The Future of Giving in the Church: Starting with the Heart
Disruption in giving trends and old reliable methods of securing financial security for the local church is an opportunity for the Church to refocus and reframe what it means to partner with God in the Kingdom of God. How we spend our time, our money, and ourselves is a matter of discipleship. Interestingly enough, when we connect the four patterns of the present state of giving in the Church with the four patterns of the past (described in Part 1), we may begin to discover a way forward that renews and deepens the local church’s perspective of budgets, income, and tithes and offerings. What does this way forward look like?
Establish Trust by Being Trustworthy
The early Church saw needs that prompted them to provide for those needs (e.g., Acts 2:44-45). They legitimately knew where and to whom their resources went. Many times in our churches, people have little idea where their money actually goes and, in some cases, are told they should not know.
Younger generations’ mistrust of institutions requires the Church to earn trust by being transparent and welcoming accountability. Millennials and Gen Z give to GoFundMe and online birthday fundraisers because of the flesh-and-blood connection to the need. We can use storytelling to share where and how our givers’ hard-earned money is being used while being clear on the needs themselves. I have found that an annual “State of the Church” meeting provides a venue to discuss the impact made by members’ giving in our congregation and greater community.
Emphasize the Needs of the Mission First
Don’t try to encourage people to give to the local church “to keep the lights on.” By its nature, the Church is aspirational. From the first century onward, the message of Jesus was to give hope to all, especially the poor and downtrodden. If a church is not aspiring to a missional goal that looks outside herself on a scale with available resources and the need in the world in mind, that church will wither. Without a church’s mission making a difference, giving merely looks like dues to a country club. Who is your church called to be in your community? This recovered approach may result in revitalization of the church itself as people become interested and invested in the Church’s larger purpose.
Rely Less on Finances and More on Resources
Future giving will not be solely financial but rather will consist of a broader range of resources such as skills, possessions, properties, and time. Too often, the church has turned people down from using their gifts and expertise, instead telling them these things do not “count” when it comes to their tithes and offerings. Asking for resources as one’s contribution to the Body can turn into a greater investment in the church community and serve as a form of discipleship. What could this look like? A contractor “gives” his time and skill to fix the leaking roof instead of hiring someone. A community Easter event is put on by a group of friends who buy and donate the items themselves, instead of it being a budget item. Food is cooked and baked rather than bought. A good portion of the church’s needs are then supplied by the church itself.
Consolidate and Simplify Not to Survive but to Serve
The future of church ministry looks to have more bivocational pastors and fewer buildings. While twentieth-century congregations prided themselves on paying a full-time pastoral staff and building large church buildings, paying for those things has often begun to handicap mission and ministry. Having served at a large church, I recall many meetings shaking our heads about having to pay the mortgage instead of supplying needs in the community. But the caution is these changes should not be made as a means of survival but rather for the sake of effectiveness—making disciples and building God’s Kingdom. Even without selling your sanctuary and your pastor getting a full-time marketplace job, it’s important to assess whether a church’s resources could be better utilized or simplified.
Most of us would agree, giving in the church has been disrupted. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is a new future and an opportunity to be drawn back to the core of generosity, a Church on mission, and the Christ who gave himself.