Thom Rainer, former President of LifeWay Christian Bookstores (an SBC entity), offers five reasons why giving might drop dramatically in the local church. His insights help provide a balanced perspective for the shortfall that has gripped Mountain View in recent months.
1) The Church’s membership and attendance changed in the last year. For differing reasons, members who gave generously and consistently have been reassigned to other churches in the area or across the nation.
2) The movement to digital giving has been to slow. If an emphasis on digital giving options is not consistently provided, there will likely come a day when giving begins to drop dramatically. This is because digital givers tend to schedule their gifts on a regular basis. Non-digital givers tend to give only when they are physically present at a worship service.
3) There is a protest movement in the church. This occurs when members don’t like a decision the church has made and quietly resolve to withhold their giving. It is something like a boycott where members of the congregation refuse to support the church financially until a reversal of the unsupported decision is made.
4) There is little emphasis on encouraging people to join small groups. According to Rainer’s research, those who are meaningfully connected to small groups like Sunday School or home Bible studies often give 3 to 5 times more per person. When churches stop emphasizing small groups, even for a short season, giving can begin to suffer quickly.
5) There is no clear vision. According to Rainer, as a rule, Gen Xers and Millennials give to a mission and a vision rather than an institution. When a compelling vision is not clear or if there are many competing visions, these younger adults may shift their giving elsewhere.
As you read these possible reasons for our drop in giving, which one best applies to Mountain View? As I pray through the possibilities, I am convinced that our shortfall is the result of reason #1, primarily. God has chosen to reassign several key families and individuals from our church to other places of ministry across the nation. We have no control over that reassignment and trust God’s sovereignty in the matter. Another factor is our obedience to follow Christ’s call to plant a church in West Haven, Utah. By releasing Jeff and Tonya Winters, as well as nearly a quarter of our workers to join them, we have consequently seen a decrease in our membership and giving. I am confident however that as we step out in obedience, following our Father’s initiative, He is going to provide for the financial needs of both churches. Already, we have begun to see a new wave of new members filling our ranks at Mountain View.
As we wait upon God to restore our ranks, could I encourage you to pray about your present level of giving to/through Mountain View? Some of us give far above 10% (see Mathew 23:23 on tithing) and are enjoying the benefits of that generosity. Please know we are grateful for your boldness to trust God in this financial stewardship! Might there be others of us ready to step out and step up our giving to 10% or more? I can tell you from personal experience and the authority of Scripture that when we give generously and cheerfully to the work of God’s kingdom, He abundantly provides more in return. Jesus says it this way in Luke 6:38,
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
This verse reminds me of the story told about a farmer who was known for his generous giving and whose friends could not understand how he could give so much and yet remain so prosperous. One day a spokesman for his friends said. “We can’t understand you. You give far more than any of the rest of us and yet you always seem to have more to give.” “Oh that is easy to explain,” the farmer said. “I keep shoveling into God’s bin and God keeps shoveling back into mine and God has the bigger shovel.” –Herbert Lockyer
In some ways, our financial difficulties on a corporate level are an opportunity for us to experience God’s faithfulness on an individual level. You simply cannot out give God.