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Generosity is a core element of the Christian life. As a pastor, this means that generosity is a core element of discipleship. Here are 10 ways to cultivate generosity in your church.
June 4, 2019
Getting a group of people to be generous is like getting a group of people to eat healthy—it’s hard enough to get 1 person to do it, far less 100 or 1,000.
You can’t coerce people into it.
You can’t force someone to be generous at gunpoint.
You can’t guilt someone into generosity (then giving becomes transactional).
Generosity is a quality of a loving heart.
And yet, there are things you can do to cultivate generosity among members in your church.
More than that, there are strategies you can implement in your church that cultivate generosity among your most skill-wealthy (and wealthy-wealthy) members so that the church is resources to do the work of the kingdom on a larger scale, to grow, and to fulfill the great commission.
Use these 10 strategies to help your church members to become more generous.
Once a few become generous, it inspires others.
In this sense, generosity is just as much caught as it is taught.
As a church leader, all you need to do is plant the seed and cultivate it.
This is why the Apostle Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).
The garden metaphor best explains how generosity comes into existence.
Not through hacks or tricks or shortcuts.
Through the miracle of seed-to-plant kind of growth.
So use these gardening hacks to reap an abundant harvest as early as a year down the road.
It’s easy to think of generosity as just a way of being really nice.
If helping an old lady across the street is “nice,” then giving your hard-earned money to people in need is really nice.
But to God, generosity is more than that.
“But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
Generosity is love manifested in the exchange of material goods or services. Consider some key biblical passages which speak to the nature of generosity:
“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered” (Prov. 21:13).
“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” (Prov. 22:9).
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).
Just as generosity is a cycle, greed and selfishness are a cycle.
The generous are blessed by blessing others materially because they understand that their own possessions are blessings from God. It’s a self-fortifying perspective.
The selfish always see generosity as a loss, and need a tax incentive just to bump a few dollars here or there.
Generosity is an indicator of the heart’s status before God.
Do we live in God’s world?
If we do, then we are called to advance his kingdom in this world, and our resources are a tool in service of that calling.
Make two lists.
First, list evergreen needs in your church that continually prompt requests to give.
What needs continually give rise to expressed need?
What needs keep you going back to wealthy members in your church asking for money?
What initiatives are mission-critical, but also critically underfunded? And why are they underfunded? Are they not marketed well? Do your members lack a passion for your church’s mission?
Make this list—what are perennial needs, and why are they in such desperate need?
The second list should be a list of your “dream partnerships” in the church.
“Jan → Financial Freedom. Jan is an accountant at a major accounting firm in the area, and our church’s budget is a mess. In a dream scenario, she would donate her expertise to help us as a church get our finances in order and project a path to financial security.”
“John → New Building. John is a wealthy local businessman, and has a passion for missions. We don’t currently support a missionary, but we do need help with our new building fundraising plan. So, my dream would be if we could incorporate a missions element into the new building and have him partner with our church in a major way to make this new building possible once and for all.”
Make an entire list of these dreams [Person] → [Need].
Now match these two lists, and you have a list of real-life hypotheticals to ask God for.
In other words, you have your prayer list and you have your mission success list for teaching your church to become generous.
Find out why people want to give.
One indicator of what compels people to give is where else they give.
Do your members give to charity besides your church?
If so, what are those causes to which they give?
Is there any way that you as a church could channel those concerns through a ministry in your church to increase your giving stream, and therefore your resourcing potential as a church?
Every pastor should have a list of major donors in the church—and especially potential major donors.
Every pastor should be building positive working relationships with these donors to ensure that there is an alignment between God’s call on the church and the desires of potential major donors for their charitable giving.
Likewise, pastors should find a way to help those with fewer resources to think about ways to be generous with both their time and their money.
Helping normal people conceive of their generosity as significant, even when it’s not a half-million dollar gift, is crucial to the kingdom.
If a church is working correctly, even small donations of $5 go just as far as a millionaire’s $5—which is to say, as far as God can take it. Which is very far.
There is no such thing as wasted generosity.
It’s impossible for generosity to be a waste.
Yes, some churches could do better at balancing the budget.
But God always makes the most of $1 given—in the heart, he is doing work that can’t be mimicked by keeping that $1 in your pocket.
It’s important to know who in your church isn’t giving—not so that you can shame them, but so that you can pastor them.
Giving is a crucial aspect of discipleship.
If someone isn’t giving, this is related to their spiritual life.
It either means that they are selfish, or that there is no margin in their life, or that they are going through desperate times.
No matter which of these situations is their situation, they need a pastor.
Lack of tithing is an indicator that someone needs a spiritual guide to help them figure out a way to get a place where they can be a cheerful giver.
