Is a Lack of Vision Destroying Giving at Your Church?

Posted by Rusty Lewis Jan 16, 2019 1:00:23 PM


I’ve recently witnessed several magnificently extravagant gifts as part of accelerated giving initiatives where I’ve been blessed to participate as consultant and partner to my church clients. Individuals and families made commitments of $500,000, $1,000,000, $1,500,000, $2,000,000 and $3,000,000!

It is amazing to see God move in the hearts of those He has blessed financially to make huge differences in Kingdom initiatives for church ministry, local outreach, and national and international missions efforts. And yet, I am reminded that as large as those gifts are, in God’s eyes, there are likely even larger gifts given by church members that are at the lowest end of the economic spectrum.

God doesn’t measure the gift by the dollar sign or the number of zeroes that follow it. God measures the gift by what it means to the giver. Read Luke 21:1-4 for more on this.

An important story emerged from one of the generous gifts given above. It was given by a family that is NOT a member of the local church where the initiative is launching. The family is a friend of the church and has been very generous over the years as the church was planted. They’ve maintained an ongoing relationship ever since.

The pastor always kept in contact, providing updates, sharing vision, and discussing upcoming plans and initiatives. In this current season, the family has offered yet another extravagant gift. The pastor has gone back several times to check and double-check the giver’s intent, thanking them with amazement for their generosity.

But here is the key take-away. At one point the pastor asked, “But what about your own church? Are you sure you are supposed to be giving this gift to us?” To which the giver replied, “I’m sure – my church doesn’t need this money.”

Ouch. That’s a vision issue, or lack thereof. The giver doesn’t see a vision large enough at his or her own church that commands their best gift.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence. In my work coaching pastors through one-on-one conversations with high capacity givers, it is not uncommon for people of affluence to be giving to a number of charitable organizations.

Hopefully (and Biblically, I believe) they are giving the first 10% to their local church, but beyond the tithe, they will tend to spread their giving around.

There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, the church that has truly adopted a culture of generosity as a core part of its DNA would rightfully celebrate the giver’s giving outside of the church (beyond their tithe, of course).

So what captures the giver’s heart in such a way that they want to continue giving to their own church well beyond the tithe?

Vision – a vision that is so large and inspiring that it demands action. A vision that is worthy of investment. It is that “golden tomorrow” we dream about together that will only come to reality through the radical generosity of those who call the church their home.

Affluent people often tell us that they don’t give their full tithe to their local church because either “they don’t need it” or “they wouldn’t know how to manage it.” Is that true of your church? Some questions to consider:

  • Is the vision of your ministry large enough that a person of affluence whom God has put in your church would be captured by the passion of that vision and driven to want to partner with you and God to make it happen?
  • Are you regularly casting vision and reinforcing it from the platform during weekend services?
  • Are you meeting regularly with key influencers in your church, sharing your vision of ministry, addressing their questions and keeping them informed of next steps?
  • If your church unexpectedly received a gift that represented 50-100% of your total annual budget, do your people know what you would do with it? Do you?

As church leaders, we must be prepared to receive extravagant gifts to further our ministries. Are you?

About the Author/Rusty Lewis

Rusty joined Generis in 2001 to team up with a dedicated group focused on accelerating generosity toward God-inspired vision. He engages with clients in ministry fund development, ministry expansion and capital projects, major donor development strategies, generosity audits, pre-campaign assessment and feasibility studies, special projects and planned giving initiatives. Rusty has written about stewardship and generosity since 2008, and has produced several e-books on topics that impact giving cultures within the church. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and a member of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals (AFP). Rusty serves as coordinator for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and is a Certified Financial Coach. He and his wife, Andrea, live in the St. Louis area. They are proud parents of two grown children and one granddaughter.

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