solutions are highly visible, both on your website and during your service. You can display slides that walk people through the process. And be sure to reinforce how simple it is whenever you talk about giving to your church.
5. They’re struggling financially
As Christians, we’re called to be generous with our finances, regardless of how much we have or what our circumstances are. But when someone is going through a financial hardship, a church should be sensitive and understanding. It’s important to create a culture where people feel comfortable turning to your church for wisdom and support.
For example, according to Debt.org, the average American household has more than $130,000 in debt. Between student loans, mortgages, credit cards, and medical debt, it wouldn’t be surprising if many people in your church don’t give because of the sheer weight of their debt. Your church could facilitate a “get out of debt” or financial stability course to help these members get back on their feet. Even if your staff doesn’t have the expertise to teach something like this, there are plenty of great resources and organizations churches can partner with, like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program.
Remove barriers to giving
There are countless reasons why people don’t give to your church. Some of them are simply excuses because people aren’t spiritually ready to give. But some of those reasons reveal barriers you can remove through education, technology, and support. If you want more of your congregation to give, you need to see the obstacles that stand between them and the generous lifestyle we’re called to live—and then take steps to eliminate those obstacles.