Every week a pastor receives an offering report. It usually includes several figures. However, the one that receives the most attention is the total undesignated offering amount for the weekend. Most pastors know what they need based on dividing their annual budget figure by 52 to discern their perceived weekly budget need. Once this weekly financial report is received the Monday morning blues typically follow. I want to help turn your blue feelings into exciting green lights.
- First, the weekly offering amount is a top-line number. This means the real power of your financial position is not determined until you reach the bottom line number. The bottom line number is what is left over once you deduct your expenditures. So the top-line number is not nearly as meaningful as you may think.
- Second, the top-line number is actually a result number. It is showing you the result of your discipleship training on generosity. It is not necessarily showing how generous your people really are. They could be giving to any number of organizations or be waiting for giving to be unleashed within them. However, it is showing exactly how generous you have led them to become to your church. Nevertheless, it is still a result or fruit.
We need to look for a more important stat to measure. One that occurs way upstream of your weekly giving amount. If we can determine a metric at the beginning of the resource flow that will indicate how strong your giving result will be downstream. This will be a more helpful way to review reports. So let’s go on a journey to find a metric point that is more cause-oriented. If you can move the first domino, the Sunday morning offering domino will surely follow.
To determine a good cause-oriented stat, let me share a few national data points with you.
1. Charitable giving has been on the rise for the past few years. Just stating that giving is rising may not communicate as accurately as I could. So let me state it this way. Charitable giving has set historic records the past few years, year after year. In other words, giving has never been better in our country. Now, if your church is not experiencing this overflow of generosity, there is a good reason. Giving to religious causes (local houses of worship) has been on a forty-year decline. Giving to charities is up, giving to churches is down.
Now, one final stat then back to determining your upstream measurement.
2. Though the total giving figure to charity is up, the number of households/individuals making charitable gifts is declining. It has been declining in alarming numbers for years. So giving is going up because the most dedicated givers are sticking with it and giving more. Therefore, your church offering could be better this year than last simply because a few strong givers have increased their gifts. So if you only watch the Sunday offering amount, you could be blindly encouraged or sadly defeated.
Eventually, this pattern of the best givers giving more is going to catch up with us. These givers need more support and one day they will need to be replaced. You may be one generation away from a catastrophe and not realize it.
Therefore, the single most important giving stat that every pastor should know and measure is how many first time givers have you gained every week. First-time givers are usually not high profile on the minds of church leaders. Their gifts can be small amounts and they can be less frequent in their giving. They can also desire to designate their offerings to special causes inside and outside of the local church.
Here are some new thoughts to help inspire you to increase the value you place on first-time givers. Then I want to provide you some tips.
- First-time givers are necessary because you lose regular givers every year.
- First-time givers are a must because you will never receive a second gift without receiving the first.
- First-time givers are willing, eager, and excited about giving. Something fresh has just taken place in their lives and they are responding to it.
- First-time givers are trusting. They have just vetted your church and found it worthy of a gift in their eyes.
- First-time givers are ready. This is the first of many gifts they will provide if you lead them well.
So how can you lead first-time givers to unleash generosity? Here are some thoughts.
- First-time givers need to know that your church is worthy of receiving a gift and that it will be handled with the highest of integrity. Do not be afraid to speak often about your accountability practices, financial revenue strength, and sound financial positions. People want to give to success, not a sinking ship that is always behind in its budget.
- First-time givers typically do not carry a checkbook, nor do they know their bank account routing numbers, or possess a large amount of liquid cash. Therefore, you must turn every smartphone into an offering moment usable by a credit card. A dedicated giving app, church giving app, or text to give features are a must. If it takes more than 3-4 clicks or involves pinching/stretching to enlarge the screen you have made it too hard. Feel free to check out Generosity by Lifeway at www.lifeway.com/generosity. We make it easy for pastors and fun for givers!
- First-time givers populate your worship service more than any other place. When you speak about finances or generosity, remember to address a non-giver who is genuinely trying to figure it out. Be positive, gracious, and helpful. When giving language leads with obligation, duty, or pressure they will check out on you.
- First-time givers need to see where the money goes and need to hear about the difference it is making in a person’s life. Share stories from the stage, church website, and social media every week. Let stories and testimonies be your default language, not budget need.
- First-time givers are in your new members and volunteer training events. Requiring someone to “tithe” to be a church member or assuming a leader is “tithing” might not be your best option. When we lead with tithing requirements and budget needs it is typically a church-centered conversation. It will not reap joy-filled, abundant, unstoppable generosity. Lead with the best life possible for the giver!
Finally, if the number that drives your emotions and decisions the most is the weekly offering compared to the weekly budget need, I want to encourage you to think differently. If church leaders will inspire first-time givers to pursue a generous life because it is the best way for a person to live, the journey will be far more enjoyable for all. If we will increase first-time givers every week, regardless of the amount, joy will increase, and future giving will strengthen.