If Big Givers Don’t Come Back To Church

Some churches have a handful of big givers.

That seems great until those givers do one of two things:

  • They leave
  • They withhold their finances as leverage to get their way

The second is a far worse problem than the first.

We should always be careful to follow the biblical command not to favor the wealthy over the poor (James 2:1-7). Click To Tweet

Whatever our response, we should always follow the biblical command not to favor the wealthy over the poor (James 2:1-7).

Dealing With Absent Or Controlling Givers

Recently, I’ve written a lot about what to do if congregation members don’t return after lockdowns are lifted. I started with “will the congregation come back?” shouldn’t be our biggest concern. Then, in what might seem like a contradiction, I wrote three articles about:

  1. What might be keeping church members away
  2. How to reach out to people who don’t come back
  3. What to do if volunteers don’t come back

And that was it. On to another subject. Or so I thought.

Then a regular reader emailed me with an important request:

Could you say something about what a small church pastor should do if the big financial givers do not come back?

Yes, they are interested in the life of the church, but maybe the pastor and leadership team hasn’t been making what this person thinks is the best choices, so they are going to stop giving their money because they disagree. That could hurt the long-term future of the congregation.

I know some people think their financial giving means they can buy influence (like in politics), but it doesn’t work that way.

What should a small church pastor do if big givers refuse to give anymore? Being a small church, there isn’t much money to begin with. What do you think? Do you have any advice in this type of situation?

(Used with permission by the author)

Our church doesn’t have outsized givers. But there have been a few times when givers tried to use their finances to control the church. In those situations I learned some hard lessons about how to inoculate the church from financial control freaks.

We need to put our focus on three key areas – which happen to be areas we should be focusing on anyway.

The first one reduces the amount of money we need. The last one increases the amount we receive. The middle one does a little of both.

1. Simplification

Small churches need to do less. But do it better.

Simple churches need less money. And smaller budgets are less susceptible to financial blackmail.

Simple churches need less money. And smaller budgets are less susceptible to financial blackmail. Click To Tweet

If there’s no money for a program, we may need to figure out how to do it without money or stop doing it at all. No, that’s not easy. It may even feel a little simplistic. But it’s true.

This is an important principle to keep even if money isn’t a concern. Doing fewer programs gives us a better chance to do them well.

2. Discipleship

Discipleship has so many advantages for the local church.

First, it’s the single command given to church leaders in Ephesians 4:8-9 (the only place where the title of “pastor” is mentioned in the entire Bible). Pastors are not called to do all the ministry of the church, but to equip disciples to do the work of ministry.

Second, when we disciple people for the work of ministry, we cut down on our need for finances because volunteers take up a lot of the slack.

Third, when people are involved in active ministry they tend to be more generous with their finances, too.

Which leads to…

3. Generosity

Perhaps the biggest financial mistake I made over decades of pastoring were the times I was more concerned with meeting the budget than with promoting whole-life generosity.

It's more important to celebrate and promote a spirit of generosity among church members than to keep trying to raise more money. Click To Tweet

It’s more important to celebrate and promote a spirit of generosity among church members than to keep trying to raise more money.

It’s possible for people to give without being generous, but it’s impossible for people to be generous without giving.

People want to be involved in a generous church. One that gives as quickly as it receives. Plus, generous people are attracted to a generous church.

When we emphasize and demonstrate generosity, we’re living in a more Christ-like manner. So a generous church does more than meet the bills and pad our pockets. It changes the world.

(Photo by Akshar David | Unsplash)

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5 thoughts on “If Big Givers Don’t Come Back To Church”

  1. I express caution to pastors who interpret withholding offerings as manipulation. Giving huge offerings can be just as manipulative. There was a time when titans of industry gave generously to churches because religious affiliation helped their image, fill their workforce and sell their products. Your name on a church wing just doesn’t carry as much clout today. That kind of money goes to schools, hospitals, animal rights and public broadcasting. First make sure their criticism is not warranted. For example, I know Catholics, lifelong givers, who are so outraged at the sexual scandals and systemic coverups that they can’t bring themselves to attend, much less give. It is breaking their hearts. Decades of being assured rumors were being addressed proved to be false. They feel their loyalty and gifts were implicit. They want the problem to seriously addressed. Modeling generosity is great advice. I’d add keeping dialogue open to all. We may not have equal pockets but we should all have equal voice. (Nobody notices much when poorer people stop giving!)

    1. Agreed. If the question had been “why do people stop giving to the church?” I would definitely have addressed that aspect of it.

      In fact, I’ll consider addressing that in a future article. Thanks for the thoughtful take on it.

  2. As one “Giver” I’ll make three brief points.

    1. Assuming giving has stopped due to control issues or simple absence may be a mistake. Many givers like me are leaders of a small business, these have been trashed during the pandemic. Years to rebuild in my case.

    2. Many givers I’ve met, treat their giving as a serious stewardship ministry. I don’t make changes lightly, but as God calls pastor’s to a new field, God directs my giving. This is between me and God, and not under anyone else’s control.

    3. Givers should never give or not give to control or manipulate. I never micromanage — I’m far too busy to even think of such things. At the same time, givers do not want to be looked at as a checkbook — and this happens. Too much. Givers — are also human beings who need ministry, prayer and care.

  3. Big Givers are no more than ordinary people with resources. If they are not coming back to church, perhaps they are hurting. Reach out……

I'd love to hear from you!

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