Not-for-profits push fundraising appeals at the end of the year to take advantage of giving patterns. Thirty percent of all donations are given in December, with 10 percent of all giving done in the last three days of each year.
Most nonprofits, including churches, have to figure out how to maximize the year-end effort and make the money stretch over the following year.
What if they could count on a steadier stream of gifts throughout the year?
Congregational health expert Robert “Bob” Perry believes churches can if they strive to become healthy and focus on thriving, rather than on surviving or simply meeting budget goals.
“A healthy church is a generous church,” Perry said by email. “A healthy church looks beyond its own needs and self-interest and sees poverty and distress in the world through God’s compassionate eyes.”
The church’s generosity stems from faithfulness and obedience to Christ’s commands, Perry added.
How does a congregation become generous? By its leaders living generously themselves and teaching members how to do so, as well.
Church leaders first must model generosity, even though they might be seen as showing off.
“[I]f the leader makes a ‘show’ of his generous giving, it looks pretentious. However, without making a show of it, word gets around,” Perry said. “When members see their leaders practicing a generous spirit, that becomes contagious.”
Jon Wiebe and Patrick Johnson agree. In their article, “Seven Attributes of a Generous Church” (mbfoundation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Seven-Attributes-of-a-Generous-Church.pdf), the pair note that all church staff and lay leaders, not just the pastor, should model the attribute.
Johnson developed the Generous Church Tool Kit from the book “The Treasure Principle” by Randy Alcorn.
Not only can the pastor and other key leaders share their stories. They also can encourage and provide opportunities for church members to testify to their own experiences.
Testimonies about generosity inspire others to grow, noted Brian Kluth, a pastor and giving expert, on his blog (churchcentral.com/blogs).
Often, stewardship and generosity are confused, and leaders concentrate on preaching and teaching about stewardship. The congregational health expert believes the concepts must go hand in hand.
“It is much easier to teach about stewardship than to practice good stewardship. But if people sense that the leader is practicing what he/she is teaching, the words will be better received,” Perry said.
Leaders also must make clear that while the two concepts are intertwined, both must be emphasized and practiced.
“Both ideas are consistent with Scripture and with the example and teachings of Jesus. Stewardship has to do with the conscientious management of resources; generosity relates to the spirit of giving that goes beyond expectations,” Perry explained.
“Both concepts are enhanced when the giver takes the attitude that all his/her resources are gifts from God and rightly belong to God.”
Leaders need vision and planning to move the church toward generosity, Wiebe and Johnson believe.
“Churches don’t need to have business plans per se, but generous churches do understand why they exist and their unique role in the Kingdom,” the pair wrote.
As leaders communicate the vision, they help congregants understand the connection between giving and ministry —- kingdom living.
The church also must have an outward focus, the three experts said. “When the church has a strong vision and ministry plan that looks outside its four walls, then people naturally give time, talent and treasure to make it happen,” Wiebe and Johnson wrote.
Leaders can highlight local and global needs throughout the year to keep congregants aware, Perry said.
“Members can be sensitized to see the world around them and the world they see in the media and note the injustices and imbalances in the availability of food, water, education, safety, etc.,” he added.
Sharing stories about needs is the best way to sensitize church members to them, Perry said.
“When Christians see these needs and the injustice they represent, [believers] should be touched to give, regardless of the season.”