People are not born with a giving gene. Because joyful giving for the sake of the giver is a worthy goal, faith communities want to help their congregants discover their own personal generosity. This discovery process requires focusing on the joy of giving, on being self-giving rather than self-serving. Recruiting volunteers and raising money can be almost incidental to creating a healthy culture of giving.
In Giving and Stewardship in an Effective Church, Kennon Callahan writes that the purpose of stewardship is giving, not fundraising, and that stewardship actually provides a service to the giver. The role of those leading a stewardship campaign, he believes, is to help people discover their own generosity.
Callahan proposes a four-year program to increase giving. He suggests that a congregation focus on growing the donor base in the first year and increasing the number of volunteers who work on the annual budget drive in the second year. He recommends that the third year be devoted to increasing the giving level of specific current households. He believes that the cumulative result of the first three years should create a quantum leap of giving during the fourth year.
While Callahan’s plan offers a well-conceived sequence, I believe that the first step is to find a way to talk about giving. The conversations can’t be specifically about money. They must include talk about call and spiritual vocation. A person might share his call (willingness to proclaim the good works of the faith community) by talking about his passion for one of the congregation’s programs or ministries at a new-member reception. A congregant might demonstrate her spiritual vocation (willingness to take up the spiritual work of the faith community) by participating in a Habitat for Humanity project or volunteering to teach English to a group of recent immigrants.
If your congregation is entrenched in a culture of scarcity, develop an intentional plan to explore the meaning of giving. By initiating conversations about giving, you can introduce the topic and reinforce the concept until it slowly becomes part of the congregation’s way of life.