"God never estimates what we give from impulse. We are given credit for what we determine in our hearts to give; for the giving that is governed by a fixed determination." - Oswald Chambers
Helping our people experience the timeless truth of moving from impulse and haphazard giving to systematically and joyfully giving is a continuous process.
We see this in Paul's writings:
"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (II Corinthians 9:7)
"On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come." (I Corinthians 16:2)
Summer is an excellent time to reinforce this principle in the hearts of your people in a way that is inspiring and instructing. Here are five ways to leverage the summer slump to train and motivate your people in the area of consistency in their giving.
1. Get better at vision casting on all levels.
Kennon Callahan writes, “A clear vision of mission will be decisive in fostering your congregation's capacity for giving.” Vision is always asking the "whys" not the "hows." A compelling vision moves people on a heart level as well as makes sense on a head level. Crafting your vision through multiple mediums is critical to the process.
How are you at telling your vision?
2-minute giving talks
State of the church talks
How are you at writing your vision?
How are you at showing your vision?
How are you at celebrating your vision?
Give and serve moments
2. Manage your cash flow properly.
Learning the giving rhythms in your church is critical and maintaining 120 days of expenses in your reserve account is important for peace of mind. Stressful appeals very rarely produce the results you desire. You don't want to create a culture that the only time the church speaks about money is because they are in need. Need-based appeals reduce your vision to paying bills and not changing lives. Making mid-course corrections and spending freezes is a better use of the leader's time than spending energy on need-based appeals. This will give you the freedom to deal with the money talks as an issue of spiritual formation rather than "help we are in trouble!"
3. Send out quarterly giving reports.
The whole purpose of sending out quarterly giving statements is to create a deeper vision of ownership throughout the church. This giving letter should include a well-written vision letter and thank you. It should include a giving statement and some type of teaching on tithing, generosity or ways to give to the church.
4. Spend focused time with the 20% who give 80% of your budget.
Too many pastors are afraid to give focused attention to those carrying the bulk of the financial burden of the church. The stated reasons I have heard are: 1) I don't want to be charged with favoritism, 2) I don't trust my own heart, 3) I'm intimated by people of means.
My response to this objections is: grow up, pastor! Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote "act like men" (I Corinthians 16:13).
Investing time in people who are generous to your church is not favoritism — it's wisdom. One pastor I know spends time with each of his core givers to assess that they are serving in the right areas to maximize their giftedness. If you don't trust your own heart then, deal with it by confessing it and submitting to accountability over the issue. People of means need shepherds too. I remember visiting a couple in their home one evening (he had one of the top fifty salaries in our state). As we chatted over the evening, the wife said to me, "Thanks for coming. You are the first pastor to ever step into our home."
How can you invest in your leaders relationally this summer?
How can you invest in your leaders spiritually this summer?
What could you do this summer to deploy or re-deploy them into service?
5. Help people automate their giving.
If your church does not have online giving, you are are already 10 years behind. The failure to offer automated giving through online giving or electronic fund transfer (EFT) will hurt you in reaching and capturing the next generation. Every first-time giver should be given a "Ways to Give" document. One month a year could be an opportunity to promote "Let's Go Green in our Giving" through emails, letters, announcements and giving talks.
Bonus: Don't give into the summer slump mentality in your church. Keep the vision and mission red hot through strategic and creative outreach opportunities. Every summer, our church held a "Friends Sunday" which at times surpassed our Easter attendance for that year and propelled us to record attendance in the fall. Remember: a vision slump will always lead to a giving slump!