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Four Things Pastors Fear in a Generosity Initiative (and How You Can Overcome Them)

Dec 01, 2022   |    3 min read

Every year, we help hundreds of churches carry out generosity initiatives. We love helping churches as they navigate this journey. As we walk alongside them, we get a front-row seat to how they lead their people and how their leaders and congregations react.

One thing is clear: It is not unusual for pastors to have some level of anxiety about leading a generosity initiative – anxiety that is usually rooted in fear. Our role is to help them identify their underlying fear and equip them to lead through it.

Over the years, some common fears have come to light. Here are four of them:

My congregation won’t buy into the projects.

This fear tops the list. The leadership of the church spends a good bit of time evaluating what needs to be funded by the next giving initiative. However, they don’t know if the congregation will buy in.

Let’s think this through: What are you actually asking them to buy into? It’s probably not a project. That’s just the most visible, tangible thing. What you are really asking them to buy into is the vision of ministry God has placed on the heart of the church. 

In other words, what does the leadership believe God has called the church to be and to do over the next 5, 10 or 25 years? This project is just a step on the path to fulfilling the vision.

And it is much more compelling to buy into a vision than it is to buy into any particular project.

I don’t want to preach about money.

This fear is an easy one to address. You could, and probably should, teach your congregation on the topic of money and possessions as it relates to one’s faith during a giving initiative. And we would recommend it. But you do not absolutely have to.

There will be a preaching series during the time-span of the giving initiative, and it’s important that this series addresses biblical stewardship. It could be the main topic of the series or it could be a thread about biblical stewardship in a message series. It can cover other topics that integrate time, gift, talent, or treasure stewardship and still be effective in a generosity initiative. 

Our attendance will drop when we are doing the initiative.

We often hear this concern: Pastors say, “The last time we did a giving initiative, our attendance dropped significantly.” Our response is, “Why?”

People don’t stop attending church just because you are in the middle of a generosity initiative. There has to be a deeper reason. Was the focus on giving and the initiative boring? Or not relevant? Or, did you just talk about money, money, money?

A lot of churches have not handled the conversation around giving and the church well for decades, if ever. Too often, the conversation becomes all about giving to the church instead of teaching about the importance of giving as part of their relationship with God.

First and foremost, giving is a spiritual issue. Not financial. Spiritual. Giving back to God for the work He wants to do in this world is a reflection of who He is in our lives. Our giving uncovers the object of worship and reverence in our lives.

That is why we give to God. He is the one to be worshiped and revered. We don’t give to fund the church budget or church projects. Those are just the result of what happens when we give to God’s work in and through the church.

When we treat the spiritual discipline of generosity as an exercise in raising a budget or funding capital needs, we nominalize what God designed as a means to grow and refine our faith.

Give people a reason to be excited about attending church in this season. Have a compelling preaching series and promote it exceptionally well. What about a message series focused on taking our church to the next level of mission and vision? And, at the same time, taking your relationship with God to the next level.

We won’t hit our financial goals.

That’s a legitimate concern…if that is all you are trying to accomplish. But what if the spiritual goals were the primary focus, not the financial goals? We want every family who calls this church their home to engage in a season of prayerful consideration of how God would have you respond to supporting the vision of our church. What if that were the primary goal of the initiative?

Paul said it so well in Philippians 4:17, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” If Paul were here, he might say it this way: ”I was excited that you gave to my ministry but I was far more excited about what happened to you when you gave to my ministry. Your relationship with God moved to a whole new level as a result of your giving to His work.” That is the main point.

Pointing solely to financial goals is not the real goal of a church generosity initiative. Having people engage in an encounter with God as it relates to their money and possessions is a far superior goal. And, you know what? If enough of the people in your congregation take that goal seriously, your financial goals will take care of themselves.

Leading a giving initiative can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Most of the fears you have are largely unfounded.

Was this post helpful to you? Is there something that struck a familiar note with you? Or perhaps something I missed? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at jim@generis.com.

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