“If only people were more gospel hearted we could do so much more.” is the most common thing I hear as I travel around talking to churhc leaders about giving.
The default position for church leaders (especially those paid by their churches) when you ask about giving is to blame the congregation that it isn’t high enough.
There’s an element of truth in it. Of course the people in our churches could be better people - they could, no doubt, improve their performance in praying, kindness, family life, work, fitness and 100 other areas of life. As, no doubt, could the pastors who criticise them!
I don’t want for a minute to deny that pastors should be in the business of seeing people change. But it’s vital that we don’t let a right desire to see people grow in generosity (which is, usually, a long term work requiring much patience!) blind us to the fact that there are additional reasons why people don’t give which are much easier and faster to do something about.
Why don’t church leaders focus on these simpler things? For all sorts of reasons - none of which matter very much!
Instead let me give you three things you can do that will, I promise, improve your church’s giving if you implement them:
1. Ask. In every survey ever done of charitable giving the number one reason why people give is that they are asked. So ask your people to give - ask them in sermons, ask them in notice sheets, send them a handwritten note, phone them up, ask face-to-face. You will feel you’re doing much too much asking way, way before you actually are.
2. Vision. About 80% of the time the appeals I hear churches making to their members and regulars run along the line of “we have to get another £1,000 a month so we can meet our budget.” To which I want to reply (even if I voted for the budget!) “why do I care about your budget?"
Whether your finances are going badly or well there is only, in the end, one really compelling and good reason for people to give: they believe in what you want to do with the money.
So convince them! Every time you are asking people to give money to the church you need to tell them what you’re going to do with the money: engage in a community project, reach refugees, teach liberating truth to children, counsel people. “We’re going to employ a women’s worker” isn’t doing that: “we’re going to provide much better pastoral care and events for women” is.
3. Budget. Your budget should be related to your vision. So for church members a budget that reads: Staff, property etc isn’t exactly inspiring.
It would be much better to have as budget heads the things that the church actually values in its mission: Worship, outreach, missions, pastoral care
If you do this you'll probably find out that you spend the vast majority of staff time, building use and other expenditure on worship and pastoral care - and not that much on missions and outreach, which can itself be a challenge to your church.
Go on.... Give these three things a try and see what happens!