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By Chuck Lawless

Something’s amiss in the North American church when believers average giving about 2-3 percent of their income to the church each year. Such shallow giving limits our ministry possibilities and hinders our getting the gospel to the nations.

If you want to increase the giving in your congregation, consider these steps:

  1. Teach what the Bible teaches. While some debate whether the New Testament teaches a tithe (10%), it is clear God expects believers to give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7), regularly (1 Cor. 16:2), and sacrificially (Mark 12:41-44). If we don’t teach this mandate intentionally and passionately, we should not be surprised when our congregations don’t give. Fear of teaching about financial stewardship results only in a greater need to teach about it later.
  2. Model sacrificial giving. Years ago, my wife and I made a commitment to give more – not less – to the work of God any time we worry about finances. For us, financial worry is typically an indicator that either (a) we aren’t spending and saving wisely, or (b) we aren’t trusting God like we should. Our philosophy is that we should give to God’s work until it hurts – that is, until it stretches us our faith. Only then am I comfortable challenging others to give more.
  3. Passionately and clearly cast a God-sized vision for your congregation. God’s people are not opposed to giving; they are opposed to supporting a weak or unclear purpose. Churches that seek dollars simply to keep their doors open to minister to their own people aren’t likely to garner support from a young generation committed to the nations. Ask your congregation to state your church’s vision in a single sentence; if most can’t do it, I suspect you’re missing out on financial support as well.
  4. Teach budgeting and spending – not just giving. I’m amazed by how many of my  students operate without a budget. For some, debilitating debt is already keeping them from the mission field. Others live from  week-to-week, yet pay too little attention to their spending habits. God’s people will give more to His work if we help them first learn to budget and spend well.
  5. Train children and students to give. I tithe today is because my first pastor taught me to do so. From my first paycheck as a grocery stocker at age 16, to my first paycheck as a pastor ($45 per week in 1981), to my most recent paycheck as a seminary dean, I still hear my pastor say, “Give God the first part, and trust Him with the rest.” What began as a step of obedience, and at times was a step of faith, has now become an act of worship. God has never let me down.
  6. Promote incremental increases. Sometimes, the concept of giving a certain percentage is frightening to folks who have given only minimally. Rather than challenge them to leap into a tithe, challenge them to increase their giving incrementally. Each increased percentage may still be a step of faith. Even an extra $5.00 per family per week can strengthen your church’s work.
  7. Tell the stories of changed lives. If you want your church to give more, show them what God is doing through the church. Plan testimonies in the services. Invite missionaries to speak. Highlight a different church ministry each month. Ask staff members to send regular emails, putting the spotlight on transformed lives. Ministries themselves seldom attract more dollars, but changed people do.
  8. Lead your church to drip with financial integrity. Review your church’s process for receiving and distributing funds. Who counts and deposits the funds? How are the records handled? How are expenditures approved? How many people sign checks? Are the books audited annually? The work we do is God’s work, and anything less than absolute integrity will lack His blessing.
  9. Challenge the church with a “Day of Sacrificial Giving.” Invite your church members to give one week more than they’ve ever given. For some, that might mean giving a tithe for the first time. For others, that might mean increasing their giving for one week to the breaking point – to a point of faithful discomfort. Some will develop a pattern of increased giving from this one challenge.
  10. Guide your church to pray as Jesus taught us, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  This simple and direct prayer recognizes that all we have is a blessing from God. Perhaps if we prayed this way each day, we would remember that nothing we have is really ours – and consequently be willing to give back to God more that is His already.

What other ideas would you add?


Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thom, thanks for your input. With each passing year it will become more and more important for Pastors to address the issue of “giving” proactively. One exception I would take to your suggestions is Pt 2. “Giving till it hurts” is easy. A miser will hurt when he gives a dollar. I’ve found in my life and ministry that I need to “give until it feels good.” That isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. Yet having been saved for almost 35 years and been a Pastor for over 23 years, giving has become one of the great joys of my life. Like you, my wife and I decided years ago that we were going to be the example for our people to follow. When I came into ministry I took a 75% pay cut. Needless to say, many things had to change. Yet from day one we gave over at least 12% of our gross income and have increased that percentage through the years. As a result, God has richly blessed. We have never done without. I am convinced that is because we’ve learned to “give until it feels good.” That is my recommendation to all Pastors and Christians. Only then may we credibly preach to our people the importance of Godly giving.

    • Chuck Lawless says

      Clay,
      I think there are valid reasons for designated giving (e.g., an offering specifically for missions), but it’s typically the undesignated giving that supports the daily work of the church.

