Generosity

Talking About Money: The 10 Biggest Mistakes Churches Make (and How to Fix Them)

Talking about money can be taboo, right? But churches have to do it! Avoid making these 10 big mistakes in your church when having the money talk.

Talking About Money: The 10 Biggest Mistakes Churches Make (and How to Fix Them)
by

Jesse Wisnewski

Here's the deal:

Talking about money is tough.

  • Some consider talking about money to be taboo
  • Some just feel uncomfortable with the topic
  • Some barely have money to survive on
  • Some people have so much money but don't want to part with it
  • Some people are controlled by the pursuit of money

You get the point. 

There are a lot of feelings and issues to navigate.

Having the money talk is tough.

Due to all these issues, it's inevitable that you're going to make mistakes when you talk about money. You’re going to fumble your words, say something you regret, or totally forget what you meant to say. You're going to tip-toe around the point, sugar cote it, drill the point home too harshly, or simply not speak with conviction or confidence.

 

But even though you’re going to stumble along the way, you can plan and prepare to avoid making common mistakes when it comes to talking about money in your church. Being aware of these potential pitfalls will help you to avoid walking into them and falling on your face.

In this post, we’re going to talk about the following common mistakes that people make when talking about money:

  1. Not talking about money
  2. Not using the Bible
  3. Not preaching the gospel
  4. Not sharing stories
  5. Not casting a vision
  6. Not inviting people to give
  7. Not giving your visitors a pass
  8. Not saying “thank you”
  9. Not talking to wealthy members
  10. Not telling your church how they can give

I know it’s not fun to talk about the things we get wrong. But I hope is to shed some light on your path as you talk about money in your church.

#1. Not talking about money

Not talking about money with your church is similar to not warning someone of impending danger.

I understand this topic is uncomfortable for many pastors. But talking about money is essential to equipping the members of your church to live out their faith in Christ.

Besides, God has a lot to say about money in the Bible.

There are more than 2,000 scriptures on tithing in the Bible, money, and possessions in the Old and New Testaments. That’s double the number of references to faith and prayer combined. Wowzers!

God has a good reason why he spends so much time talking about money.

Money will be one of the fiercest idols you face in your relationship with God. In the words of Jesus, “You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24).

God desires our devotion, and he knows that you and your church will be tempted to devote yourself to money instead. Avoiding this conversation in your church will do a great disservice to your people.

The way money affects the people in your church will vary case-by-case. A wealthy member of your church may sense a level of pride and independence from God because they don’t need anything. A member of your church struggling financially may be tempted to doubt God’s goodness. A middle-class member of your church may be tempted to covet a bigger house, newer car, and more income.

Regardless of the struggles or temptations your congregation faces with money, lead your church to manage their money in such a way that glorifies God, is good for others, and is beneficial for him or herself, which leads me to the next point.

#2. Not using the Bible

No one expects pastors to double as financial advisors.

When it comes to preaching about money in your church, fight the temptation to share general financial advice alone. The members of your church want to know what God says about money, how they should steward their resources, and how God can redeem their financial situation if they’re in trouble.

Be bold when you talk about tithing in the Bible, giving, and generosity. Know that the Lord is at work in the life of your church and that when you share what the Bible has to say about money, you will lead your congregation to experience the grace of God in their life when it comes to their money management.

 

Now, outside of your pulpit, it’s a good idea to consider providing additional financial coaching through courses like Financial Peace by Ramsey Solutions.

#3. Not preaching the gospel

You cannot build a culture of generosity in your church with tactics and tools alone. In the words of Chris Willard and Jim Sheppard, the authors of Contagious Generosity, “Well-executed tactics fail if there is no culture of generosity to support them.”

Leading your church to become generous givers will require more than one sermon about tithing in the Bible or a sermon series based on stewardship in the Bible. Building a generous church culture will revolve around whether or not you regularly preach the gospel.

The gospel is more than a message for non-believers. It’s a message we need to hear regularly. This is one reason why Paul wrote a letter to the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:1-3).

So, If you want to build a generous church culture, then preach the gospel.

Remind your church that Jesus has given them new life. Regularly let them know that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so that they would be forgiven of their sins, receive his perfect righteousness, and become children of God.

In time, as you preach the gospel and lead people to meet Jesus, you will see your church members respond to his generosity by being generous themselves.

#4. Not sharing stories

God is at work in your church.

He is giving people new life in Christ. He is transforming people into the image of Jesus. He's restoring marriages, changing lives, and building his church.

As a pastor, you have a front row seat in observing God’s work in the life of your church. But most of the members of your church will have no idea how God is at work unless you tell them.

Sharing stories will illustrate God’s tangible work in the lives of people. The stories you share will encourage people to know that they are participating in God’s work by financially supporting the local church.

#5. Not casting a vision

You know what’s not exciting?

Paying bills.

