Posted: Dec 3

Ten Pathways to More Generous Giving

By Bruce Rockwell

Now that Ingathering Sunday is behind us, it is time to think about how we will form stewards and create more generous givers in the coming year.  

bounty.jpgOne way to do that is to reflect on what worked well this year in your endeavor to help form stewards, people to give generously to support God’s mission in the world, and to discern what did not work as well or what you could do better.  Then it is time to look forward to consider new ways in which you can increase the generosity of the people who make up the congregation where you worship. 

The place to begin is to form, or re-form, your parish stewardship ministry team and equip them for the work ahead.  I submit that one important tool you can give the members of the parish stewardship ministry team is a copy of a new book entitled Bounty: Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church written by Kristine Miller and Scott McKenzie.   Followers of the TENS blogs will recognize Kristine Miller as being one of the people who regularly offers her thoughts and her experience in her monthly blog.  She is also a member of the Board of Directors of TENS. 

I understand that Miller and McKenzie wrote their new book especially for new stewardship ministry chairs. But I submit that this important little book is one that each and every member of your stewardship ministry team should read.  In it the authors suggest, as the title suggests, ten pathways to more generous giving.  Each pathway is discussed in its own chapter. 

First, they encourage their readers to invite God into the mix by making prayer an integral part of the stewardship formation effort.  As they say, stewardship should be “grounded in gratitude, revealed in prayer, and lived in faith.”  Prayer should surround all you do. And one suggestion they make is implementing a Gratitude Sunday in which people are invited to write down all the things for which they are grateful to God. These gratitude cards should, the authors suggest, be displayed in church. 

Eliminate secrecy surrounding money so that secrecy about money can no longer hold the mission and ministry of the church hostage.  Jesus was not silent about money.  Almost one-third of his parables are about our relationship with money and material possessions.  The authors suggest offering personal finance programs and inviting leaders to consider their own issues and hang ups around money as ways to begin to eliminate the secrecy. 

Set leadership expectations and be clear about the expectations of leaders in the church.  Before inviting people into leadership, prayerfully discern the gifts and skills necessary, and invite God to help you invite people to lead who will fill the role well. 

The authors’ fourth chapter, the fourth pathway, is entitled “Tithe One On.”  The authors suggest they have seen important fundamental changes in persons who begin to tithe, such as an incredible sense of gratitude, a feeling of being blessed by God, a spirit of generosity, a perception of well-being, and a desire to give away more.  They offer some sobering statistics about giving among mainline denominations, and they suggest practical ways to reach the five categories of people we find in the church: those who already tithe, those who are proportional givers, those who are “flat-amount” contributors, those who are token contributors, and those who give nothing. 

The fifth pathway is entitled, “Stop the Insanity.”  Stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  They offer several things that they have found very prevalent in churches that either induce a feeling of guilt and/or do nothing to encourage greater levels of generosity. 

Chapter six is entitled, “Thank. Ask. Repeat.” In this chapter, among other suggestions, they encourage leaders to regularly thank those who support the ministry of the church, develop a way to promote legacy giving, and to distribute and collect pledges during the worship service so as to make the pledge commitment a form of worship. 

The seventh pathway is to encourage witnesses to generosity. The authors suggest several creative ways in which to do this, including “cardboard testimonies,” an exciting new concept for me. 

Asking the right question is the eighth pathway.  Too often the church is asking, “How can we raise more money?” when the question should be, “Why would someone want to support our ministry?”  Again the authors, as they do at the end of each chapter, offer helpful suggestions about ways in which to engage people around the right question. 

Too often, the authors suggest, stewardship formation efforts go into hibernation after pledges are received, not to awaken again until the next fall.  In order to support making stewardship formation a year round effort, the authors suggest a monthly calendar with ideas about ways in which stewardship can be raised up each and every month in different and creative ways. 

Chapter ten, entitled, “Prepare to Soar,” begins with a quote from Eugene Peterson.  “Giving is what we do best.  It is the air into which we were born.  It is the action that was designed into us before our birth.”  We are created in God’s image.  We are created to be givers, to be generous as God is generous.  As the authors say, everything in this book is designed to help us soar.

I extend great thanks to Kristine and to Scott for writing this wonderful little book.  It is a great gift!  I encourage every person interested in stewardship formation to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what the authors offer in this book. 

Let us all prepare to soar!