by John Weinstein

By John Weinstein

“But it’s a dry heat!”

My wife and I heard that statement a lot when we moved to
Fresno, Calif. So is a blast furnace! I
thought.

The 100-degree summers of our new home required lots of water
to keep plants alive, so we hired an irrigation specialist to put in a sprinkler
system and prepare our backyard for sod. My wife told him how we wanted it
arranged. In a few hours, he and his crew had the yard ready.

Now that the sod is in, we’ve found that our trust in him
wasn’t misplaced. His good job of laying the pipes, positioning the sprinklers
and setting the timers simplified growing grass, shrubs and trees. When you give
plants water, they’ll grow.

Likewise, when you give Christians five kinds of motivation,
the fruits of your labor will be generous giving.

A Reason to Give

People want to do more than support the church staff, cover
the electric bill or meet the mortgage payment — they want to make a
difference in people’s lives. A survey of major donors shows the primary
reason people support a group is because they believe in its mission. In other
words, they’ll give to a church that has changed lives and saved souls.

What’s your church’s mission? What about its vision? Why
does your church exist? Answer these questions in short, simple sentences
everyone can remember and you’re on the path to giving people reasons to give.

Through scripture, build in your church a love for Christ and
for the world. By your passion, move people to join the greatest mission of the
ages: reaching the world with news of God’s love. Every day in every way, call
your people upward and outward.

Remind your members through newsletters, testimonies, video
presentations, interviews, posters and sermons what their giving is really
accomplishing. Don’t ask for money to pay the bills — challenge your members
to join the giving team that’s accomplishing the will of God through your
church. This gives every woman, man, girl and boy a reason to give.

Examples to Follow

I’ve conducted informal surveys in 35 churches asking a very
important question: Why are you a tither? Ninety-percent
of the respondents answered the same: “The example of someone else.” Your
people need regular, authentic testimonies from Biblical stewards. In
evangelical churches, members share their salvation testimonies. In charismatic
churches, they impart their healing testimonies. But who’s sharing their stewardship testimonies?

By using testimonies and interviews, hosting panel discussions
and writing brief articles in the church newsletter — or by presenting videos
during worship or an inserting notes in your regular financial statements —
you can share the stories of those people who have adopted stewardship as a way
of life. Christians will be challenged by their faith, struggles,
faithfulness and joy as stewards. One real-life example is worth a thousand
words.

Enlist, coach and schedule members to share their stewardship
testimonies. Since 1996, for example, a church in Lubbock, Texas, has asked
laypeople to share their giving testimonies every time an offering is taken. He
or she shares how God has led them to give and offers a blessing for the
offering. Authentic stewardship testimonies are effective.

Freedom from Debt

Does anyone need to be reminded of their debt? Credit card
debt in excess of $9,200 per family is one of the many sources of financial
strain on Christians. When large sums of money are needed to pay off debt, there
are fewer discretionary funds to give to the Church. Help your members get out
of debt any way you can. Preach sermon series and provide personal financial
counseling.

Don’t neglect the cause of such debt: misplaced priorities.
Even Christians are apt to believe the advertising hype and think the path to
happiness is paved with gold, lined with BMWs and walked on in Manolo Blahniks.
Preach and teach to counter the wisdom of this age that screams the lie that
fulfillment is in what you have. Preach and teach the changeless truth that what
this world offers is fleeting, but what we do for Christ will stand the test of
time and eternity. Replace the values the world advocates; transform hearts and
minds to God’s perspective. Many members of your church need freedom from debt
and from the misplaced values that often lead to it.

Give Them Options

Today, Americans have more options for every decision,
including how to make their gifts to a church or charity. Online giving,
automated withdrawal, or transfers of stocks and bonds are just a few of the
newer options.

How many options does your church offer? Do you provide
guidance regarding how to make a “final gift” to your church through a
bequest or trust? Do you send envelopes to your church members? Doing so
increases giving.

I’m not advocating the use of credit cards for online
donations, but some churches do so and receive gifts from credit-responsible
members.

Does your church have a brokerage account to make possible the
gifts of securities? In one California church I know of, a family makes their
tithe through a once-a-year transfer of stock.

Responsible, Open Stewardship

In the aforementioned survey of major donors, the second
highest motivating factor is an organization’s good stewardship of the funds
collected. We need only refer to the example of the American Red Cross
and its 9/11 funds to know this is true.

Regular reporting of church giving in the bulletin and
newsletter and on the website reminds members their gifts are being accurately
accounted for, and in the account(s) they intended. Good financial practices
concerning expenditures (purchase orders, specific budget accounts, committee
reviews of major expenditures, and competitive bidding of contracts) gives
donors the assurance that the Lord’s money is spent wisely for the Lord’s
work.

Mailing regular, written statements to donors — accompanied
by a note of thanks, a report of what God is doing, or another insert — serves
to remind givers that their money is doing something good for God and His
Kingdom.

We ask church members to give to our ministries. Put these
five motivators in place and see if they don’t offer more.

John Weinstein is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary, an instructor for the National Association of Church
Business Administration, and a Certified Fund Raising Professional (CFRP). Reach
him for comments or questions at [email protected]