So, you’ve decided that not preaching about giving will result in disciples not getting the complete picture. Or at least you’re open to the suggestion that not preaching about giving is going to create serious problems down the road for your church. If you’ve not reached either of those two conclusions yet, you might be thinking, can’t I just preach through the lectionary and let people figure out giving on their own. Here’s my assessment of that position, based on the definition of insanity (doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome), think about the current giving and generosity pattern in your church. Now project ahead to the year 2020, just eight years from now. What will your giving be like then?
What I’m about to suggest is based on experience and is anecdotal rather than empirical. But I believe that many churches, even currently healthy churches, will face serious problems if they take the “do nothing, let it all happen naturally” approach. The percentage of discretionary funds that churches have for ministry at their disposal continues to decrease because fixed costs continue to rise and giving patterns remain flat or declining. In 2008, if your church had 20% of its income to use for discretionary missions and ministries, that percentage is surely down to 15% in 2012. By 2020, considering current trends, many churches will be closing their doors because they will not have the funds to pay the fixed expenses, let alone the ministry and mission discretionary ones. The reason for this fiscal failure, is that church leaders—including pastors—assumed the giving crunch would somehow fix itself.
So, you’ve decided that not preaching about giving will result in disciples not getting the complete picture. Or at least you’re open to the suggestion that not preaching about giving is going to create serious problems down the road for your church. Good! I’m glad to hear you’ve reached that conclusion. So that means you’re ready to consider a generosity, stewardship, and giving series immediately. Hold on. Don’t Google giving sermons just yet. You have some next steps before you plow the corn from the pulpit.
The first thing you must do is begin to develop an overall strategy to normalize the conversation about money in your church. Last summer I led a generosity conference among 30 African American pastors. I asked them, “How many of you have access to your congregations giving records? How many of you know what you’re people give?” To the last pastor they all raised their hands. Recently I asked the same question among a group of evangelical pastors and got smiles in response. My point. You are somewhere between the two extremes. Before you can preach about generosity, you must measure how secret money is in your setting. Knowing where your people are currently when it comes to money, stewardship and giving, will determine next steps you need to take in normalizing the conversation.
Don’t get to the pulpit before the conversation about money is normalized in your church. Next, the how tos of normalizing the conversation.