Before I was a pastor, I was a development director for a local non-profit. I learned on the job how to develop funds for an agency with a very focused mission and tight budget. It was the best training I could have gotten for what lay ahead. Daily in my life as a pastor, I’ve pulled from my experiences in non-profit development. Maybe the most fundamental lesson I’ve learned is this: helping people means raising money. One who is not comfortable with that ought not get too close to pastoral ministry.
That’s not a bad thing. Helping people place their giving in the context of discipleship and in the context of a compelling story is a healthy and important part of building a sustainable Kingdom initiative.
Through my experience, I’ve discovered a few things about developing Kingdom-minded givers:
Contrary to what pretty much everyone who goes to church tells you, it is not wrong to talk about money in church. People are not put off by discussions of practical things; to the contrary, I believe they starve for it. Folks genuinely want to know what is expected not just from the church but from God. They yearn for the theological underpinnings that make things like giving make sense. In fact, I believe folks are generally starving for compelling reasons to follow Jesus more sincerely, and as spiritual leaders it is our responsibility to make that happen.
Giving, like any discipleship issue, requires education. Further, as priests our primary work is to facilitate the true worship of the Living God. Most folks assume churches ask for money because that is how we pay our bills. While it is true that we use donations to make ministry happen, that’s not our primary motivation. Actually, it has a lot more to do with God than with us.Worship is what people are designed to do and since the fourth chapter of Genesis, God has asked his children to make giving part of their worship. Of course, back then, offerings consisted of sacrificial lambs and bundles of wheat. Over the generations, our modes of giving have changed. We no longer sacrifice animals on the altar or offer up the first of our harvest. Nor do we drop silver coins in a box as the widow did (Mark 12:41-44). Only within the last few decades have people been giving by check. Now, it is an electronic world.
Making use of all the ways our culture allows us to give, churches should be committed to making worship accessible for anyone ready to move forward in following Jesus.
Peter taught us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15). I wonder if he was thinking about giving when he wrote that.
The fact is, it takes money to run a ministry. Non-believers know that. Believers know that. No one is surprised or offended to find out it takes money to run your ministry. And if your ministry is struggling financially, as Gordon Cosby says, that may be God’s way of motivating you to tell your story. Listen: people do not give to needs or deficits (especially people who have learned to manage money well); they give to compelling stories and visions. Well-resourced donors will not put their money into a sinking ship, but they will give to places where they see a move of God. Tell your story like you believe in it so others are privileged to become part of it.
Giving is relational. Surely this is why God made giving part of our relationship to him. It deepens our connection, and what happens on the vertical plane happens on the horizontal plane, too. When someone gives to your ministry, it deepens their relationship with the work and the community.
And that is a two-way street. Your donors deserve your care and concern even as they are sowing into your work. One of the biggest lies of the enemy is that you’re “bothering people” if you are in touch too often. You’re not bothering them; you’re keeping them in the loop. Folks who give money want to hear they are investing in something that is strategic and successful but for Heaven’s sake, please do so authentically. Love people not for their money but for the sake of their souls. Keep them in prayer. Sow into them as disciples.
Here are a few hard facts:
- Those who do not give have an issue in their relationship with God.
- Those who give with strings attached have an issue in their relationship with God.
- Those who are not reaching their potential as givers have an issue in their relationship with God.
At the end of the day, another person’s giving is not about funding your ministry (or helping you sleep at night). It is about following Jesus and inspiring others to do so. Our main work is not to develop givers but to develop disciples. And according to our scriptures, healthy, committed disciples will be compelled to give.
As we said already, people are designed to worship God. Giving is a means of doing that — a tangible, practical way of showing devotion. Our main work as spiritual leaders, then, is to help people worship God in the ways he has designed us to worship him. We want to help people shake loose old, dysfunctional, agenda-laden habits so they can experience true freedom.
Helping people develop a good theology and practice of giving is a wonderful gift and perhaps the very best way to help them become serious followers of Jesus.