Barna recently published a new report that explored how Christians are (or in some cases, are not) being generous with their money. The results were fascinating….over 30% of Christians identified as self-focused in their financial priorities. When it comes to generosity, Barna identified two main types of Christians: ”Givers” and “Keepers”. The report dives into the motivations behind financial decisions for each group. Check it out here and see if you find any parallels in your local congregation.
What does it mean?
Engaged communities lead to generous communities. For us, that was the main takeaway from Barna’s report. It can be easy for many church leaders to simply encourage “good habits” when it comes to generosity. We look at the numbers and think of ways we can get more people to check off the box for generosity. Maybe we even start a financial campaign or implement a new giving system. Those things aren’t bad. In fact, they are necessary. But Christ-centered generosity is not simply a good habit or something that happens only with the right amount of prodding or when the right tools are in place. It is a response to the overwhelming generosity that we’ve experienced from Jesus.
What can you do?
Bad news: if you are a pastor, you can’t really change someone’s heart when it comes to generosity. Good news: Jesus can absolutely do that. Instead of just simply asking people to consider giving more to the church or looking for “new” ways to boost generosity, spend more time developing holistic disciples in your church. People are going to be less likely to give when they are not engaged in the life of your church, and especially less likely to give when they are not engaged in the gospel. Cultivating a welcoming atmosphere and teaching a biblical theology of generosity (we wrote more about that here) will do way more for developing a generous people than just encouraging good habits.
David Kinneman, president of Barna Group, says, “So often we focus on cultivating generous habits rather than on making generous disciples….when we attend to the condition of our minds, hearts and souls, the limits of our generosity are stretched and our giving capabilities strengthened.” We couldn’t agree more. Let’s focus on making generous disciples!