One doesn’t have to look far online to find a host of troubling statistics about the dire state of faith-based giving in America. A recent Huffington Post headline trumpets: “Church Giving Down to Depression-Era Lows.” According to another report on churchleaders.com, the situation is even worse than that. During the Great Depression, Christians gave an average of 3.3 percent of their incomes. In 2011 they gave a meager 2.5 percent. Even more concerning is a second figure reported by the same article: 33-50 percent of church members give nothing at all.
And, while hand-wringing and flop sweating can be found in abundance, what is harder to find are pastors and churches with practical solutions to the problem. (Besides simply badgering their congregations to “give more. Give more! No seriously … GIVE MORE!”)
This was the challenge facing the team at The Rock Church in Point Loma, Calif., in the fall of 2010. Having grown from 0 to 12,000+ in only a decade, The Rock was one of the fastest growing churches in America. This growth, however, did not insulate The Rock from the financial difficulties facing churches around the nation. If anything, it only compounded the issues created by diminished giving.
Saddled with a sizeable mortgage but committed to making an impact for The Kingdom throughout San Diego County, the team at The Rock began brainstorming ways to engage their congregation on the subject of giving without peppering every service with repeated appeals for increased giving. They wanted to talk about stewardship—particularly sacrificial stewardship—without any of the guilt or awkwardness that the subject so often elicits.
“We live in one of the wealthiest cities in America,” says James Lawrence, The Rock’s Chief of Staff. “Because of that, we decided that any conversation about giving should start not with need but with abundance. We wanted people to start thinking ‘look how much I have’ instead of ‘look how much the church needs.’”
Changing the conversation, however, was only the first step. According to Lawrence, the greater challenge was to help people put their intentions into action.
“Getting people to view their purchases as an opportunity for generosity is great, but what good is it if they are not able to respond in the moment?” asks Lawrence. “We needed a way for our members to take action whenever and wherever the opportunity to give presented itself.”