Woman Holding Wallet

Jesus never apologized for talking about money. Talking about possessions and giving teaches biblical principles about money. Giving to the Lord is a privilege God offers.

Many churches have moved their worship services to some form of electronic media. Churches are learning new ways of doing worship, small groups, and Sunday School through Zoom, Skype, Facebook Live, Instagram TV or other platforms. They are approaching ministry differently, trying to connect the church through prayer, phone conversations, email and other means.

In that online-church environment, small, large and mega-churches find themselves on the same playing field. Listeners and viewers cannot distinguish between which ministry is large and which one is small. However, they do know that the church is ministering directly to them. Most of all, church members want to hear from and see their pastor.

Like worship, church offerings have changed, too. Churches can no longer “pass the offering plate.” So, many of them have turned to electronic giving for the first time. 

Below, I offer several ideas that aim to increase offerings by doing the offering well. Since every church is different and faces unique issues, not every suggestion will work for every church. Likely, one or more of them will increase offerings in your church. 

Some churches have already seen their offerings increase using these methods. Of course, no idea is an instant fix. Increases in giving may require weeks of consistent practice. 

Tell stories. Stories matter to the giving process. Telling stories of lives changed by church ministries promotes generosity. Jesus told stories, too. And, His method is unimprovable. Believers want to know their church is making a difference. But, they are not looking for stories of church staff members working hard. 

Embrace offering moments in the worship service. First, help congregation members understand that giving is worship. Second, during the offering moment, inspire congregants with the church’s vision and mission. Third, encourage them to see how they can make a Kingdom difference in people’s lives - from their home. Fourth, offer people opportunities to meet needs through church ministries. Often, non-believers will get involved, too. 

Highlight an outward-focused budget area through which the church serves others. Tell specific ministry activity stories. A church is the hope for its city. People are watching worship services. They want to find a way to help, too. Ask them to give - to give hope to your city.

Connect the Gospel and giving. Teach about giving prompted by a Gospel response to Jesus.  Affirm online giving - that the Lord uses every gift, whatever the giving method. Jesus notices a giver’s heart, more than his or her method. Help people embrace the power of the local church; God chose the local church. Give some “at-this-moment” statistics and stories of the church’s power and impact. Like no other group, churches draw attention to the spiritual aspect of life.

Provide an envelope with a stamp. Some givers gave in a worship service or in Sunday School for years. But, they have neither mailed their offering nor started giving online. Churches can send a letter and a church-addressed, stamped envelope to each one of those families. Can churches afford to do that? Perhaps, a better question is, “Can churches afford not to?” Such a letter may prompt some attenders to give their first gift. Also, send every first-time giver a thank-you letter. When churches do, they often receive a second gift.

Personalize online discussions about giving. When a pastor speaks online, viewers perceive him as conversing with an individual. Acknowledge the hurt in the world. Share the story of people who have lost a job or who are ill due to CONVID-19. When asking for gifts, help listeners understand that giving is an opportunity for people who walk with the Lord. Explain the attitude, passion and intention that prompt an invitation to give. Present an encouraging verse. Invite others to join in serving the congregation and the community. Give specific opportunities beyond financial gifts. For instance, invite people to help make phone calls, write emails, text people, go grocery shopping for others or deliver meals.

Invite and talk about giving early in a worship service. Avoid positioning the offering time at the end of the service. In online worship services, many people disconnect after the sermon. So, place the giving plea before that. Many churches are finding that some people join worship livestreams early. While they wait, tell stories about ministry, vision, mission and life change. Shoot videos of church ministries; show them on Sunday before or during the service.

Invite multiple kinds of giving. The offering moment should address more than just financial giving. Here are three possibilities. First, invite people to give their life to Jesus. That is the most important gift. Explain how that will happen. Tell people what to do if they want to follow Jesus, want to talk with someone or need prayer. Second, invite practical giving to a COVID-19 project: give blood, donate for food or give to a fund that helps people pay bills. Third, ask people to give toward the church’s Kingdom ministry (not “to the budget”) through the regular offering. 

Guide people to a website or Facebook post that provides giving instructions. Churches who have electronic giving often only briefly display instructions for using the church’s giving method. The directions do not stay visible long enough for people to follow them. Instructions should always be available, even when livestreams are offline.

Celebrate giving. Celebrate those who give through the various methods. Mention each method specifically. Say, “Thank you.” Connect giving to Kingdom work, not to paying church bills.

Jesus never apologized for talking about money. Talking about possessions and giving teaches biblical principles about money. Giving to the Lord is a privilege God offers.

Gerald Farley is business administrator for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

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