Most pastors in most churches don’t teach people a biblical foundation for giving and as a result they harvest what they sow…or what they haven’t sown!
(This follows the “broken ministry/business model” reference a few weeks ago.)
I started down this journey by misadventure some years ago myself.
I was a new pastor. I had inherited a $100,000 deficit on a $400,000 budget. (It’s a much longer story.) Every monthly meeting was living out what last week I termed the survival spiral toward death.
And every meeting was underscored by Harold saying: Pastor we gotta do stewwwwardship (in a long enunciated sort of way that still rings in my ears and brings a smile to my heart).
What followed next was a potpourri of bad ideas, gimmicks, and legalistic entreaties to get people to give out of duty, obligation or guilt.
None of them included
- Teach what the Bible says about money and giving.
- Let the life, death and resurrection of Jesus serve as sufficient motivation.
- Share our own personal stories of giving and generosity.
- Connect giving to vision for the Mission of God.
- Regularly say “thanks” to the people who give.
- Provide a regular (annual?) opportunity for everyone to affirm or increase their giving.
- Give people permission to take “baby steps” as their faith matures.
Not a pretty picture.
I reached into my memory of everything I knew. It wasn’t much.
I mustered a summertime sermon that included a couple of poorly placed sentences like…
If you’ve got some money you should give some money.
After the first service I was met by John, 50 years my senior, saying, “Pastor if you preach much more about money these pews will be empty!”
John scared me. I wanted to be a “success,” certainly wanted to be “liked,” didn’t want to invite “conflict” into my leadership world. So I pulled up my weakly hammered stake in the ground, until I began to fire a few of the bullets above.
A sorry admission, right? I had surrendered, at the expense of the people of God in that wonderful congregation being able to better live out the Mission of God. At the expense of an enormous amount of their personal joy and fulfillment in being instruments of God.
So, THANK YOU to all the pastors and leaders and churches who do this so much better than I did in those early years! You give people an opportunity to frame their lives and their giving and their attitudes toward money with a biblical foundation motivated by the Gospel.
Here are six reasons why pastors, and congregations, don’t teach people to give…and what to do about it.
- We’re conflict avoiders.
- We’re a work in progress ourselves with giving and money management and debt.
- We don’t know how.
- We haven’t connected giving with the heart of God.
- We have no models where we’ve seen it done well.
- We’re afraid “everyone” will leave the church.
And, what to do about it:
- Don’t settle for less.
- Start with a few of the seven bullet points above.
- Find a pastor or church like yours (or not like yours) that does this well and do something! that you learn from them.
I’d be remiss to forget to thank you myself for your engagement with PLI and your gifts. Many of you make gifts occasionally or monthly in large or small amounts to partner together in helping leaders more effectively lead their churches around the mission of God. You make gifts sometimes to simply express thanks for the place PLI has played in your own life or congregation. Oftentimes it’s to invest in the leaders coming behind you.
So, would you do two things?
- Share this post with someone that might need a simple boost of encouragement to more boldly lead in this important area.
- Check out the learning communities beginning in 2016 for yourself!
Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken