How can you foster a culture of generosity in your church? Greg Gibbs, Director of Strategic Planning at Kensington Community Church, has worked with about one hundred churches to raise $100 million dollars. He shared his story and best practices to help you change the atmosphere of giving in your congregation.
Why is giving such an important topic to you personally?
I grew up in a home where my parents modeled tithing to the church through financial donations and generosity of their time and home. They left the garage door open and told people it was open.
When I became a pastor, I somehow presumed that the financial component of churches was back office business. I didn’t think money was spiritual, but through my first giving campaign, found that generosity is the most spiritual exercise for followers of Jesus.
I was arrogant to forget that Jesus mentions money multiple times in Scripture. Money is very linked to our relationship with God, and generosity reveals the lordship of God over every aspect of our lives. The true work of ministry is inviting people into relationship with God, and teaching people how to handle money is part of that ministry.
Why do you believe that generosity is the barometer of our hearts?
My spiritual health is reflected in my behavior. Personally, one of the hardest things for me to do is not worry about money. Yet the opposite of worrying is to give freely. If I give freely, I understand that money is not my God, but that God has provided and will provide. When I am generous, I get who I am, who God is, and what money is.
What do you say to those who argue that it’s dangerous to tie spirituality and money together?
That they probably haven’t read the New Testament! We know that the number one reason for conflict in marriage is money. We’ve seen people who were once friends become hated enemies over money. The infrastructure of our society is based on greed and brokenness.
People come to the church looking for hope, answers, and healing. We are not doing them any service by being quiet about the topic that Jesus knew and we know is the main thing that causes us to live in fear.
What advice to you give to people in your church who are afraid that money masters them?
On a practical level, learn how to manage money and use it as a tool. The lack of money management skills cuts across all socioeconomic lines, races, and genders. Just because someone comes from a particular background, I do not presume that they know how to manage money.
Practice generosity in your whole life. Many say you can give your money or time, but Scripture doesn’t say that. It says we must give both money and time. We must be intentional about generosity; you don’t just become generous one day. We must practice generosity just as we practice love, kindness, and forgiveness.
At Kensington, we teach tithing, but we use the term openhanded. That means that a tithe is one part of living the life of generosity. That’s the baseline. Some people can breezily write a check, but they’re not generous of spirit or with their stuff or emotional energy. Generosity is not about just the tithe, but about self-giving and self-sacrifice.
Everyone has to find their groove. I ask people, what kind of generosity are you attracted to, and what makes your heart light up? Some people are generous outside the church, and serve Christ in social justice and missions.
There are many kindhearted efforts in the world, but I tell people to make sure that their mission is connected with building the kingdom of God in terms of the Gospel.
What are the action steps you give to pastors who are hoping to make changes in their church? What are some practical steps they can take to get started?
Money is an important spiritual issue, and it matters to Christ that we understand it, so brush up on your theology of giving, and understand generosity even in terms of the psychology of giving and givers. Model a disciplined, systematic system of giving.
Decide how your theology allows you to interact with donors. For example, will you accept a credit card gift? How will you thank givers?
Decide how you will teach about generosity and what venue you will use, whether it be from the pulpit, in classes, or through workshops on managing money. Show people where their money went and how it made an impact.
Finally, decide how to celebrate the generosity present in your congregation.