For most of the United States, fall represents a kind of reboot in the yearʼs mundane cycle of life.
Parents are sending their kids back to school.
Teenagers are putting together their freshest wardrobes for their friends.
Non-parents are trying to keep their testimony solid while stuck behind a school bus every morning on the way to work now. Most importantly, churches experience one of the only remaining natural growth seasons in the calendar year.
With some thought and elbow grease, you can create a strategy to borrow momentum from this season of growth and increase your church giving this fall. However, before we look at some steps to increasing your giving, letʼs look at why a large percentage of your church isnʼt giving, to begin with already.
I have been up, down, and all around this topic for many years. As a church leader, I have found myself baffled by the lack of financial support that a growing congregation brings back to God each week. Iʼve blamed myself for the problems. Iʼve blamed any number of other things for the problems, including the people themselves. Iʼve even blamed God for the problems. Eventually, I had to take responsibility as a leader and diagnose the true reasons people arenʼt giving. With some detective work, I was able to boil down the reasons why people donʼt give to three simple things. Knowing these three things set me free to create strategies that would steadily increase giving.
three reasons people donʼt give
#1 they donʼt trust church leadership
This can be a tough pill to follow, but itʼs an extremely common reason why people donʼt give to your church. Sadly, pastors have a tendency to respond to this attitude of distrust by preaching harder and getting angry. Usually, after a season of tough preaching on trusting God and His servants, a season of depression follows because all that exhausting work didnʼt amount to any sustainable gains.
The truth is, it hurts when someone doesnʼt trust you. Itʼs a terrible feeling to have only the best intentions but be judged unfairly despite everything. Iʼve been there myself, so I know this all too much. While some may have no good reasons for feeling the way that they do, others may have legitimate concerns.
When rumors and internalized concerns start bouncing around peopleʼs brains, they are often full of questions with no comfortable place to ask them. They legitimately fear that their hard earn money is being mismanaged, and rather than have those fears put to rest theyʼre challenged with the strength of the pulpit instead of being invited by the compassion of the pulpit.
The worst part of this kind of person is they may not even leave your church. Theyʼll just remain perpetually soured over the whole thing for years while inadvertently breeding dissent in others. Thatʼs why I made this number one; trust is the single most important thing to address when youʼre trying to pump up your giving.
#2 they donʼt like church leadership
As if the first one wasnʼt already bad enough, people donʼt give to your church because they just donʼt like you, or others that lead with you. If you listen to our podcast or read our blog on a regular basis, you know that we strongly emphasize the fact that church is the most relational entity in the world. This is never more apparent than when you realize that people will not give to your church if they donʼt like their leadership.
Common sense would tell us that someone wouldnʼt stick around if their church leadership rubbed them the wrong way, but this isnʼt always the case. Very often, a family will consume for years without ever giving back because of their bonds with other individuals in the church. While youʼre surely happy that they got a chance to experience community, youʼd surely be happier if they contributed to the work God is doing as well.
The term “fish bowl” never meant more than it does right here. Your congregation is watching church leaders under a microscope, and if the behaviors, personality, and choices of those leaders arenʼt positive in their eyes, they will not give. Itʼs not politically correct, but itʼs true.
#3 they donʼt want to have less than they do
The reasons people give are not always psychologically complicated. Sometimes itʼs as simple as fear and greed. People fear living life with less because they like to have a cushion for the future and just havenʼt learned to trust God yet. At the same time, some folks are just flat out greedy. They donʼt like being told what to do, and they have no interest in ever giving their money to something theyʼre already getting for free. Your church wouldnʼt be the first organization to battle entitlement.
Whether itʼs an understandable reason or just cold-hearted greed, youʼve got to come to terms with the fact that many times a personʼs consistent lack of interest in giving comes down to simply not wanting to have less than they do.
three things you can do about it
#1 host an event that earns the peopleʼs trust
Leadership is hard in general. Perhaps the hardest thing about leadership, though, is taking responsibility for things like earning peopleʼs trust when you feel like your sacrifice and good will should have been enough to earn it already. Nevertheless, it is every church leaderʼs personal responsibility to fight hard and earn the trust of the congregation and their community.
