Generosity Is Systemic

What if you could punch the “increase giving” button in your church and watch generosity happen. That would be nice, wouldn’t it, but it doesn’t work that way.

The reality is that generosity is systemic. Everything affects it. Generosity to a church is the result of a number of factors.

In a previous post, I indicated that the economy might be a factor in giving, but generally it is not the key factor. The economy does tend to expose those churches that are not healthy. Good times and increased giving obscured underlying issues for a lot of churches.

Internal factors are a lot more important to the long term giving health of a church than are external factors like the economy. In other words, there is greater risk from factors inside your church. Churches with that are unhealthy on the inside are vulnerable. Healthy churches generally are not as exposed. In other words, they do well in good times and bad. They have learned that there are ways to “recession proof” your church.

What does that look like? I do not pretend to be an expert on church health. The folks at TAG Consulting are very good at assessing that. Their “Transforming Church Index” is excellent — like an MRI on the church. But a few things are critical.

Many would say vision is at the top of the list. I agree it is hard to attract generous givers without vision of ministry. However, there are a couple of things that are important and have to be considered.

The first one is clarity. It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of clarity. You can have a vision of ministry for the church, but is it clear enough for people to understand it and own it? In other words, can you state the mission and vision of your church in an “elevator pitch” (not an elevator in an eighty story building!)? If, as a church leader, you want your people to truly own the vision of ministry you believe God has placed before you, it must be clear and concise. It is fine to have a longer version for strategy and execution purposes, but keep that in your office. The main version your people see has to be easy to remember.

In laying out the vision of ministry for you church, you also have to make sure it is original and authentic. I see a lot of church leaders who go to a great conference and see a presentation on that church’s vision, then try to make it theirs. In other words, they change a few words and proclaim “this is our new vision.” Wrong. That is merely photocopying what someone else has done. What may work well for Andy Stanley or Bill Hybels or Rick Warren (or any other church leader) in their church will probably not work in yours. There are too many differences. If you have not read “Church Unique” by Will Mancini, get it. He spends a lot of time talking about this topic.

The second thing is this — culture. As important as vision is, culture is even more important. Why do I say this? You can have the greatest vision on earth, but, quoting Sam Chand, “it will die in a toxic culture.” Bad culture trumps good vision every time.

Culture, according to dictionary.com is defined as “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular group.” The culture in a church does not happen overnight. It is an accumulation over the years. Some pastors inherit it when they go a to new pastorate.  Other pastors see it get shaped around them. Others, like church planters, get to create it from day one. That’s why it is so important if you are a church planter to pay close attention to the culture of your church in the early years.

No matter which category you fall into, culture will play a significant role in what you can accomplish.

What kind of culture do you have? Clearly vision is important. If vision is king, culture is the ace that beats it! You will never advance your vision beyond what the culture will permit and the result will be that the potential for generosity will be restricted.

Remember – generosity is systemic. Everything matters.

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