Earlier this week, I gave you 5 reasons to stop passing the offering plate in church. Today, I offer the first of three practical alternatives to the traditional approach to tithes and offerings on a Sunday morning.
Tip #1: Get to know people and ask them directly
Let’s cut to the chase. The most effective way to encourage people to give your church anything is to ask for it directly, face-to-face.
Of course, this should come from a place of relationship; this means you know who they are, what they have to give, and how their passions might be leading them to participate in your church. The development of a genuine spirituality of giving in your church isn’t a process of sales, marketing, or manipulation. It’s a process of pastoral care.
Church economics isn’t about collecting money quickly and efficiently (which is what passing the collection plate is all about), it’s the practice of properly stewarding the resources of the Kingdom. As a pastor, you aren’t stewarding your people’s money (that’s their job), you’re caring for their souls by teaching them how to steward their own lives; how to attend to their hearts, their gifts, their skills, their time, and yes, even their money from a posture of growing discipleship.
But let me be clear: helping people steward their lives doesn’t mean telling them what to do with their time or their money. It means helping them discover the calling of their lives within the context of the Kingdom of God. It’s more akin to matchmaking than fundraising, and good matchmakers get to know their clients in order to connecting them with whoever they’re well-suited for.
Helping people steward their lives means helping them find their calling within the context of the Kingdom of God.
At some point, the time will come to pair them up with the opportunities you have good reason to believe they’re well suited for. That means asking for their gift. When that time comes, you need to be ready and willing to ask them for it in as personal, as appropriate, and as direct a way as possible.
If you think you have too many people in your church for this, you probably don’t. The typical major gifts officer in a large nonprofit (like a University or a Hospital) is directly responsible for up to 150 potential donors. That means, they routinely spend months, and often years, working to cultivate an appropriate relationship with 150 people in order to help them consider a significant gift to their organization. In most American churches, where there are fewer that 100 members, the senior pastors and elders can and should be doing this with literally every person or family in the church.
But even if you do have thousands of people in your church, you have more than enough leaders to help you do this in a relatively direct way. This doesn’t even mean you can’t provide ways for people to give on Sunday (you absolutely should!). There are lots of great ways to engage people effectively, even in a crowd. We’ll discuss some of those ways in future posts. But at the end of the day, by far, the most impactful way to cultivate a healthy spirituality of giving is to ask people face-to-face from a place of authentic relationship.