People give to people

June 20th, 2022

People give to people. This is a fundamental principle that most in the church have failed to grasp. The belief in the mission of the nonprofit may be the number one reason why people say they chose to give to something, but in most cases they also had some relationship with the person who was leading the mission. It was the degree of confidence they had in that person that would often make the difference in the degree of support. I would have much more confidence in committing to fight a battle if I felt Patton was in charge than if they told me Private Snuffy was leading. In a church this means that to win our fight for resources we have to have a leader (pastor) who through his or her building of rela- tionships can establish confidence in persons to make commitments. When they do not have that confidence they may make a contribution, but not a commitment. Generally, the bigger commitment you seek necessitates the depth of relationship that is required.

I remember specifically in one church where we had a donor who was highly committed to a project with a six-figure gift. In fact, he had told me of his desire to make that gift very early on and even left the impression that it may grow as things progressed. The bishop chose to move the long-tenured pastor and bring in a younger person halfway through the campaign. The donor called me the day after the upcoming change was announced. “I am withholding my commitment,” he said sternly. “Once I see if the new person is capable of leading this church in the right direction, I will consider it again.” The project did not change. The need did not change. All that changed was the confidence level of the donor in the person who would now be in charge of the mission. As far as I know that gift never materialized.

Now, we can all sit back and chastise this particular donor for not being more blindly committed to the work of the church, but that will not help us win the battle. Not only is he not going to change but also neither are countless others who have numerous opportunities to do good and every day chose to donate to the place where they have relationships. We are better off learning to intentionally make sure those relationships are made.

Some are now reading this and saying that a pastor should not be building unique relationships with persons who have significant resources. Why not? Pastors develop unique relationships with all sorts of persons within the congregation depending upon their circumstances or talents. They have unique relationships with people who have gone through particular crises such as death or illness. They have unique relationships with those who go to men’s club on Wednesday mornings. They have unique relationships with persons who are in the pastor’s Bible study. They have unique relationships with those who joined the church under him or her and those who have been charter members. Having a unique relationship with persons who may have the capability of funding the mission the pastor is responsible for accomplishing just makes sense.

A key thing to remember is that friendraising is more important than fundraising. You should be ten times more intentional to make a friend than to get a gift. If you will put in the hours to cultivate a relationship, you will find that you only need to spend a few minutes to get a gift that can be used to advance the cause of Christ.

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When I went to war in the Gulf it was made quite clear to us that we were going to help free the people of Kuwait from the dictatorial boot of Saddam Hussein and his army. They had brazenly invaded a sovereign nation and were torturing its people. We were to also help ensure that this madman did not gain control of much of the world’s oil supply, which could cause an even wider and far more disastrous war. The case for us to be there was very clear and easy to understand.

Later, as most of you know, Americans were sent back to Iraq to rid the nation of WMD (weapons of mass destruction). None were found. We did get rid of Saddam but after that the case became very fuzzy and anti-war sentiment began to grow. People did not understand why we were there. Attempts to make the case faltered as time went on and results were not more evident. It has continued to be a problem to this day.

For your church to win the war against money and stuff you are going to have to make a “compelling” case. This is a case that begins with God calling us to do and be ______________. This is a case that is easy to understand and is backed up with facts and hope. Your case must spell out how contributing to the church will change lives and make the world the place that God intended it to be. Your case cannot be that you need to raise a certain amount to fund the budget. No one cares about a budget. People care about children, the youth, the sick, the environment, the lost, the hurting, and the neglected. They care about whether they are on God’s side or not. How is their money going to alleviate pain and suffering and bring help and hope? Oh, persons will give something out of obligation to an organization or family church but they will not make a commitment.

As you go about trying to raise the level of generosity, you are going to have to help persons see that being generous to you is the best way they can give to change the world. Imagine what will happen if you stand before them and can only say, “Last year we lost twenty-four more members than we brought in. We went from four children’s classes to two. We did not baptize anyone. We have been unable to meet all our mission obligations due to the repairs needed on the boiler and our youth pastor will be going part-time. So we sure hope you will help fund the 10 percent budget increase so we can get back on track.” You will fail!

I suggest you do what the army does. Write out your case on a single piece of paper and study it. If it is not compelling to you as to why this deserves support then go back to work on it until it is compelling. You need your army to want to volunteer to serve, not have to be drafted.

People need to be generous not because you need money, but because their life depends upon it. This is fundamental to fundraising and growing generosity. If the emphasis is on the church getting versus the donor giving then you have lost the war before it starts.

If you will notice, there are two different types of ads used by the military branches. One emphasizes service and commitment and honor and the value of that to one’s life. The other ad emphasizes how you can get your college paid for, get retirement in twenty years, and have great health insurance.

The church generally goes for the latter type of advertising when we talk about generosity. We tell people that they can name buildings after themselves or get other special recognition or just “be somebody.” The greater emphasis should be placed on the value to their lives in discovering that greed and money do not bring satisfaction. It does not help you raise a quality family. It does not bring happiness. It does not secure an abundant life. It is fool’s gold. Generosity builds character. It serves others. It lifts others up. As you lose your life, you gain life. The emphasis is on others, which strangely enough is the best thing for the self. You must help your members understand the difference with what you preach and teach.

I know a man who is miserable. He is now in an assisted living center and stays mostly off by himself. He is actually healthier than most of the persons at the center and quite capable of contributing to the betterment of their lives, but he stays mostly in his room and complains. One day I was talking to him and trying to lift up the plight of others in his own family. As I shared about this one and that, he interrupted me with, “But I am worried about ME!”

If your program on generosity focuses mostly on how it helps “the church,” “the members,” or “the donor,” then it will fail. If, however, you can get your people to understand that the best thing they can do to enrich themselves is to give to others and get their focus to be outward versus inward, then you will have a generosity program of strength and power that can win battles and change lives.

Remember what you are involved in is spiritual combat. If you keep your focus on the spiritual need to be generous, the spiritual power of being generous, and the spiritual uplift of being generous, then you are likely to win. If it ever shifts to being about material combat and about money, you lose!


Excerpted from God vs. Money by J. Clif Christopher. Copyright © 2018 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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