A New Conversation on Generosity
by Nathan Artt, on August 2020
Jim has been a good friend of mine for years. I have had the privilege of watching him lead leaders and raise a lot of money for ministry in the process. The topic of generosity is also a deep passion of mine, so I was excited to not only see him write a resource to help churches understand how to survive and adapt given our “new normal”, but also to have a chance to interview him about it.
There were quite a few major takeaways for me from this conversation that I wanted to share with you.
1. Don’t be scared to talk about generosity
Generosity is not an obligation, it is an invitation. God needs nothing from us, yet wants everything for us. Our generosity is simply an extension of our identity, and the local church is a conduit for redemption to the world. Therefore, the world needs the church more than ever right now, which also means that more people want to find their God-inspired role in the story of the local church.
People love to see their church win, and love to be a part of the win, so while it is important to be empathetic to people’s situations, it is also very important to give them an opportunity to be a part of a movement that is providing hope to a scared and broken world. We always said that the church is not a building, and that statement is being completely put to the test. We are seeing ministry outside the walls of a building more than ever, so don’t be shy about sharing those stories and tying them to the generosity that allows those stories to happen.
2. Communication will and should change
This is not an admonishment, but the church hasn’t always been great at communication. While other industries have figured out how to segment communication based on what people want to see, the church has still sent one message to the multiple audiences that comprise their congregation, and still try to pack the majority of that communication into a 60, 75, or 90 minute Sunday morning program.
People are at different stages of their journey with Christ. Therefore, some information is more relevant than it is to others, and we have to find a way to send people information and opportunities based on where they are in the journey. For people who have never given to the church, we should focus more on telling our story and defining ways to engage. For others who give generously, it’s about gratitude and appreciation.
3. Developing systemic generosity will be important
The most interesting thing about my conversation with Jim is that Generis has been a capital fundraising company for years, and we are now hearing from Jim, the CEO of Generis, that while episodic giving (capital campaigns) will still be a part of helping churches fund their vision, it will be more important to create systems to foster an authentic and normalized culture of generosity. In other words, create a longer term, more systemic level of generosity in the local church. Generis is doing exactly what we talk about to churches now, that we can either dig our heels in, ignore the obvious changes in the marketplace, and continue to get people to do what we want, or...we can pivot.
Our culture has shifted to more causal giving, and as a result, people do give less to the church than they did ten years ago. What Jim discusses in his book and in the interview is that we have to do a better job of tying stories of life change to how that impact is funded. We’ve used a lot of internal language in the past (baptisms, salvations, etc.), but we have to understand that as the attractional model of church is becoming less relevant, the new front door is being created in the community through outreach. People want to be a part of something significant, and they are looking to the church to provide them that role.
4. We’re missing a seat at the executive table
In order to create a real culture of generosity, stewardship needs to have a seat at the executive table. We typically have groups directors, XP’s, and leaders of other ministry areas sitting at the table as lead team or executives, but we need to also consider having people in leadership who know how to foster systemic generosity in those same conversations.
How we communicate, what we develop programmatically, how we reach our community, and how we assimilate people are all impacted by how generous our churches are. The conversations around generosity and the systematic development of generosity in our churches has often been handled at lower levels of leadership in the church, until there is a need for a capital campaign. However, if we are going to see fewer episodic campaigns, then we have to consider having more consistent higher level conversations on a more consistent basis at the highest level of leadership.
I enjoyed Jim’s resource, Stabilize, as well as the conversation we had around generosity and ways this can profoundly impact the church. We recommend this resource to you, and hope that you will find it helpful as you continue to navigate through change.
Click below to watch a short video of our conversation.