In many of the churches I work with, either by choice or by policy, the pastor/minister does not look at anyone’s giving. The intent of this blog is not to debate that point at all. However, what I do want to address is a recurring problem I continually find related to this practice.
In doing a capital campaign, One Fund generosity initiative, generosity coaching or even a generosity audit, I will do a deep dive analysis of the church’s giving. As I do this, if the pastor/minister does not look at giving records, I will ask them to give me list of the top 10-20 givers in their church. I then take that list, along with the list of staff and church leadership, and compare them to my giving analysis. One of the toughest days for me in working with a church is when I go back to the pastor/minister and report the results of this analysis. I secretly call it “D-day” because I know that while most of the results I will share are overwhelmingly positive, they will still be devastated by the news that leaders and influencers they count on are not vested in terms of their generosity and giving. Often the pastor/minister feels betrayed as if the person(s) was inauthentic in their commitment to them and to the church.
Peter F. Drucker was quoted as saying this about leadership,
"Management is doing things right;
leadership is doing the right things."
Peter F. Drucker
This quote, I find, can be applied to church leadership. Too many leaders in the church are really just managers when measured against the authenticity of their walk with Christ. He or she may be doing things right, but only things that don’t require real commitment, like genuine generosity and giving. When it comes to really being vested they will quietly just not participate hoping that no one discovers. A leader is someone who is vested and does the right things. Obviously, no one is perfect, but when measured by accountability a leader will reveal the authenticity in their desire live for Christ.
Of the many aspects to which a leader of the church should be held accountable, generosity is one that I find slips by too many churches. Let me offer 3 things you can start doing right now to remedy this potential problem in your church.
1. Formally ask and affirm up front!
Let me ask you a few questions here:
When you are interviewing potential staff members, do you ask them any questions about their giving or their ideas about giving?
When you are considering someone for leadership, do you ask them any questions about their giving or their ideas about generosity?
In my 25-years of occupational ministry, I was interviewed by many different church leaders and I was never once asked about my giving or generosity.
I think it is great if you state in a policy manual the expectation of giving for a staff member, but it is important to ask during an interview. I’m sure some who read this might be thinking that they don’t want to risk turning a potential staff member off by asking them about their giving in an interview. I’m not saying to ask them an actual dollar amount, but you could ask questions like this:
Here at our church, our people really value generosity and being faithful to what God asks of us in terms of giving. How healthy are you in this area? I’m not looking for you to tell us a dollar amount, but to describe where you are in your spiritual walk in terms of generosity.
What are your values and feelings about giving and generosity? What do you believe the Bible teaches us about that area?
Here’s the thing, you’re not looking for wrong answers…you’re looking for right ones. If you interview 3-4 people, this question alone might be the difference maker in who you hire. At the same time, for those who are still fearful on this point, it is better to identify a potential problem in this area than to find out after they are on staff.
In terms of lay leaders, I would offer the same advice. If you have an interview process before someone is asked to serve in leadership, add these questions to the list. If you don’t have a formal interview process before someone is placed in leadership, then I would suggest that you begin utilizing this type of interview process.
When an issue regarding giving or generosity is identified there is accountability and a basis for discussion. You have to set an expectation for giving for everyone in leadership.
2. Someone needs to be checking.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I would say in a majority of churches I work with, the pastor/minister does not see or monitor giving. Also, in a majority of churches I work with, of the people who do view the giving records, no one is given the responsibility to verify that everyone in leadership is being faithful in their giving and generosity.
Again, I take you back to D-day, as I described it. It is painful to sit down with a pastor/minister and tell them that a staff member is either woeful in their giving or sometimes not giving anything at all. It is painful to watch a pastor/minister anguish and feel betrayed when I reveal that key leaders on their board and/or in their church are not anywhere even close to tithing in their giving and generosity, and sometimes not giving anything at all. What typically happens is they insist that there must a mistake and call in the person who monitors the giving. That person comes in the room and the interrogation begins. The pastor/minister starts calling out the names of the people I have given them and typically the person being interrogated squirms and sheepishly confirms what I have reported. This is a terrible situation in which to place the person. It feels like someone has uncovered a conspiracy when in reality, it was very preventable.
To quote Jack Nicolson from A Few Good Men, “You need me on that wall.” So, let’s take the intensity down a little. Someone does need to be sitting on that wall, not just observing giving, but with the responsibility to report to someone if something doesn’t look right. Typically, what I do is sit down with whomever this person will be and we develop a set of parameters or triggers that serves as an indication that something is not quite right. The key here is this person is not a form of hall monitor, but like a small group leader, they are looking for situations where pastoral care may be needed. Someone may have lost their job and not told anyone. Maybe someone got themselves into a lot of unsecured debt and were too embarrassed to tell anyone. There are all sorts of situations that could have led to this issue. This is an opportunity to care for someone and help them along in their journey with Jesus Christ. What you can’t do is stick your head in the sand and hoping that everything will be okay. Someone must be checking for inconsistencies or potential problems.
3. Swap $ for %.
One of the things I’ve really learned to value in my work with giving and generosity is %’s. Let me make a bold statement here…
"I believe one of strongest indicators of
spiritual growth is a % sign and not a $ sign."
I’ve watched people in various different capital campaigns/generosity initiatives go from giving $2/year to $2,000/year. While it probably isn’t a tithe, it is some phenomenal spiritual growth in the area of generosity. That’s over 1,000% increase in giving! I want to know that person’s story. I tell the pastor/minister to get a video camera and get that story on video. What prompted the kind of spiritual growth in their life that they would increase their giving 1,000%?
With that said, if you’re a pastor/minister and you can’t/won’t look at $ signs in giving, what about % signs? Maybe you could receive a monthly or quarterly report that didn’t report the $ of your staff and leader’s giving, but it did show you the % increase or decrease in their giving. Not only would this information give you a sense of the pulse of the giving on your leadership, but also where attention may need to be focused. If you’re seeing a decrease, it may be an indicator of a pastoral call emerging. If you’re seeing an increase, it may be an indicator of spiritual growth and a story that you need to hear.
Your leadership has to set the example in the area of generosity for your church otherwise they are just managers of people and not spiritual leaders. I truly believe if you’re diligent to minister and provide accountability to your leadership in this area, God will honor your diligence in your church. John Maxwell says, “Speed of the leader…speed of the team.” If you want your culture of generosity to be healthy and robust in your church members, then the giving of your leaders must be healthy and robust.
If you feel you need help in this area, I would love to talk with you about it. Just email me or give me a call at 404.578.5301. It may be we start with something as simple as a giving analysis of your church and then talk through some strategic coaching in this area.
I submit these articles and ideas to you in order to add value to the work you’re doing in your local church. If you would like to talk about this or other ideas to grow you culture of generosity please email me. Keep me in mind if you’re looking for coaching or a consultant in the area of giving and/or a generosity campaign/initiative. If you don’t already I would also really appreciate if you would follow me on Twitter at @cstovall16 or on my Generis Facebook page.