How do we build generosity? It starts with an evaluation of your present situation. First, you need to calculate your unit giving. Take your total giving on a Sunday and divide it by the number of adults. The average-per-person giving for an average church is between $12 to $24. Now, when we look at that number, we might question whether they are having a vibrant encounter with God. I believe it is impossible to have an encounter with God that doesn’t impact your giving. Or perhaps they have had an encounter but they are not comfortable giving to the church. How do we encourage giving in our churches?
Your congregation must feel comfort and confidence when they give. Build integrity into your leadership. People give more freely when they have trust in the church. Do what you say you’re going to do. Communicate that resources are being managed properly, and according to what has been said. That’s the beginning secret.
Financial transparency--always. Always give a full report and tell people how you spent the money. At my church, we do two meetings annually, one in January and one in July. In January we indicate how we spent the money during the previous year, and what we plan to do for the coming year. In July we show what we’ve done in the first six months and our plans for the next six months.
I also recommended an internal and external audit. When you come to the place of looking for a loan for a building, a financial institution is going to want to see your books, and they will want to know someone professional has reviewed them. Many young churches don't do this, but it’s worth the money to catch the errors you’re making now. Do it once a year. Once you finish your first year as a church, you need to get an audit. We have also created an internal committee that audits our operations and procedures.
4. Establish standards
Every leader in our church is expected to meet the standards established in our church. Every gainfully employed leader is expected to be a tither, among other leadership requirements. That’s the standard. We lost people, and they called me names when I started this standard, but here I am 27 years later, and I don’t regret doing it. You cannot be in church leadership if you are not tithing.
Don’t wing it. A lot of churches aren’t sure what to do, so they don’t budget. Would you give to a church that doesn’t budget? I wouldn’t. A budget is how you spend your money. Establish a realistic budget and budget less than what you think you’re going to take in. Plan to spend 10 to 20 percent less than you think you’ll need. Bite the bullet. It’s hard. You also should give 10 percent away as a church. I don’t care how tight your money is, budgets include giving. Give to the needs of the poor, to your community or missions. The first thing we do with our income is write a check for 10 percent and put it in our missions account. We do it automatically. It’s our church’s tithe. Do it right away before you spend the money.
6. Budgetary controls
We have controls built into managing our resources. As I said previously, we have a committee that reviews spending, and periodically I get a report. I don’t want to find out after the fact that we overspent. At a minimum, I review the report twice a year.
Teach on money management, not only on tithing and giving. Most churches badger their people about giving, but they miss the mark. People need to learn how to manage their resources. We do an annual series on financial management. You can find multiple ways to reach people, because it doesn’t always work on a Sunday morning. Consider teaching a class in which you instruct people in how to pray, save, invest, avoid debt and to get the best bang for their buck. Do not be afraid to talk about money.
John Jenkins, Senior pastor of First Baptist Church Glenarden
John Jenkins is senior pastor of First Baptist Church Glenarden, Landover, Maryland.