Home Equipping Leaders Stewardship 7 Ideas to Grow Generosity in Your Congregation

7 Ideas to Grow Generosity in Your Congregation

By Ken Sloane

LS Hand Heart

These are challenging times for churches. Cultural currents at work in our nation have presented significant challenges to local churches that are working hard to financially support their mission and ministry work within their local and global mission field.

I believe that God has given us all that we need for the work to which we’ve been called.

One answer is to help those in our church family to grow in their discipleship and generosity. In churches that see the importance of being intentional about discipleship, where membership is not the finish line but a mark along the disciple’s journey, focusing on continued growth in generosity among the disciples in their care can be valuable.

Let me be clear that when I talk about generosity it is with the understanding that the most generous people in your congregation may not be the people who are giving the largest amount of dollars. All may need to be challenged to move from where they are to the next step on their discipleship journey.

Remember that you are the “context expert” for your local church – a better judge of what will work and what won’t with your congregation. Here are some ideas that I think might help as you work to grow generosity.


I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. More and more, we understand that people are motivated to give and grow in their giving when they hear that a difference is being made, that lives are being touched and transformed, that folks who might have gone hungry have food for their table, and that the youth were organized for a cleanup project in the community. These stories connect people to the joy of giving. Telling the stories provides the opportunity to say “thank you” for what donors’ generosity has made possible! Here are helpful ideas for finding great stories of impact.


Financial challenges are a reality for many churches, but a scarcity mentality in your church (where the focus is stuck on what you don’t have) will work against you. Encourage your church leaders to adopt a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity and agree to hold one another accountable. Is anybody finding that continuing to put the little box in the weekly bulletin reporting how far behind the offerings were last week is growing generosity? I don’t think so. I believe that transparency in churches is important, though I think a comparison of the past month to the corresponding month in previous years offers a better picture. Still, by emphasizing the abundance of blessings bestowed upon us, we cultivate a spirit of joyful giving among our community.


Lovett Weems and Ann Michel of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership offer two game-changing principles in their book Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance. The first principle is “Never talk about people’s money apart from their discipleship.” The second is, “Never talk about the church’s money apart from its mission.” These two are so important that I recommend we go beyond just memorizing them; churches need to buy into them at the level of a covenant, where they hold one another as leaders accountable to embody them in all conversations. Growth in generosity becomes a sign of maturing in our discipleship, just as we would see maturing in our prayer lives or in the priority of being present in worship.


Has your church ever had a Miracle Sunday? This is the day when we ask people to give for one time at a level outside what has been comfortable. Some churches label it as a “Tithe Sunday” to give tithing a test drive and see how good it feels. Such a Sunday can build a lot of excitement, especially if it is tied to a particular project that people know is going to make an impact. I attended a church that gave the entire Easter offering to a mission project – a water project in a village in Tanzania. They set a challenging goal and consistently passed that and sometimes doubled the goal in the giving. What excites me is the opportunity for people to test drive how good it feels to make a significantly generous gift – that joy of generosity we think that only rich philanthropists get to experience!


If this seems obvious to you, congratulations. You probably get it. Often, we shy away from asking people to do more, and because of that anxiety, we unintentionally communicate that what they’ve done in the past is all we want or need for the future. When taking inflation into account, staying where we were last year means we are okay with doing less in the new year, less in ministry and mission. The “ask” I’m suggesting is not for a specific dollar amount or an additional gift (though at times that will be appropriate); instead, communicate to people that we want to do more in the year ahead, and that happens only if we find a way to give more in whatever ways we can.


I’ve never heard of donors getting upset because they were thanked too much. One great opportunity to express gratitude is when people increase their giving. These increases are an affirmation of the church's ministry, but they are also an indication of donors’ willingness to grow in discipleship. The amount of the increase affects the church’s mission and ministry “bottom line,” but that is not as important in the long run as the donors’ movement toward becoming mature disciples of Jesus Christ. A note from the pastor acknowledging this step of growth does not have to indicate an amount of giving. Still, it could be worded in a way like this:

“A list has been shared with me of people and families in the congregation who have increased their giving, and your name was there. I want to express my deepest thanks for your belief in our ministry and mission! I praise God and celebrate this sign of your growth as a generous disciple of Jesus Christ!”


Moving people into leadership can be challenging, and, in many settings, this is a case of good timing when some people are ready to move away from roles they have held. Having said that, having people in leadership who are not generous givers may thwart any plans you can put in place to move people beyond their comfort zones. A leader who is a generous giver can often help grow generosity, and one who has experienced recent growth in generosity may be in a better place to encourage others to grow as well. The goal is never to boast of one’s generosity or shame or diminish anyone who is at a different place on the journey. What can have power is the testimony of one who has felt the joy that comes from generosity and who sincerely wants others to have access to that same joy!

Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

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