Churches are facing a generosity crisis. Donations are reaching historic lows, as Christians today give a smaller percentage of their income to churches than during The Great Depression. So what can pastors do?
The good news is that church leaders can take practical steps toward developing a culture of generosity among their congregation. But cultivating generosity doesn’t just happen by accident—it starts with engagement.
Generosity Begins with Engagement
Pastors know that people who are actively engaged at their church are more likely to be generous givers. This is backed up by studies that show that people who regularly tithe give an average of 11–20% of their income compared to the average Christian who gives only 2% of their income each year. Regular tithers are also deeply active in their churches. For example:
96% of tithers attend services every weekend
88% regularly read the Bible
54% are on church committees
53% are part of small groups
45% serve on a ministry team (worship, greeters, ushers, etc.
The fact is, engaged church members build meaningful relationships, dedicate time to studying
the Bible, and generously give back to the church where they’re being spiritually nourished.
But how can a church drive engagement and make generous disciples today? Fortunately, technology now provides many opportunities to stay meaningfully connected with your congregation all week long.
Church Engagement in the Digital Age
The average American spends over seven hours consuming media every day. That’s nearly 50 hours every week watching videos, listening to podcasts, messaging friends, and countless other means of being influenced how to think, act, and feel.
Technology has incredible potential to be harnessed for good as a church engagement tool. This is not meant to replace in-person relationships and discipleship—rather, digital tools keep your church engaged beyond weekend services and other activities, amplifying and reinforcing your church’s messages.
What digital tools are you using to build a culture of engaged generosity that impacts your ministry and community? Subsplash partners with over 14,000 churches to drive engagement and build disciples through The Ultimate Engagement PlatformTM, including church websites, mobile apps, live streaming, group messaging, media hosting and delivery, TV apps, and online giving. With these tools you can share sermon videos, podcasts, Bible reading plans, prayer requests, have meaningful conversations, and so much more!
Once people can engage your community online, how can you go one step further and guide them through the giving discipleship process? Let’s take a look at the digital engagement tools that can help your church as you disciple your community toward greater stewardship and generosity.
Generous Giving Is Cultivated by Discipleship
Generosity isn’t merely activated—it’s cultivated. Just like reading the Bible and attending church, giving should be viewed as part of the discipleship journey! The road to becoming a disciple is a lifelong journey of becoming more and more like Jesus, affecting every aspect of our lives and transforming the way we think.
When cultivated individually, generosity is a virtue. When cultivated collectively, generosity is a culture. “Donor discipleship” is the term used for an intentional, discipleship-oriented approach to cultivating a culture of generosity within your church through each giving stage by:
Encouraging non-givers to partner with your mission
Encouraging infrequent givers to give regularly
Encouraging regular givers toward greater generosity & stewardship
This is the winning mindset for shepherding people along the discipleship journey so that they joyfully partner with your mission and maximize your impact. But watch out: There are some pitfalls that threaten to derail how your church approaches generosity!
3 Mistakes to Avoid with Donor Discipleship
Here are three common mistakes that reduce the effectiveness of donor discipleship. Let’s look at each of these and discover how to identify and avoid them.
Misalignment happens when your vision, your leaders, and your congregation are on different pages when it comes to generous giving. How can you avoid this?
- First, align your vision around discipleship. Give your church a vision of a generous God. Keep the focus on real-life impact by sharing stories and examples of generosity. For example, did anyone from your church create COVID-19 care boxes, deliver holiday presents to a low-income school, or pay for daycare for single moms? Highlighting and celebrating the impact of generosity effectively aligns the focus of your vision.
- Next, align your leadership. Make sure everyone on your team has fully bought into the church’s vision. Meet with your leaders to be sure they know why people give, how people can give (practically), and ensure that they are actively giving themselves.
- Finally, align your community. This means stripping away the stigma of talking about money and normalizing the conversation about giving. Start building a plan to establish rhythms for highlighting generosity (such as storytelling) casting the vision of “why we’re generous,” and providing opportunities to be generous and calling people to rally around these causes.
Misinformation is what happens when decisions are made or assumptions are maintained without the right, relevant data. Ask yourself, “How can we reach our people if we don’t know our people?” Most churches today offer online giving, but many do not know how to use the giving data to better understand their donors.
Your giving provider should offer detailed analytics that can provide insights into people’s giving preferences, habits, tendencies—even their financial abilities—that they may not know otherwise. For example, with Subsplash Giving, an average of 34% of donors have set up recurring gifts. This allows churches to anticipate over one-third of their future donations and budget!
Subsplash Giving also allows churches to easily see their effective giving rate. This is the percentage of total transaction fees (including monthly or hidden fees charged by some providers) divided by total donations processed. With our exclusive GrowCurveTM feature, your giving rates automatically go lower as your donations increase, keeping more resources for what matters most!
The best giving providers offer a “donor-covered fees” option, allowing the donor to cover online transaction fees normally passed on to the church. On average, churches using Subsplash Giving see 37% of their donors choose this option. This means the church keeps 100% of those donations, greatly reducing their effective giving rate even further.
It’s up to you to decide which of these metrics matter most. Remember, whichever metrics you prioritize need to point back to your vision for generous giving!
Finally, missed opportunities are giving strategies within your overall plan that aren’t being leveraged to their full potential—or maybe not at all. In particular, there are three big opportunities that are presenting themselves to churches today.
- Digital giving — Nearly everyone has a smartphone, computer, or mobile device today. Providing a secure and convenient way for people to donate to your church through your church’s mobile app and text-to-give options removes barriers to being generous.
- Next-generation givers — Millennials will inherit the biggest wealth transfer in modern times from their parents! Younger donors, including Millennials and Gen-Z, want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want their donations to make a tangible difference by meeting people’s needs. Your church can tap into the heart of the gospel and show that giving has always been a means to an end. Demonstrate this by providing opportunities to give and make a real-life impact on someone’s life, and share that story with your church.
- Non-givers — Knowing why some people don’t give will help you know how to engage them. For example, trust (or lack of it) is a major factor in whether someone will donate to an organization or not. Build a trusting relationship with your donors by telling stories that demonstrate the impact their generosity has on their community. Demonstrate accountability, transparency, and stewardship by holding annual financial meetings that show how your church’s resources are managed.
As your church begins to align your vision, better understand your giving data, and implement your donor discipleship program, you will be able to see the growth as a result of your cultivating generous giving. To discover more giving strategies, download our free ebook today: Top 11 Ways to Fuel Your Mission with Subsplash Giving!
The Impact of Overwhelming Generosity
What could your church do if your community was even more dedicated to generous giving? There are countless examples of churches that created a clear vision, aligned their leadership, and rallied their congregation to achieve amazing results.
For example, NorthStar Church of Kennesaw, GA leveraged a digital giving campaign to pay off $6.8 million in debt, and now donates $30,000 per month to partners in their community! Hillside Church in Southern California raised $71,000 in three weeks to provide immediate assistance to those hurt by Hurricane Harvey.
Jesus was the ultimate example of generosity and sacrificial living. As we learn to be more like Jesus, we stop selfishly looking for ways to benefit ourselves and begin to selflessly seek opportunities to bless others. As your church aligns their vision, implements donor discipleship, and gives out of their overwhelming generosity back to your communities, the impact could be limitless!