Whether you’re taking care of your family’s finances or reconciling your church’s financial statements, taking care of your bills isn’t exhilarating.

 

Unless you’re casting a vision of the work God has called you and your church to accomplish, your congregation will not sense a calling to participate in the work of the church.

The members of your church will give as the Lord leads them. But, by painting a picture of how God is at work in and through your church, you’ll be able to help your congregation see that their financial sacrifices are supporting God’s work.

So, let me ask you a few questions:

  • What is God leading you and your church to do in your community?
  • Has the Lord compelled you to support missionaries around the world?
  • Have you baptized new people?
  • Is participation in your community groups increasing?
  • Have marriages been renewed in your congregation?

Take time to reflect on God’s work in your church, and share these stories with your congregation. Casting a clear vision and showing people how God is at work is one way you can inspire people in your church to give.

#6. Not inviting people to give

Asking for money isn’t easy.

Regardless if you’ve been pastoring for years, you probably feel a tinge of anxiety when it comes to asking people to donate.

But here’s the deal: If you don’t ask people to give, then most people won’t give.

Think about it this way.

Would giving in your church decrease if you never took up an offering? What if you never encouraged people to use your church giving app? Would giving decline?

Yea, some members of your church will donate regardless if you ask them or not. But many of the members of your church may not give for a variety of reasons.

At the end of the day, you have to invite the members of your church to participate in God’s work by financially supporting the work of the Church.

Instead of asking people to give, invite them to respond to the grace of God in their lives and to participate in the work of God in your church.

In the words of the apostle Paul, “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7, NIV).

#7. Not giving your visitors a pass

It’s wonderful when you have new guests visiting your church’s worship service. They’ll have an opportunity to hear the gospel, meet someone new in your church, and possibly get connected.

Every week, make it a habit of acknowledging visitors during your offering time—even if no one new is visiting you that day.

Let visitors know that they’re not obligated to give. Make them feel comfortable to pass the offering plate or keep their phone in their pocket so that they don’t feel guilted into giving.

You may have some visitors give during your offering, and that’s okay. Just let them know that the offering time in your church is a family thing for your church members.

Related: Do These 11 Things to Improve Your Church’s Offering

#8. Not saying “thank you”

As a church leader, it can be easy to forget about expressing gratitude.

The offering time in your worship service can become a task to accomplish, and remembering to say thanks can slip your mind.

 

Expressing a lack of appreciation is usually a result of forgetfulness or a broken system. In other words, if you don’t have reminders in place to say “thank you” during your church's offering or an automated system that sends a thank you note when someone gives online.

It’s essential to express thankfulness to the members of your congregation who support your church financially. Regularly expressing gratitude will help you to set a tone of appreciation in your church.   

#9. Not talking to wealthy members

This mistake catches people typically off guard. I mean, we’re not supposed to show favoritism to wealthy people, right (James 2:1-13)?

Yes, that is true.

But that’s not the mistake I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is not speaking into the unique challenges wealthy people face.

You see, it’s difficult “for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24). Whether it’s their status, power, or possessions, a wealthy person may not see their need to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

As for the wealthy members of your congregation, as a pastor, you're charged to challenge them to set their hope on God—not their money or possessions (1 Tim. 6:17).

What is more, you are to encourage the affluent members in your church “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:18-19).

As a pastor or church leader, you may feel intimidated to spend time with the wealthy members of your congregation or want to avoid giving the impression of showing favoritism. But receive your call from the Lord to speak into their life to help them live and love like Jesus.

#10. Not telling your church how they can give

Do you regularly let people know how they can give?

This question may seem obvious. But you’d be surprised by how many churches fail to regularly let people know about the different ways they can give.

When promoting giving in your church, you don’t need to orchestrate a light show or drop balloons from your ceiling. All you need to do is to let your congregation know how they can give.

For example, during your offering, you can quickly let people know they can give with cash or check or use mobile giving or an online giving option.

If your church uses a projection screen, you can easily let people know how to give by including a graphic during your offering. Here’s one example:

Also, review your church’s communications to make sure you’re at least letting people know how to give. You don’t have to include a direct promotion every time. But it’s a good idea to at least add a short blurb about giving in your communications with your church.

How to avoid mistakes when you talk about money in your church

Reading these types of posts can feel like a punch in the gut. In this post, it’s like getting hit 10 times over-and-over again. Not fun!

Have you made a mistake talking about money?

Well, I wouldn’t be surprised. Everyone has (at least the people who are being honest).

In the end, don’t spend too much time navel-gazing. That’s not going to help you to move forward.

Instead, focus on ways you should talk about money in your church. In case you missed, here’s a helpful post that will clear the way: How to Talk About Money in Your Church: 5 Things to Keep in Mind.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

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:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

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.

Church Donation Letter Samples

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.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

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]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

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:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

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.

What’s next?

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?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

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.

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Talking About Money: The 10 Biggest Mistakes Churches Make (and How to Fix Them)