Giving is the financial lifeblood of most churches, making up over 50% of the total income of all the churches in the diocese, but why do people give?
A heartfelt response
When we ask people to support us it is easy to state facts and talk about how much it costs to run the building and pay the bills whilst forgetting to appeal to people's emotions. Consider the story of the building of the Tabernacle:
And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought the Lord’s offering to be used for the tent of meeting. Exodus 35: 21
In the story Moses has asked the people to give towards the building of the Tabernacle - the central place of worship for the Israelite community - but he doesn't just give them a list of costs. Instead, he makes an appeal to their heart for them to support the future worship of God. This remains a lesson for us today: people give because they feel an emotional connection to the thing they are supporting. They give because they feel called to in their heart.
Giving and mission
So what does that mean for churches?
There are many "heart" reasons that people give to church; for some it might be about supporting their faith community, others might want to help look after their historic place of worship, whilst still others might think of it as a devotional commitment.
Whatever their personal reason, if we see giving as a response from the heart we can pick out three principles that underscore Christian giving: Christians give as a spiritual response to their faith; they give because they want to make a difference; and they give because they care. In other words they give out of faith, hope and love. When we understand this we can open up our regular giving conversations beyond “we need to pay the bills” to “we have a mission, help us achieve it.”
Asking people to help us achieve our mission is, therefore, the key to Christian giving. It offers those in our congreagation, and indeed those outside the congregation, an opportunity to see the good that we do as faithful communities and to engage with and support that work through financial giving. It's a "heart" approach because we're not just listing costs, we're saying to people "we bring these blessings to the local community; you can support us to keep doing that into the future." In this way, giving can provide a brilliant opportunity to really engage the hearts of your congregation and the local commuity with your church’s future.
Let's look again at Faith, Hope, and Love:
Asking for giving can be a great opportunity to explore giving as a faithful commitment to God (discipleship), or a response to God’s grace (thanksgiving), or an opportunity to resource the growth of the church (evangelism). Ask yourself: what motivates your faith as a church community and what does financial giving mean to how you are able to practice that? A conversation about financial giving can also give you an evangelistic opportunity to communicate to those outside the church that the blessings you bring to the local community flow from your faith in Christ Jesus.
Parish churches are often the most active sources of community and charity in their local area. Ask yourself: how do you want to be able to generate and embody hope within your congregation and your local community? Whatever the answer, it will be unique to your church and therefore a unique way for your potential givers both to support, and be a part of, bringing that hope.
A response to faith and a source of hope, giving can be an outpouring of love straight from the heart. Ask yourself: how can we help our congregation to express and respond to God's love? Financial giving won't be the only answer to this question but it is an important answer. Through financial giving your congregation supports and grows your mission - it is a tangible expression of love for the future of your church. So when we talk about giving we are, above all else, asking our congregation to respond to, and in, love.
For further information, contact the Diocesan Generous Giving Adviser, Joshua Townson, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone on 01865 208 757.