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“Giving is a chore. It’s gotta be done.”

This isn’t the official line we give to our churches when it comes to giving; instead we call giving “a privilege” or “a responsibility” or “an aspiration.”

But the not-so-subtle message we send to our members basically says, “Giving is a duty.” We do this when we hardly ever talk about money except when there’s a crisis. Or when there’s a planned sermon series on giving. Or when it’s the end of the fiscal year. 

That’s right, the same rationale we use for getting a root canal gets applied to giving. We give because we gotta give. 

But what if the narrative changed? What if church members freely spoke about their giving? What if things could go from “gotta give” to “get to give?” What would it take for your church to approach giving the same way as ministry? 

Thomas H. Jeavons and Rebekah Burch Basinger detail how this shift is made in their book “Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry.” Since they’ve written mainly for development staff at non-profit ministries, I’ve adapted their principles for churches.

Here are three fundamental ways for changing church culture when it comes to giving…

  • Give members meaningful opportunities for genuine participation in ministry.
  • Connect the dots between giving and ministry.
  • Model faith-filled confidence in God’s abundant resources, faithful provision and perfect timing.

Think about it, the people most likely to practice giving as ministry are the same ones serving on the front lines. It stands to reason, there’s no faster way to deplete their ministry support than by providing them only token ministry opportunities. 

I remember volunteering at an overnight homeless shelter where too many volunteers were being scheduled. I wasn’t convinced my contribution of time (or anything else) mattered.

People give as ministry when they feel like they’re a vital part of what’s being accomplished. This is why giving to build a well or to buy medicine for a third-world village is so popular. When donors are engaged, they are more likely to believe their giving matters. 

At Inspire 2019 (CRCNA), Calvin University Chaplain Mary Hulst pointed out how blindly giving to a church budget doesn’t cut it for many millennials. Money has to have a story so that it’s clear how giving translates into ministry. It’s simple—no story means no giving.

Stories are compelling regardless of age, so it’s worth asking: What’s your church’s ministry story? Who’s telling it? How often? Who is hearing it? What’s the impact?

Answering these questions isn’t complicated, but actually asking them is! Thoughtful leadership around higher level issues like these tends to get swept away by the brooms of ministry urgency. But giving that’s ministry can’t happen without wrestling with them.

In other words, stay away from the scarcity narrative which feeds off anxiety about what could happen to ministry if not properly funded.

Healthy confidence in God’s faithfulness and provision can be modeled in countless ways, but a few examples best explain what’s meant here: 

  • Offering regular opportunities for members to make responses to God’s grace in their lives
  • Making it clear that members must follow their own hearts when it comes to decisions about giving
  • Setting and communicating realistic, achievable ministry objectives
  • All church communications are positive with a bent towards “the glass being half-full”
  • Avoiding crisis-centered giving appeals

Even the thought of giving as ministry is transformative, so imagine the potential of a church full of givers like this! The possibilities boggle the mind when givers make the fundamental change from “gotta give” to “get to give.”  

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