The church’s task in inspiring generosity isn’t merely one of persuasion or education. Like other aspects of faith, generosity is more often caught than taught. While preaching and teaching are essential in shaping expectations regarding giving, cultivating generosity is more often a matter of helping people to learn by doing.
1. Use the offering as a teaching moment - Each and every week, the time of offering provides a natural opportunity to teach the theology of giving and to inspire generosity. Take the opportunity each week to educate congregants on how offerings are used to the glory of God by naming specific ministries funded by the church.
2. Exercise the vocabulary of generosity - Congregations with strong cultures of generosity saturate their preaching, prayers, and worship with references to God’s generosity, gratitude, and giving as an act of faith. Week in and week out, they use a vocabulary that helps congregants understand the connection between faith and generosity — not just during the offering, not just on Sunday mornings, but using the lens of gratitude and generosity to frame every aspect of congregational life.
3. Tell the story - Congregations with strong cultures of generosity make a point of telling people about the good that comes about as a result of giving. They share success stories. They illustrate how generosity propels their mission.
4. Offer testimonies - People speaking from the heart about why they give and the joy it engenders powerfully shape a culture of generosity. Yet in so many churches, a conspiracy of silence around money blocks this type of witness. Think how much we could learn from one another if we heard from young people and older people, big givers and more modest givers, longtime givers and those just beginning.
5. Say thank you - Gratitude and generosity are two sides of the same coin. Saying thank you promptly and regularly is one of the simplest and most effective things a congregation can do to reinforce a sense of gratitude and enhance giving. When people are thanked regularly, they feel appreciated, valued, and needed — which makes them more likely to support ministry with their time, talents, and financial support.
6. Teach about giving during Advent and Christmas - Because holiday gift-giving is so deeply engrained in secular culture, Christmas is a logical time for the church to teach about generosity. Some churches have adopted the slogan “Christmas is not your birthday” and challenge families to give to worthy causes the equivalent of what they spend on one another. Other churches give all the offerings received at Christmas to a cause beyond their church. This models generosity and demonstrates the church’s commitment to mission. At Christmastime, the church also has an obligation to help people see the lure of consumerism and point them to more genuine expressions of love and generosity.
7. Involve children and youth - If a toddler has ever crammed a soggy Cheerio into your mouth, you know that even babies are wired for generosity. Children of all ages understand the simple message that we have received much from God and God wants us to be generous in return. Emphasizing generosity in ministry with children not only prepares a future generation of givers, but it helps form parents and families as well because adults often pay extra attention to what their children are taught. The same is true for youth. When youth are responsible for raising funds to support their own programs and mission activities, it builds a sense of ownership and gets others enthused about giving.
excerpt from an article by Lovett H. Weems Jr. and Ann A. Michel, Lewis Center for Church Leadership
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.