Ministry and Money Part 1: Why People Give
by Dan Reiland
I find it interesting that many good pastoral leaders are hesitant or even timid in the area of challenging their people to give. In this issue of The Pastor's Coach I hope to give some insight into the reasons people give and hopefully encourage you in this challenging area of leadership.
For most pastors, Monday morning carries with it anticipation for two critical numbers. One is how many people responded to the Holy Spirit's promptings (as guided by the morning sermon.) And a distant second, but nonetheless second, is the offering. Let's get honest for a moment, no matter how clear the priority of changed lives according to God's purpose and power, money still matters when it comes to ministry. If you don't believe that then you have never in the history of your church fallen below budget for several months at a time. (And if that is true, we would all love to hear how you do that!)
When I was a young leader I often said I wish money wasn't an issue. I wish that some rich person would write one big check a year so we wouldn't have to deal with this. My rationale? It is difficult enough to focus on life transformation without financial issues getting in the way. When you add the "money factor" to the equation it seems to get intensely complicated. That kind of thinking showed both my naivety about the reality that "ministry cost money" and the deeper theological issues about God wanting us to wrestle with the topic of money. Why? Money always leads us to the real issues of the heart. There are some 2,000 scriptures on money, and the following three give us a taste of the truth of this point.
19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Matthew 6:24
1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
The "Money Factor" is really more about the "God Factor." It reveals levels of spiritual maturity, obedience, commitment, trust, and an overall Kingdom mindset that causes people to invest in the eternal.
It is interesting that many good pastoral leaders are hesitant or even timid in only one area, challenging their people to give. (Both from the pulpit and one on one.) If you are one of these pastors, keep in mind that it's not ultimately about money. It is about spiritual maturity. You are not asking for money for yourself or Kingdom work. You are really asking how much they trust, believe in, and want to obey God. You are asking if their heart is in this world or in the new life to come.
Pastor, my purpose is to encourage you and challenge you to dive into the issue of money in your church. Why people give is a good place to start.
Let's begin with the wrong reasons people give.
The good news is that in healthy churches the following reasons are not common experience. Unfortunately, it still happens far too often. Read these and reflect on your own church.
- Pressure - The person feels direct coercion from the pastor and or church leaders.
- Guilt - The person feels they have lived an ungodly life and they attempt to please God or buy favor. Another variation is being "guilted" into giving by the pastor or church leadership.
- Taxation - This is the, "compute your fair share" and give it. It has nothing to do with spiritual growth or sensitivity to what God is saying to a person.
- Impress - The person wants to get noticed or get time with the pastor so they give large checks.
- Power - This is a variation of giving to impress. The person attempts to leverage their influence in the church by giving large sums of money. Note: This is rarely done with malice - just immaturity.
Giving people the benefit of the doubt, none of these are based on sin or malice. But it requires an active and intentional effort in your teaching and leadership to prevent them or they will exist.
So let's get to the right reasons.
These are seven right and healthy reasons that cause people to give:
- Clear and compelling vision
When the people sense you know where you're going and you know how to get there they are more apt to give. This isn't true, however, with the mechanics of a vision alone. A good plan is essential, but not enough. Heart must also be present. Clarity describes the plan. Compelling describes the heart. When you think about the mission/vision of your church, reflect on the quality of both parts. How clear is your plan? How compelling is the expression of your heart?
I can't overemphasize this point. So let me give the bottom line. If the people don't trust you they won't give. Don't give in to the temptation to over-spiritualize this issue. It's too easy to dismiss this by saying "the people don't truly trust God and they therefore do not give." That may or may not be true, but it doesn't eliminate the topic of trust on a human level. Everything from the quality of your relationships and how you treat people, to the level of consistency that you demonstrate follow through on what you say you will do contributes to or detracts from how well the people trust you.
This is one of the practical reasons people give. People like teams that win. Again, don't over-spiritualize your thinking to the point that you excuse long-term failure. "We're small but we're committed." When people see others visiting and returning to your church it is encouraging. It is a huge breath of fresh air when your people see new people jumping in to help with ministry. And it is flat out inspiring when your people see others giving their life to Christ and growing in spiritual maturity. Candidly, (I know I'm at risk to say this for the possibility of being misinterpreted,) baptism services are one the strongest influencers toward people giving to God's work. When a new believer is baptized there is something deep within the very fiber a person's being that resonates with God's heart and his redemptive plan. People want to be part of what God is doing!
- Personal ministry benefit
Another practical reason people give is that they receive blessing and tangible value from the ministry of the church. This is not a wrong motive. It is not about "paying for services rendered." It's about gratitude and the desire to express how fortunate they feel.
I know that in the big picture of people's spiritual experience that their giving should ultimately be about their expression of love and gratitude to God for what He did for them through His Son on the cross. Keep in mind, however, that the church is a living part of that expression. At Crossroads, we recently finished a six-week series on parenting called: "Enjoy the Ride." Hundreds of parents have continually expressed their gratitude for what we as a church have done for their families.
- Sense a tangible need
My mom was never a regular churchgoer and wouldn't fit into contemporary definitions of a committed Christian. But if you knew her it is interesting to note how much faith in God she had and how generous she was to the church. I remember many times seeing her jump to write a generous check when she heard about a specific need in the church. As a business owner of a travel agency, she related to needs that were common to her. I mentioned one time, simply in passing, how our copier never worked. She immediately said: "That will never do, you guys need a copier that works, and out came her checkbook!" There was nothing in it for her, there was no leverage point, and she didn't even attend much. It was simply in response to a need.
- Shared ownership
We all understand that people give more to things that they participate in. The effort you invest in helping people find a place of meaningful and spirit-directed ministry encourages their generosity toward the church. When people discover and experience the joy of serving others, especially in the specific area that God has wired them for, they begin to sense in a larger way God's work in their midst. It's exciting to see people grow and catch on to what God is doing and how He will use them if they surrender to His plan.
- Biblical directive
We would all like to think this is the one and only, or at least primary reason people give - but it's not. In fact, a surprisingly low percentage of people give solely because of their love for and utter devotion to God and the teachings in His word. It is still our responsibility to continue to teach this principle so that more and more people give for the pure reason of their love for God, but don't ignore all the other reasons that I have listed. My kids don't do all the right things simply because they love me as their Dad, but it's still good that they do them. When they are older and more mature, they will likely better understand how all these things fit together but for now I'm happy that they do what is right.
I hope the insights within these seven reasons people give help guide you in your leadership and ability to grow your people!
This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter The Pastor's Coach available at www.INJOY.com.
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