  2. says

    Dr. Lawless,

    What a great list of things to do to educate people on giving and train them to commit to it. I was really impressed with the suggestion of “Promote incremental increases”. I struggled with how to intentionally teach on giving. As a launch church (4 months old), I have people that are not use to tithing, never heard of it or seen it being abused by the church. God has to use me to work those issues out. At least for the people who are not use to it or never heard of it, they can use the incremental increase approach. For those that saw the misuse of things, they will have to be healed and delivered. Trust is a big issue especially when it comes to churches or ministers bringing up money. Thanks for your writings.

    • Chuck Lawless says

      Thanks, JB. Sometimes new (or undiscipled) believers need help moving forward in obedience, and incremental giving increases are one way to get there.

  3. says

    I recently did a sermon titled, “The Love of Giving”. I first asked why the word “tithing” does not occur in the New Testament. I talked about the Old Testament temple giving which included the tithe. I stated that once you reached 10% you had fulfilled the law. I called that “conditional giving”. I then quoted from Acts 2:44-45 where it says they gave everything they had, which I called “unconditional giving”. I concluded that Old Testament, giving was out of compulsion and duty, while, in the New Testament giving was out of love; of Christ and of the Church. Giving is not about numbers, but about having a heart for God. It is not conditional giving anymore because Jesus took the cap off how much we can give. We must love to give because it shows our true heart for God. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion…”. It’s not about tithing, but about giving for the love of giving what already belongs to God…all of what we have. We can now give up to 100%!

    • Brian says

      Chew on this verse a bit.
      “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23 NIV)

  4. Justin says

    Dr. Lawless,

    Based on your writing and the idea of having a clear purpose and vision for budgets and purchases, what should a church member do if leadership is looking to make a large purpose without a plan at all and with giving little notice or time for questions before bringing

  5. Justin says

    Sorry didn’t finish my last comment. What should a church member do if a large purchase is quickly brought to a vote without time for questions and without a plan at all. Our church is looking to purchase property without a plan at all and is asking the congregation to give for it. I take issue with the quickness of it and the lack of vision for it at all and just need advice on how to respond.

  6. Chuck Lawless says

    Justin,
    I would prayerfully talk with church leaders and share my concerns. Sometimes a simple conversation can help clarify what your following steps should be. Just prayed for wisdom for you.

  7. says

    Dr. Lawless,

    I agree that we as leaders are to “model sacrificial giving” but how do we model that before our people without coming across as prideful about our own giving? Do we share dollar figures or percentages from the platform? My family & I practice sacrificial giving but struggle with how to model it to our church. Thanks!

    • Chuck Lawless says

      Great question, John. I wouldn’t worry too much about letting people know how sacrificially you give. If you do give that way, your preaching and teaching on the topic will be stronger — more authoritative because you speak with integrity. You can with integrity, and without ego, say something like, “I wouldn’t be challenging you to do something my family is unwilling to do ourselves.” Your folks will understand the point.

    • jonathon says

      >how do we model that before our people without coming across as prideful about our own giving?

      I like what one new pastor — he was still in seminary — said during Bible Study: “When we got married, we decided that our biggest expense each month would be our gift to God. Then we realized that if our gift to God was larger than what we spent for housing, we couldn’t pay Uncle Sam. So those are our three largest expenses. All other expenses come after those have been satisfied.”

  8. Charles Frazier says

    Dr. Lawless,

    For several years, I preached a steward message once a year. Recently, I have focused more attention on stewardship. I share that I have always tithed and given 10 percent. Then, in one of my messages I shared that I tithed on my total pay package. A church member responded that she wondered about my giving, “Was I tithing on my salary or pay package?” I firmly believe by leading by example and being transparent. My financial secretary has been instructed to disclose my tithe and offerings.

    • Charles Frazier says

      My financial secretary has been instructed to disclose my tithe and offerings to church members upon request.

      • Chuck Lawless says

        Thanks, Charles. I’m comfortable with being transparent about my giving, too, if someone asks. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone ask, though.

  9. Ron F. Hale says

    Dr. Lawless,
    Thanks for your article, it is very helpful!

    I would add one thing. I have found it helpful for the pastor to say something “every” week in making the time of giving an act of worship (instead of just passing the plate). There are many Scriptures to share during this time. As these words of encouragement are shared each week, talking about giving becomes a natural part of the pastor’s vocabulary and dialogue with the church family. A great mistake is to wait until the lack of giving is a problem and “then” start talking about it. At that point, It may appear unnatural, nervous, and strained. Blessings!

  10. says

    Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Our God is near for His second coming. Be ready! Keep up the great work of instructing the people of God about ways to worship God truthfully. Amen.

  11. says

    Hi Chuck,

    Thank you for your article. My name is Kenneth Yee and I represent Missionwell–a company devoted to partnering with churches and ministries and non-profits to help with back-office operations.

    I was wondering if we would be able to highlight this article in our quarterly newsletter. We enjoyed this article very much and believe our network of churches and ministries can benefit greatly.

    Blessings,
    Kenneth Yee

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