As the world responds to a global pandemic, churches and the vital work they do are more important than ever. But as the weeks of social distancing continue, the challenge of meeting virtually with members who may or may not be able to tithe at the moment is a serious problem for more and more leaders.
“Many of us feel like we are in uncharted waters on knowing how to appropriately talk about generosity in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” Brad Formsma, the founder of the nonprofit organization I Like Giving, shared with ChurchLeaders.
Formsma believes now is a great time for the church to reframe its conversations about money, while adding an emphasis on encouraging people to live generous lives–even in times of crisis:
Perhaps this is an opportunity to revisit our approach on the ways we talk about generosity. The time is now for us as believers to express our faith through our actions in this new way of life. It’s also an important time to clearly express the church’s ongoing financial needs.
Many pastors and church leaders likely feel a little apprehensive about speaking about the church’s financial needs, though, when so many of their members are struggling financially. Formsma shared five guidelines for church leaders as they talk about financial need in these coming months of uncertainty.
How to Talk About Giving and Generosity During the Coronavirus
Lead with vulnerability.
Formsma says speaking honestly and candidly during this time will help you connect and relate with your church family on a deeper level. “The reality is that this is a hard time for everyone, but it’s also a time for all of us to grow as givers.”
There is a cautionary note on this point, however: “Be cautious that we don’t move into guilt or duty. The encouragement around this, is when we are in a season of uncertainty, we might not hear ourselves and how we come across and how we express. The scarcity mindset can find its way into our messaging without us being aware of it. More than ever, this is an important time to run your remarks around giving and generosity by your lead team or your board chair. They will give you the feedback you need on your messaging.”
Share with them how YOU are giving to your church.
“Your story and how you’re moving through fear and uncertainty as you give to your church will be the best model,” Formsma emphasized.
Pointing to the example of Pastor Kenton Beshore (former senior pastor of Mariners Church in California), Formsma said Beshore encourages pastors to “check their gut” before talking about giving to a congregation. In the Cultivating Generosity Course, Beshore suggested asking what your motivation is before you talk about giving. He would often think about the story of the widow who gave her last mite to the house of God. Beshore would ask himself: “Am I giving? Am I giving sacrificially? If I myself am not convinced on the front end of this, I should probably wait.”
In a similar way, Formsma said his friend Pastor Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. often says, “I’m not going to ask our church to do anything that I’m not doing.” Formsma said Batterson and his wife have made a “pre-decision” to regularly give–including through the storms of life.
Encourage them to trust in Jesus as their provider.
At this time of uncertainty and crisis, Formsma believes pastors would do well to address worries and questions related to: “Can I trust? Am I going to have enough? Can I afford to give?”
The fact of the matter is that many church-goers aren’t in a position to give money at the moment. However, Formsma said we are in “an opportunity season to find new, creative ways to be generous.” There are plenty of ways to be generous, even if you don’t have money to give. Formsma drew from his book I Like Giving, which talks about seven ways to be generous, to offer these six other ideas to practice generosity: