I probably don't need to tell you that generosity is important, but what do you think of when you think of generosity? Do you think of people in your congregation who give liberally to those in need? Do you think of a congregation that gives liberally in offerings amounting to greater tithe income for church ministry?
There are many ways to think about generosity and stewardship, so let's define generosity from the Bible. It is others-focused sacrifice that glorifies God. It's something you give up to help someone else, without care for what you might have been able to do with the gift/resource/time for yourself.
The purpose of this article is not to provide a fancy definition of generosity, but to challenge you to think about the spirit of generosity in your church. In order to help establish a culture of generosity, we need to be singing from the same sheet of music, and frankly, increasing church tithing and establishing a culture of generosity are not necessarily the same thing.
So how do you establish a culture in your church where people consistently and authentically sacrifice to help others?
Culture is almost entirely about communication. What you say over and over and what you do over and over communicates values.
Every time you celebrate an action or accomplishment, you are establishing culture. When you tell a story you are establishing culture.
Don't believe me? Have a senior staff member tell a group of young staff a story about someone who did a great job and I guarantee those young staff members are making mental notes about what to do to get recognition. Conversely, tell that same group a story about someone who really messed something up. You guessed it. Mental note. Through story telling you just conveyed values – something you like and something you don't like. Over time, those preferences are ingrained in people’s minds, which then influence their behavior and decisions. When a mindset affects behavior, you have a culture.
What in the world does your calendar have to do with culture? Whatever you do over and over again communicates value. It tells me what's important to you.
Time is one of the most precious resources we have, mainly because we never get any more of it. We want to spend it wisely. Show me your church calendar, and I'll see what's truly important to your church. Are you offering regular events that give your church body the opportunity to be generous with their time, talents, and money? If not, you may not be communicating Biblical generosity as effectively as you could.
The Bible says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart is also." You spend money on what is important to you. For example, you can talk about foreign missions until you're blue in the face, but if your church expenses don't reflect that passion, then you don't have a culture of missions.
In order to have a culture, there has to be a mindset that propels behavior. You should see it reflected in the stories you tell and celebrate, in what your calendar says, and where you spend money.
Before you become discouraged about recruiting volunteers at your next event, your next sermon on tithing, or next year’s capital campaign, ask yourself, "How am I establishing a culture of generosity in your church?