How to Use the Offering to Build a Culture of Generosity, Part 2

By Chris Willard with Warren Bird

Church leaders used to dread hearing this one from weekend service attenders: “You talk too much about money at your church.”

My advice to pastors now is to use those times as teachable moments—and maybe even wear them as a badge of honor that indicates you’re building a culture of generosity in your congregation.

When a pastor plans what to say and do during the offering time of church services, there’s an increase in the number of givers and in people’s enthusiasm for responding. People notice when a church talks about money more often, which doesn’t have to be a negative.

I encourage pastors to respond to comments about a church’s emphasis on giving by saying something like, “I’m so glad you noticed because the Bible says that where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. And I care about your heart more than your giving.”

As I work with large churches around the country and oversee Leadership Network’s generosity initiative, I see many influential churches leading a trend to strategically use the offering time in church services to consistently teach giving principles and shape a church’s culture.

One such church is Sun Valley Community Church in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. In the first installment of this article, Sun Valley’s lead pastor, Chad Moore, laid out two practical ideas for how to approach the offering in every weekend service. Here are two more:

Don’t apologize for the offering

Moore thinks North American churches are past the need to excuse guests from giving in the worship service.

“When you say, ‘If you’re a guest here today, don’t worry about giving,’ subconsciously you’re apologizing for that part of the service—which is unacceptable for us,” Moore says. “We believe giving is a normal part of following Jesus, so we can be confident in teaching our people that.

“I’m not going to apologize for it. If a guest wants to give, great. If they don’t want to give, that’s between them and the Lord.”

I would add that excusing guests from participating in giving would be similar to giving them an out on other parts of the service that are deemed important.

The pastor never says, “Hey, I’m about to spend 35 minutes teaching from an ancient book. But I know you’re a visitor, so don’t feel like you have to follow along.” If we don’t suggest other important elements aren’t for the visitor, then why do so for the offering?

Take the opportunity to teach

Most importantly, Moore says Sun Valley uses the offering time to teach biblical principles of giving. Borrowing from Andy Stanley’s “Give–Save–Live” formula (give to God first, build up savings next, and live on the rest), leaders can hit those principles in a short setup for the weekly offering.

It’s a simple mantra that’s repeated so often that most people at Sun Valley could finish the sentence. Moore says this is how it goes many weeks: “We’re going to receive an offering this morning because here’s what the Bible teaches about money: We’re to give first, save second, and live on the rest. God gave first, so giving first honors God. Saving second builds wealth, and living on the rest teaches contentment.”

In that short statement, they’ve communicated it’s not what God wants from people as much as what he wants for people. And I believe that those teachable moments and that boldly receiving an offering are raising the temperature on generosity at churches around the country. 

More than a transaction

But there could be one downside that we need to address. If we’re not careful with how the offering is handled, it can become transactional.

Without knowing it, pastors might communicate, “When you give, we get to do more children’s ministry, do more local outreach, etc.” That’s a great thing, but it’s not the only thing.

To avoid that pitfall, leaders need to regularly express that giving is a heart issue, and giving generously can contribute to spiritual growth. We can say things like, “When you give it grows your heart, it addresses greed, it stretches your faith.”

Read part 1 here. Both part 1 and part 2 are also covered in the podcast.

Generosity Strategies & Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. Learn more or listen to the Generosity Strategies & Tactics podcast.