Growing Financial Giving in a Pastoral District
Today, many churches are in dire need of meeting their financial obligations. They face more demands and expectations for ministry and local expenses, but most have few or insufficient financial resources to successfully do ministry. One of the church’s first steps to growth and success in ministry is to resolve its financial difficulties. Stewardship is integral to everything a church does. Solomon said, “Money answers everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19, NKJV). Churches need to take a “systematic” (holistic) approach if they are to solve their financial doldrums.
Truths about Stewardship
Stewardship: An Expression of Discipleship
Stewardship embodies the understanding of our relationship to God, God’s people, and God’s creation. Giving is a requisite to Christian discipleship. We show our values, priorities and love by our giving. Giving also ties people with mission. Robert Schnase affirms, “Growing in the grace of giving is part of the Christian journey of faith, a response Christian disciples offer to God's call to make a difference in the world.” Donald Joiner also reiterates, “Giving through the church is not all about money. It is about changing lives. It is about feeling loved and cared for. It is about helping the needy. It is about ministry. It is about our personal salvation. It is about the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of cavalry.”
The essence of a good stewardship program has nothing to do with the question of how much will you give to the church. It should address the question on how you are doing in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Our primary objective should be to incorporate giving as a joy-filled, divine discipline into the fabric of the church’s life. A proper theology of stewardship should focus not on our ownership, but on God’s ownership; not on church survival, but on personal discipleship; not on money, but on ministry; not on the needs of the church, but on the needs of the members to be totally involved in the ministry of Christ. Teaching the proper biblical and theological foundation of stewardship to the congregation is vital to the development of any real growth in Christian discipleship. When a church makes real givers, it changes lives. Stewardship is never a program, it is lifestyle.
Stewardship Is Not a Program
Stewardship development is a not a “program” problem but a “system” problem. The problem is in the whole, not the fragments. The system is the center of the problem. The root for decreased giving is not people, it is not the ailing economy, it is not even lack of finances. The reason people are not giving is that the system has often created an environment for people to give elsewhere. I have seen churches where members give to a project but do not return tithes and offerings. Our young people can pay for a youth camp, but cannot be seen in the tithe and offering checklist. Stewardship should not be just a department among other departments, but all other departments—women’s ministries, personal ministries, Sabbath School, youth, children, music, etc.—should intentionally foster stewardship education. This denotes that if we are ever going to solve our financial problems, we will need to view stewardship in the context of our entire church life.
Creating a Climate for Growth
Over the past years, vast changes have occurred in church giving trends, especially in the area of offerings. Members are exercising a choice in why they should give, what to give, and when to give. Members want to see results from their giving. One of the reasons for lowered income is that we are not making our case in a way that is convincing to the people who are members of our churches and who wish to give. Donald W. Joiner posits that: “To create a climate in which giving can happen, tell the story of what the church is doing, how lives are touched, and when ministry is happening.” Also, J. Clif Christopher states: “When a church consistently shows its constituency how lives are being improved through its ministry, then that church gets supported.” Unfortunately, many church leaders do a better job of reporting how much is given than reporting the good things the giving enabled in the first place. Look for ways to tell the stories behind the numbers. Tell about the lives that will be touched by our systematic benevolence.
Some Motivating Factors to Give
- Mission-driven church. Truly the primary motivation for our giving should be God and what He has done for us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, in addition, human nature wants to see a correlation between their giving and the mission of the church (how this giving is enhancing ministry, touching lives, serving the needy, strengthening family bonds, extending ministry, saving souls, making Christian disciples). They want to know that their giving really does make a difference and really does change lives. People want to make the world a better place to live. They want to believe that they can truly make a difference for the better.
- Regard for church leadership. People give more liberally when they hold the leaders of the congregation—the pastor, the elders, the church board members—in high esteem. Competence of the leadership and confidence in their vision fosters generosity. The person or team leading the flock makes a lot of difference in whether today’s church members contribute as completely as they can. When they see a pastor and elders who regularly visit, have a great vision, and show excellent skills in leadership by precept and example, they will invest in that leadership’s vision and trust in their skills to make meaningful ministry. This thought resonates with the strong advice given by Ellen G. White: “Great care should be exercised in choosing men to occupy positions of responsibility as guardians of the churches. My brethren, do not make this choice blindly, lest the flock of God be given an example that will teach them to tear and devour.” Training and equipping church leaders to competently do ministry is imperative to the growth of the church.
- Total Member Involvement. The “Total Member Involvement” model can make a substantial difference. Churches that have a greater percentage of their membership involved in some form of ministry have greater attendance, greater income, and little tension, backbiting, burnout, and apathy. Clearly, there is a great number of lay members that stay committed and find increasing joy in being of service. John Ed Mathison relates, “The secret of the growth of the church is the involvement of the laity in meaningful ministry.”
The pastor and leadership team of the church need to emphasize, through sermons, organizational structure, Sabbath School, and style of leadership, that “ministry” belongs to the whole congregation, not simply the leaders. The pastor's role is to help individuals recognize their gifts and use them in ministry, emphasizing that every member is expected to participate in some form of ministry. White writes, “Those who have the spiritual oversight of the church should devise ways and means by which an opportunity may be given to every member of the church to act some part in God's work. This has not always been done in the past. Plans have not been fully carried out whereby the talent of all might be employed in active service. There are but few who realize how much has been lost because of this.”
Much more than we ever imagined is lost when we don’t involve every member in ministry. According to the Barna Group, which has studied stewardship trends for many years, the core reason people give to any cause is an emotional connection to it. This denotes that they feel they can make a difference, have a sense of purpose, and have a relationship with the mission project.
The pastor and their leadership team should do a valuation of the skills, talents, and abilities of church members. An easier way is to begin with those who are new to the church. Basically, create a ministry team that uses their gifts and passions. If members are involved, they will love the church and support its causes. Leaders should make sure that no one is a spectator in church ministry.
The church needs finances to support its growth and mission, but it should not be consumed by how to reach it or too distressed by the lack of it. Every church should lay a good foundation for stewardship growth by intertwining stewardship and discipleship; these two should be inseparable. Churches need to weave financial stewardship into the fabric of every church life. Stewardship should never be a program that comes and goes, but it should be the church lifestyle. Every ministry of the church should be a stewardship department that fosters faithfulness on its mission and mandate.
 Robert Schnase, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations (Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press, 2011), 105.
Donald W. Joiner, Creating a Climate for Giving (Nashville, TN, Discipleship Resources, 2003), 25.
 Joiner, 48.
 J. Clif Christopher, Not Your Parents Offering Plate (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), 11.
 Ellen. G. White., Christian Leadership (Washington, DC: Ellen G. White Estate, 1985), 52.
 John Ed Mathison, Every Member In Ministry (Nashville, TN, Discipleship Resources, 1992) vii.
 Ellen G. White, Counsels for the Church (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1991), 69.