Generosity of all kinds is a fruit from a deeper work in our hearts. Let’s take a moment to reflect intuitively on what causes generosity to rise up within us. We can be generous toward a family member or friend because our heart is drawn toward them due to our relationship. Or we can behave generously towards a cause that our heart is passionate about. Then, many times generosity feels good within us. Just reflect on the joy you received the last time you gave a gift. Finally, we can spring to action when our heart is moved by a person, need, or opportunity. Odds are if our hearts aren’t moved, we won’t be very generous.
It is not uncommon in the church to experience the generosity front being led with budget, need, duty, or obligation. It is a common pattern that has been past down from one generation of church leaders to the next. The Bible teaches we should give so it is an obedience issue. The church needs to be funded so we should do our part. I get it, but I also know it is not the most fun or productive way to lead.
The Barna Group released a study a couple of years ago entitled “The Generosity Gap.” It studied the many gaps that exist between the pastor and people along with the different generations as it relates to generosity. I will be presenting a four-part blog series on Next Generation Giving to help you reflect on the principles this study uncovered. This blog is Part 4.
“The Generosity Gap” reports, “Different generations gravitate to different kinds of generous acts.” So if we are leading with just one form of giving we are severely hindering our opportunities for growth. Not everyone is in the same spiritual or financial place of growth. Not everyone is going to start their giving journey with being a tithing or above and beyond giver. Grace says we need to meet people where they are to help them get to God’s preferred place of growth.
Sometimes pride and deception can set in a little bit in both the giver and preacher. The report reflected that “people tend to think their preferred way of expressing generosity is more generous than other ways.” We can fall into this trap as leaders as well. It is really easy to look down on another generation, thinking they just don’t get it. Again, the eyes of grace can see them differently. Maybe they actually do get it and they are on the right path. A little encouragement can spur them on to tackle the next mountain.
“The Generosity Gap” continues to unpack this idea when stating that “Pastors tend to believe generosity is a matter of planning, discipline, and sacrifice, while many younger Christians think spontaneity and compassion are essential to generosity.” Love and grace release our hearts to trust far more than fear, guilt, and duty. The actual act of generosity is the result of passion and love in our hearts. Increase love and you will increase generosity. Be prepared because generous people are giving people. It is not just about their money. That is only one fruit and all the activities associated with being generous are really important to increase financial giving.
“It turns out that giving time and giving money go hand in hand. Those who give more money volunteer more often. And those who volunteer more often give more money.” So it is not just the younger generation that is motivated by the heart. Our best givers are also our best servers. Then someone’s first step towards financial generosity may actually be serving. Then as they grow you will receive the fruit of two resources. Giving people give of their time and resources. Most churches are always looking for more volunteers and more donors. Well, with the proper growth strategy that helps a person discover all they can become in Christ you will release both. Unite the different forms of giving to grow generosity.
“Regarding faith practices, regular church attendance strongly correlates with giving goals.” Okay, so give this some thought. What causes people to not want to miss a weekend worship experience? Fear of going to hell if they do not achieve perfect attendance? Now, I know some can be driven to achieve their heavenly attendance ribbon, but I think we want people to participate on the weekend because of a sincere passion to worship, serve, and grow. The difference between a devoted exerciser and one who can’t seem to keep the habit going is passion. Obligatory exercising is doomed to fail. However, a passion for health is unquenchable. It flows into our eating, sleeping, and other life habits.
“These findings dovetail with ongoing research Barna has conducted since 2011 with American Bible Society on U.S. adults’ level of engagement with the Bible: Those with a higher level of engagement tend to give more.” Finally, a devotion to Scripture is also found in givers. If we wrap all these together, here is what we could conclude. If I will just help people fall in love with scripture, provide a powerful worship experience that can’t be missed, release people to their passions of serving, then giving will become unstoppable.
So what does your current generosity growth plan look like for every believer in every generation? Personally, I would not lead with the tithing message (though I believe in it). Nor would I fire up a Stewardship Training Class (though they are helpful). A giving appeal may not be your first step (though it could reap a one time result). If we are going to unleash giving in the next generation we need to lead with heart, love, grace, action, and impact. Go unleash giving today!