“The church just wants my money!”

How do you overcome that obstacle as a church leader?

Undo the past twenty years of Christianity? Too bad that’s not an option! One simple solution is to stop talking about money, which certainly would fix the problem. Of course, that might create many more (unless you aren’t concerned with missing pay cycles!). If you never taught or mentioned money, nobody would complain and nobody would give. Worse, nobody would begin to trust God with their financial life. Yet, when you talk about money, people both complain and leave.

It’s unfortunate the perception exists. But it is for legitimate reasons. We as church leaders have done a terrible job talking about money and stewarding what we’ve received. From televangelist to misappropriated capital campaigns to fraud, the “church” has a financial perception problem. Throw in most churches lack of transparency with budgets, P&L’s, and balance sheets, and the flame is fanned.

Talking about money is important. Not because the church needs funds to keep the lights on, but because Jesus talked about money – a lot – and for a reason! We know for most people, how they handle personal finances directly impacts their personal relationship with Jesus. So we MUST talk about and teach about money.

So how can we talk about money without fueling the perception? Here are a few tips:

1. Teach God is FOR people…

God doesn’t want anything FROM us, he wants something FOR us. That truth alone should inform how we talk about everything – money included. God desires our generosity, not because he needs the money, but because he wants our heart. You know the rest and the verses behind it. So when we talk about money, we should always do so from a “FOR” position rather than a “FROM” (or guilt, shame, etc.).

2. Maintain stewardship moral authority.

If you want the church to be a steward of what God has given to them, we must be equal stewards of what is given to us. We call that moral authority. Every church and church staff member must be willing to do what we hope for the people in our church. So if you want people to give, you must give. If you want people to live as stewards of God’s resources, you and the church must do the same. Moral authority. It can’t be replaced.

3. Connect the dots.

At Watermarke Church, we receive an offering during our service every week. This moment in the service is a prime vision-casting opportunity for giving. And by the same token, it is a terrible spot for a sermonette on giving. Connecting giving to life change is a powerful motivator for generosity.

Every time we have a baptism in our service, we pause after and connect dots: “And for those of you who are generous to your church, thank you for being a part of this story and thousands of others we have yet to hear…”

4. Leverage subtle opportunities.

It is amazing how many small giving pushes, explanations, and vision moments can be found in a typical church service. Recently I was preaching about the first century church, marveling at their boldness. We believe every message should have point application, so we created a list of “boldness baby steps.” One was, you guessed it, becoming a percentage giver. Why percentage giver? I’m glad you asked…

5. Mind your verbiage.

The words we use carry weight and connotation. We don’t “take” and offering, we “receive” the offering. Why? Because God isn’t taking anything; we are gifting and he is receiving. Same with “tithe.” We talk about percentage giving. First, because for a non-giver to suddenly give 10% is a step too daunting for most everyone at our church. So thinking percentage, any percentage, is a logical first step. Eventually, we will talk about the concept of “tithing,” but only within the context of percentage giving first.

One more. We use the term “investors” to describe those who are generous to our church. They are investing in the lives of people in our community. They are investing in their personal spiritual growth. So the term “investor” is much more appropriate.

6. Financial transparency.

At Watermarke, we tell our directors to execute their budget as if tomorrow it will be printed on the front page of the newspaper… or the Huffington Post or something cooler than a newspaper. I’ve never fully understood churches who keep their financials hidden. Trust can’t be built on secrecy, and closing your books to your church creates mistrust.

Improving the churches perception will take work. Helping create percentage givers is harder. But in the end, it’s worth the effort. Because our heart follows our dollars. And God desperately wants our full heart. Discovering new, fresh ways to encourage and teach giving without piling on the terrible perception we’ve allowed to grow is vital to the church and the people of the church.

How have you broken through the “church just wants my money” perception – especially with the more unchurched, skeptical crowd? I’d love to know so I can steal your ideas! Post a comment below, and feel free to share this so we can widen the conversation (and have more ideas to steal).

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