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The Generosity Dilemma this Easter: Develop Giving or Focus on Serving?

3 min read
Mar 21, 2024 10:00:00 AM

The Easter season is an extremely busy time for pastors and church leaders. Many are just trying to get through it, and so it’s counterintuitive to take time to focus on developing givers and generosity. More likely, you’re focused on getting more volunteers signed up to help.

However, it might be one of the most ripe seasons of the year if you do focus on it appropriately and with care to help your people see that giving is really a matter of transformation, not a matter of transaction with the church. You have the opportunity to help people understand that giving is an act of worship for what Jesus did at the cross for us. 

So as we approach Easter and a time when many churches rely on extra volunteers to help services and activities run smoothly, I’ve been thinking about a previously held opinion that’s common in most churches.

I’ve long said that if we can get people in the door, engaged and serving, then faithful giving will follow. Most pastors and church leaders would agree. Serving leads to giving, right? We know this happens sometimes, but what if we tried something different? What if we developed people as givers first, and then we watched to see what happens to their willingness to serve?


When I do sermons on giving, what often happens is that someone comes up to me afterwards and says: “Mr. Sheppard, that was a good sermon, and I appreciate it. You gave me a lot to think about, but why do you spend all your time talking about financial generosity? Aren’t there other kinds of generosity?”

I tell them I have two reasons why I focus so much on financial generosity:

First, it’s the only kind of generosity that Jesus really teaches about, and he says that it's a spiritual stronghold for us. This shows up in two different places that are especially noteworthy, Luke 16 with the parable of the dishonest manager and in Matthew 6 with the Sermon on the Mount. These are two completely different stories and contexts, but Jesus makes exactly the same point, no matter which translation you’re reading: “You cannot serve two masters. You will hate one and love the other. Or you will love one and hate the other. You cannot serve God and money.” We have to pay attention when Jesus says something twice.

The second thing I tell people when they ask why I preach so much on financial generosity is that those who give generously of their money tend to also give generously of their time and talent through serving and volunteering. The reverse is not true, and this reminds me of Matthew 6:21: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be, also.” In other words, if our money is there, our heart will be there. And if our heart is there, we will want to serve and volunteer.


On the other hand, giving doesn’t let people off the hook for serving. The reality is that some people would rather just write a check and be done with it. They don’t think they need to get involved if they are giving, and that viewpoint is equally incorrect.

Now, I know some pastors might push back against this and say that they have seen how serving leads to greater giving, because it strengthens people’s relationship with the church body. When they are more involved, they give more. But is this twisting why we’re called to give? If they are giving just because of increased engagement, they may not be giving from a place of worship and a true thankfulness to God.

What it really comes down to is that you need people who are giving AND serving. We want people to give generously of their money, time, and talent for the sake of their own hearts, not for the sake of the church. So, if we know that those who give generously financially first are also more likely to serve, then maybe that’s where we start. We develop our givers and help them grow spiritually, and then we tap into those faithful supporters to bring their time and talent to the church as well. 

The Easter season is a great time to test these different theories and pay attention to what’s happening in the life of your church when it comes to the relationship between giving and serving. You’ll likely have a lot of feet on the ground serving, but just because it’s a busy time of year, don’t ignore the opportunity to develop giving as well. 

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