How to talk to your congregation about giving
As a church leader or pastor, you are often in the position of asking people to give generously to support the ministries of the church, particularly at the end of the year. Yet talking about money with your congregation can be uncomfortable.
You may be anxious about whether the church can pay the bills or meet the budget. You may feel ambivalent about your role if finances are seen as “worldly” rather than spiritual. You may worry that people will view you as begging for money.
Overcoming challenges and discomfort
In The Spirituality of Fundraising, Henri Nouwen, the well-known writer, priest, professor and theologian, describes thoughtful, realistic ways for a leader to prepare on emotional and spiritual levels. He suggests that leaders first need to examine their own relationship to money before inviting others to give. How important is money in your life? How do you spend your money? How does having, or not having, money affect how you feel about yourself? What is the true source of your security — God or money? According to Nouwen, only by putting your trust in God will you truly feel free to ask others for money. (Learn more about Nouwen's view of fundraising from my review.)
Secondly, how do you, as a leader, inspire your congregation to give joyfully and sacrificially? In his book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, Tim Keller argues that the key is convincing people that they are “participating in God’s redemptive plan in a profoundly important and practical way” (349). Encourage people to consider prayerfully how God is calling them to participate in the ministry and by financially contributing to your church’s mission. This personal commitment is at the heart of life as a disciple of Christ.
Sharing the vision
Consider talking to your congregation about giving as an opportunity rather than a duty. View yourself as a friend inviting people to join in an adventure. You are an ambassador for Christ calling people to discern how they can contribute to hope and joy for others through the ministries of your church.
Speak from a place of gladness for the wonderful things that God is doing in people’s lives through your congregation’s ministries. You are including them in a meaningful way to extend God’s grace to others in your community and the world. These are among the best things we can accomplish with our money, as we willingly give it for God’s purposes.
Use evocative language to positively direct emotions and thoughts to the future. Lift up possibilities to engage hearers on a personal level. Invite listeners to think imaginatively about how they might share their gifts in the Lord’s vision for living out your congregation’s calling.
Focus on bringing benevolent, hopeful energy with your message. Convey excitement and peace as you speak about the work that God is doing through your church to reach people for Christ. Craft the message by describing the vision of your church’s mission with an underlying sense of God’s faithful providence, guidance, and grace.
Talk about how giving can ennoble the church. Through prayerful preparation, a leader may summon his or her best qualities and welcome the congregation’s responses to the Lord’s grace. A hopeful approach to giving combines our highest commitments with trust that God is working in our lives by the Spirit to draw people closer to the kingdom of God.
— The Rev. Rosanna Anderson is the Associate Director of Stewardship Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church, where she has served since 2014. She is the author of God Loves Us: Student’s Book, the Spring 2017 adult Bible study in The Present Word series. She enjoyed being a pastor and educator in churches in NY, NJ, and TN. Connect with her on Twitter @PastorRosanna.