Make a list of the people who aren’t giving so that you can fulfill your role as a pastor to those in need.
One reason people might not be giving is that you aren’t sufficiently showcasing opportunities to become participating members in your church.
If people can’t have a hands-on experience with the institution to which they’re giving, they’ll be less likely to give.
You should give as many members as possible opportunities to serve so that they can see and feel the needs of the church.
This comes down to basic marketing.
Volunteers will be your biggest donors.
Ask from the stage, in the newsletter, and in the Sunday service program, for people to get involved in as many opportunities as possible.
You can invent jobs if you need to—just to make sure that people have opportunities to volunteer at church.
Low-generosity members may simply need an on-ramp to start giving.
If they can taste and see the goodness of God poured out in the form of mercy ministries, they will see that the sort of work that effects real change costs real dollars and cents.
Don’t just guilt people for money.
Don’t hammer them over the head about how bad they should feel for not being generous.
Show them that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
When Jesus said those words, he wasn’t speaking of an imaginary spiritual world that isn’t our world.
When Jesus said “It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” he was talking about reality—our reality.
So show them that reality.
Reality is on your side when you say, “Come serve with us. It will be a blessing.”
You introduce people to the cycle of generosity that is blessed and blesses through generosity.
This could be the very opportunity low-generosity members need to catalyze their giving potential.
When you ask low-generosity members to give to the cause they’re involved in, this can be in a variety of ways.
You can ask volunteers to give while they are in the field giving.
You can ask volunteers to give in order to go deeper into volunteering.
For example, you can offer basic volunteer opportunities to anyone who wants to volunteer.
But afterward, you can offer advanced weekend or week-long opportunities that cost money—and this money would subsidize the money spent meeting needs and doing kingdom work.
Sometimes, businessmen need to see generosity as transactional simply to understand what a blessing is.
Giving is cause-and-effect.
Blessing is cause-and-effect.
Transaction is cause-and-effect.
Giving low-generosity members a way to invest in a ministry opportunity with their time and money with an eye toward a spiritual ROI is a great way to walk them toward the perspective of Jesus.
Some preachers are hesitant to preach on generosity, because they don’t want to bash their congregants over the head with guilt about tithing.
But this perspective is wrong entirely—generosity isn’t about guilt. Generosity is about blessing.
And when you preach about generosity, God’s Spirit will work through the preaching of his word to create the effect he desires in the hearts of his people.
Also, it’s not like you can never preach on generosity.
Scripture speaks about generosity very often, and to preach the full counsel of God on matters of the spiritual life, you must preach about generosity occasionally.
Pro tip: You can download a free sermon series on generosity right here.
This is an opportunity for your church to bring home some of the principles of your preaching on generosity.
This is an opportunity for high-generosity church members to ask, “How should I plan my giving this coming year?”
This is also an opportunity for low-generosity church members to ask, “How can I give? Where can I give? To whom can I give?” And most importantly—”Why aren’t I giving?”
Don’t shy away from giving your church the opportunity to be convicted by God’s Spirit to become more generous—or to give elsewhere.
This is God’s opportunity to organically prompt the hearts of people with capital and skills to distribute those assets in God’s kingdom according to his calling.
This is God’s opportunity to place on the hearts of his people the needs of the world.
Making this a church-wide topic of discussion in small-groups gives people a moment to be honest and contrite about their own finances before God and in community.
Some Christians have simply never conceived of generosity is a core spiritual discipline.
This is because we too often take for granted that Christians ought to be generous, so generosity is often not seen as a fundamental spiritual practice in the Christian life.
In fact, generosity is not a “rich Christian” thing.
Generosity is a spiritual habit that Jesus commands and incentivizes through spiritual reward.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want” (Proverbs 11:24).
This is a spiritual law that balances the laws of economics.
It is a truth that every Christian should now, and it should be part of your church’s membership class.
Once the topic of generosity—and specifically, tithing—becomes a core aspect of your church membership class curriculum, every single church member in your congregation will have this as a basic category: “Tithing is a critical component of discipleship, not an optional one.”
What steps can you take in your church to prompt more generosity?
Will you make time to create the lists mentioned here, or will you hang your church’s growth on a wish and a prayer?
Get detailed, practical, and strategic about your church’s health measured on the axis of generosity.
God certainly looks at the heart—and generosity is a key performance indicator of spiritual wellbeing that God checks to see the spiritual status of Christians.
If we are greedy, hoarding, selfish, and closed-minded, there is something deeper going on that God wants to address.
If we are generous, intentional with our giving, and proactively tithing, this is a sign that we are taking the right steps toward practicing the lordship of Christ in our lives and cherishing the work of his body through the advancement of the kingdom.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.