Helping Your Church Respond to the Generosity Warning Signs

Are you concerned with where your church finances are? Is your church’s overall money or financial situation something that you think about more than you know is healthy?

Today, it is my privilege to feature a blog by our friends at The Giving Church. One of the five targets of discipleship that Jesus most often teaches is giving. In fact, out of the five targets we detail in Red Letter Challenge, this is the one that He most frequently mentions. I’m convinced with all that Jesus says, it’s impossible to be a stingy Christian! So, how do we steward generosity, not only in our personal lives but in our churches as well? 

In today’s blog, Phil Ling, founder of The Giving Church, will help us see that generosity warning signs already exist. Not long ago, they commissioned a study of more than 4000 churches and uncovered some data that will help us see some warning signs around generosity. This objective data is crucial for us today because it allows us to respond well for our future. 

If you’d like to connect with Phil and his team, his contact information is at the bottom. They’d also love to give you a free PDF to help your church grow in its giving. What pastor wouldn’t want that?! You can find the 5 Keys to Grow Your Church Giving here. 

Without further ado, here are Phil’s words for us today.

When the 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra unleashed the cataclysmic tsunami on December 26, 2004, it propelled a storm estimated to have had the power of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. The storm radiated as far as 3,000 miles, and despite the several hours, it took from the time of the earthquake for the deadly waves to reach the devastated shores, nearly 230,000 people lost their lives that day. The puzzling part of the storm afterward was why some beaches, such as Phuket, Thailand, had been able to avoid disaster. 

The answer was simple- they heeded the warning signs. In Phuket, a nine-year-old girl noticed quickly receding waters and a frothy foam head on the tops of the waves and immediately began to warn everyone. All 300 people on the beach were saved because they heeded the warning signs.

Two Big Warning Signs

The COVID-19 Pandemic has microwaved and accelerated warning signs for the American Church. The warning signs are clear as churches struggle to survive or face a very real financial lid to growth and world-changing ministries. Before the pandemic, our team studied the giving patterns of 4,000 churches. 45% of the average American church had givers that contributed less than $200 in a year. COVID-19 certainly has not impacted that number positively. 

Church consumerism has created a mix-and-match buffet where families often identify with multiple churches in their community where the family attends different ministries. As donors become less attached to the church, discipleship of biblical generosity remains lacking, and leadership remains void. A storm is beginning to take shape that will place a lid on growth and ultimately extinguish churches. We have the warning signs. 

The question remains: what will we do with them?

One Big Obstacle

What stops us from intentionally building and developing a culture of generosity? I’m convinced the answer to that question comes down to fear.

Amid the greatest depression ever seen, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States on Saturday, March 4, 1933. On that day, he gave his 1,883-word, 20-minute speech that left a mark on Americans. He began the speech by dispelling the idea of fear by saying,

“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

I have seen fear bring paralysis to church leaders and pastors while turning advance into retreat when considering the concepts and ideas of teaching biblical generosity. Yet Jesus spoke and taught openly on the subject. I have seen churches take bold steps of caution because of a fear that permeates the topic.

So what can we do today in light of all of this?

Two Big Options

First, we can continue as usual. We can hope that the small minority who currently gives the majority continues to do so, and somehow, they will rub off on others. However, that strategy is short-sighted, and unfortunately, will only last as long as those donors survive within the church. It leaves the church open to disaster and destruction in the event of the death of a key donor or another critical crisis- such as COVID-19. At the most, this approach lasts for the current generation.

The second option is to prepare for the impending storm and build a generosity culture. Craft a clear, crisp, and compelling vision that elevates participation, creates momentum, solidifies unity, builds authentic relationships, and depends on a big God. Begin to teach biblical generosity and provide inception opportunities for new potential donors. Begin to embrace generosity as a critical ministry of your church from this point on- not just a plate passed on Sundays while we make announcements.

The options are simple. The outcomes are very different.

Churches that talk about generosity and genuinely begin to develop cultures of intentional generosity are the churches that will survive the impending storm. The warning system has been sounded. Will you heed the warning? Will you craft a clear, crisp, and compelling vision that elevates participation, creates momentum, solidifies unity, builds authentic relationships, and depends on a big God? If so, you will not just survive the impending tsunami but bring an impact to countless real lives for very real eternities.

About Phil Ling

Phil Ling is the founder of The Giving Church, helping churches leverage vision to grow cultures of generosity. Prior to providing energetic leadership and strategic direction to The Giving Church, Phil served as Vice President of Development for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and as Executive Vice President for INJOY Stewardship with John C. Maxwell, leading the mega-church capital campaign division. Phil has helped nearly 1000 churches realize their vision through generosity. If you’d like to reach out to Phil and his team at The Giving Church, click here.

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