The Intersection…Where Generosity Flows

The research is pretty clear. Some churches are up, some down and some about the same. Generally, the economy is not the main issue. Sure, there are some areas that have been severely impacted by the effects of the economy the last 16-18 months. However, even in a city as hard hit as Detroit, I am aware of a couple of major churches that have fared well. One of them told me they are down 3% in offerings while down 8% in attendance. If my simple math is correct, that would probably be a net increase in giving on the smaller number of people. Nothing is wrong at the church, people are just leaving Detroit because they think they have a better chance starting over somewhere else.

During the time when the economy was good and offerings were increasing in many churches, the often ignored statistic is that offerings were not increasing on a per giver basis. Yes, they were increasing in aggregate, but not increasing when measure based on the larger number of people. In other words, lots of churches grew their operating budgets just by growing the number of people. There is nothing at all wrong with that, but we need to be aware of it.

If the economy is not the main issue for most churches, what is?

There are two sides to the church giving equation. One is the givers — when their hearts are afire for what the church is doing and how it is doing it, generosity is the normal response. The other side is the church — it must keep the vision fresh and present itself as healthy to attract givers. The church must be able to demonstrate that a gift here really counts in terms of its impact.

The main issue, for many churches, therefore, is how to do this.

The reality is that givers have many choices for their funding. It is not unusual for me to hear a church leader lament that a certain person in their church gave a large sum to a charity, often an alma mater. When gifts like this occur, it is now clear that the person has the ability and willingness to make a gift like that. Gifts to one’s alma mater are noble, but why did the person not think of the church?

When faced with choices to allocate their resources, givers will almost always choose the place where they can see the highest impact. The fact is that the college or university took seriously the relationship with the alumnus and helped them understand the impact their giving could have. In other words, they found the place I call “the intersection.”

What is this place? Simply put, it is the place where the vision and mission of a church intersects the passion of a giver’s heart. Find this place and the result is always generosity. It is the place where givers will release resources again and again as long as the church remains faithful in stewarding the gifts. This intersection is the place where generosity flows! Said another way, if you cannot find this intersection, it is generally fruitless to think the giver will participate significantly. It’s just not a fit.

Givers want impact. It is the responsibility of the church to do that. You cannot just expect givers to keep filling the annual budget bucket. You have to make the case that a gift here is a worthy investment. If you can’t show it, another charitable cause can! Impact =”ROI” and givers pay attention to that.

Can you show how a gift to your church will impact the life of a hurting, hopeless, helpless person? If you cannot, it might be worth taking a hard look at what you’re doing.

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