In my experience, lack of trust usually comes down to a lack of information. For instance, having a yearly church meeting can go a long way towards earning the trust of those who donʼt give because theyʼre not sure what leadership is doing with their hard-earned money. Rather than default to the tired old sentiment of “Youʼre giving to God, not to the church”, take it a step further, swallow some pride, and have a real conversation about the churchʼs money.
Invite the entire church out to a business style mini-event where general numbers in the church budget are shared. You donʼt need to share every single line item in the budget, but instead, share some percentages based on actuals that occurred in the last year. Things like, 18% of our spending was on missions while 24% was on children. General numbers like this can really help people make a huge mental shift in the way they look at their money, and the way leadership uses it.
Cast vision at this event. Talk about the future. Answer questions. The point here is to be transparent. If youʼre willing to put yourself in a place where you can confidently prove you have nothing to hide, you will reap the rewards of increased giving. Besides, who wouldnʼt want to be a part of a culture where their church leaders are transparent in their financial decisions? Thereʼs no greater gesture of gaining someoneʼs trust than telling them what youʼre doing with their money.
#2 prove to people that church leadership is accessible and awesome
If youʼre really honest with yourself, youʼll readily admit that sometimes you come across someone that just rubs you the wrong way. You canʼt put your finger on it, but you just donʼt like them and really hate to be around them. If youʼre even more honest with yourself, youʼll admit that there have been times in your life when someone rubbed you the wrong way, but you misjudged the person, and they were actually pretty cool. Guess what? People in your church do the same thing with leaders at your church.
For many people, their hang up on giving is simply that they need to have a chance to know the people who are leading the charge for Godʼs kingdom at their church. Depending on the size of your church, having a relationship with everyone may be more difficult or less difficult. However, the important thing here is accessibility. People want to know they can call you on the phone when something is wrong. They want to know they can email you when they have an idea. They want to know youʼre a football watching, video game playing, diaper changing, regular person just like they are.
Try to make yourself available in the church lobby before and after service. Introduce yourself to everyone you see. Youʼll learn a lot about the people in your church, and begin to show them that their leadership is actually quite likable. Shatter their notion that their pastors and leaders sit at a desk all day, and show them that leadership at your church works with their hands to change peopleʼs lives every day.
Thereʼs a simple test to figure out whether or not your church believes leadership is accessible or not. If youʼve ever heard someone refer to leadership at the church as “them” and the congregation as “us,” you have a reputation for being inaccessible.
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#3 teach people how to manage their personal finances
Who knows? Maybe this is why Jesus decided to take a tax collector with him. People just donʼt always know how to manage their household finances. Actually, by ‘donʼt alwaysʼ I mean, ‘almost never.ʼ I am finding it increasingly rare for young couples to have any idea how to create and balance a household budget. This means families are showing up at your church with the inability to manage and understand money in the first place. All they know is, they donʼt have enough of it, so they canʼt give any to the church.
Host a FREE financial class from time to time where a few leaders at the church get together and have some real talks about household budgeting. Talk about credit card debt. Talk about how you canʼt always have everything you want. Talk about how saving money is important. Talk about how tithing will change their life and the lives of countless others. Give them a blueprint for financial success in their own life that will set their kids and their future on the right path.
There’re many ways to go about this, but I always find the most effective solution to be providing an environment where someone has a chance to talk one-on-one with someone privately about their finances. This may be daunting when you first introduce something like this at your church, but as time moves forward people will start learning how to make wise financial decisions on their own; eventually they may even be able to help others just like them.
People will unquestionably give more to the church when they are financially healthy at home.
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Donʼt be depressed by a season of low giving. Remain calm. Pray your pants off. Strategize some next steps. Then take action. Every church goes through times like this at one point or another; you just need to remember thereʼs always something more you can do. If you donʼt get it right the first time around, try again. So celebrate every little win along the way and never be afraid to try something new.