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September 2, 2020
As a church leader, do you have trouble relating the beauty of holidays with fickle church giving when church members are on vacation.
Some holidays come by, and giving goes up.
Others come by and giving drastically decreases for a month.
Summer giving slump, anyone?
While it would be nice to be able to focus purely on the sanctity of Christian holy days to honor God, without thinking about the church’s financial status for a moment, that simply will never be the case.
Holidays and giving are irrevocably linked.
But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Because here’s the thing—giving to the church is a sacred act.
It’s a response to a call from God to support his work and his people.
Giving follows a pattern of participation in the same great Apostolic tradition from which the Christian holidays were born.
Therefore, holidays and giving naturally, theologically, and Christianly go hand in hand.
So then, how should you think about giving during the holidays?
What’s the best way to correlate these two realities without, on the one hand, making every single holiday a reason to give over and above and, on the other hand, an awkwardness about giving during the holiday season?
How can you tie together holidays and giving naturally to increase your church’s resources for expanding Christ’s kingdom, get new people walking in the doors, and meeting the needs of your community?
Seven realities help us to better understand what this relationship is and how to integrate it into the inner life of the church.
Let’s dive right in.
Holidays represent key moments in the liturgical year when the church reflects on unfolding gospel of Christ throughout redemptive history.
From Old Testament festivals to their Christianization in the New Testament—Passover and Pentecost, for example—these holy days prompt believers to remember God’s faithfulness to his people.
And why do we celebrate God’s faithfulness to people of the past?
Because his past faithfulness is always future-bent:
“Remember His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations” (1 Chron. 16:15).
The same God who kept his word to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel, keeps his promises today to those who are in Christ (Gal. 3:16).
Everyone is familiar with “Christmas gifts.” But there is a much richer history of the church manifesting and exemplifying generosity for and to the world.
The church has always practiced “almsgiving.”
he word “alm” meaning “mercy,” indicating a free, no-strings-attached, charitable gift to those in need. The church has always construed almsgiving as a virtue. Even in Judaism, the term for almsgiving was tzedakah, which is literally the Hebrew word meaning “righteousness.”
While the pagan philosophers debated whether to live selfishly or selflessly, the people of God always had a system of routine—or, recurring—gifts of mercy to those without the means to support themselves.
From the most ancient Jewish practices to the early church, to Thomas Aquinas, and through to the Reformation and the Puritans, almsgiving has always been a practice that is associated especially with the holy days.
This is, of course, all rooted in a tradition of responding with gratitude to the same God who has provided mercifully for his people throughout history. God’s own generosity to Israel in the wilderness and to the world in Christ through the gospel prompts a response toward those, like us, without hope, so that “Your heart shall not be grieved when you give” (Deut. 15:10).
The holidays are a time when loss, absence, and lack are really felt.
Holidays generally prompt consumption, because they are festivals—literally feast days—that promote celebrating God’s good gifts in the form of food, which symbolizes God’s generosity to his people.
During this time of abundance, the church should be on a special mission to include those who cannot afford to purchase food for the holidays so that they too can celebrate God’s faithfulness to them, even in seasons of lack.
The church can be on mission during the holidays in at least three ways.
First, the church can host a communal meal for the congregation which feeds all who register—and, congregants can sponsor meals for others who can’t afford it. This can easily be done in Tithe.ly Events—including a registration and payment form—and by using this, you can store newcomer contact information in Tithe.ly ChMS.
Second, the church can collectively decide to host similar meals, but during small group. This would be a time for small groups to invite new visitors—or newcomers who want to get plugged in—to a more intimate church setting that helps them to experience God’s generosity on a personal level in someone’s home.
Third, a church can partner with a local mercy ministry or homeless shelter to either sponsor or volunteer to help feed the homeless.
The holidays can either increase or decrease giving in your church.
The holidays can increase giving in your church by prompting a spirit of generosity—especially around times such as Easter and Christmas. This is especially true for holidays during which congregants bring family and friends who don’t attend church, who often feel that this is the single time during which they give to a religious institution.
The holidays can decrease giving in your church because holidays can often prompt travel. When congregants travel, they often aren’t thinking about tithing. This is one crucial reason why it’s essential to provide mobile giving, online giving, and recurring giving.
One way to soften the blow of holiday travel on church tithing is to set up a digital software in your church to automate recurring giving.
Tithe.ly Give is one of the best ways to do this.
From mobile giving, online giving, church apps, and recurring giving, your congregants simply enter their card, bank account, or Apple Pay information to set up a gift—say, $100 per week, or $200 on custom pay days—so that, even during travel, the church is still enabled to do kingdom work.
Holidays can always be leveraged to create resources for the church—which can be translated into influence in your community and on the culture for the sake of the kingdom.
How can you make holidays an opportunity for your ministries to become resourced with abundance it’s only dreamed of? A few ways. And none of them will make your skin crawl.
First, show people exactly why they should give.
Pick a specific ministry and a specific face that exemplifies the needs of that ministry, and highlight that picture during your service. Craft your message and your pitch so that people are compelled to give.
Second, make it ridiculously easy for people to give from their phones.
You can pass the plate—it never hurts. But you should set up Tithe.ly Give and, in the middle of your service, instruct people to download the app, set up their credit card information, and give to the cause.
This may sound like an awkward and tacky move. Trust me—the right picture, paired with a well-honed pitch, will make people feel comfortable with some of the logistical talk of downloading an app and entering their credit card information. Congregants do understand. More than that, they want to understand how best to give.
Don’t be embarrassed when you walk people through setting up digital giving in your church in order to prompt a special holiday-specific gift—it will pay off dividends, and it will make people more comfortable with the technology so that they can later set up a recurring tithe to the church.
Giving is part of discipleship.
Combine the sacredness of the holiday and the importance of giving to God in a single celebratory event service.
Multiple passages in Scripture speak in concert to help us get a better glimpse into the connection between generosity and spiritual maturity:
“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to” (Deut. 15:10).
“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered” (Prov. 21:13)
“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor” (Prov. 22:9).
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).
God cares about your finances, and he cares about resourcing the church do to the work he has called them to do.
In fact, the holidays are the perfect time to connect spiritual maturity about one’s finances with the ministry capacity of the church. This is one of the reasons God instituted festivals—to unify his people, and to lift up the downtrodden to share collectively in a celebration of God’s evergreen faithfulness.
How will your church celebrate God’s faithfulness during the next holiday on Sunday?
Will it capitalize on the God-made connection between holy festivals and generosity, or will it go through another slump on a wish and a prayer?
Take seriously the potential that holiday giving holds for your church growth.
If you fail to do so, you may be leaving ministry potential on the table that your congregants would be eager to catalyze, given the right well-crafted prompt.