What motivates people to be generous? Throughout my career as a stewardship educator I have encountered countless people who have made a priority of giving generously and joyfully to their church. Thank goodness, because it is the ongoing, dedicated and regular giving of time, talent and treasure that ensures our parishes are vibrant faith communities.
Often we encounter all sorts of arguments that push back against our efforts to inspire a more profound level of generosity in our churches. Here are Seven Stewardship Myths that need to be banished from our conversations about giving, receiving and contemporary Christian living.
Myth: More People = More Money
Truth: Stewardship begins at home. If we can’t make it work with those who are present, what makes you so sure we can make it work with newcomers?
Myth: Talking about money is taboo
Truth: Faith and finances do mix. Jesus spoke about money and those things we turn into false idols in nearly half of His parables. The story of the widow’s mite isn’t just a cute fable, it’s a teaching that Jesus hopes we will emulate.
Myth: Stewardship is the same as fundraising
Truth: Fundraising is always done to support a need; it is about fixing the roof, buying a new organ, installing an elevator or painting the church walls, etc. Stewardship is a complete lifestyle of accountability to God.
Myth: Stewardship is just about money
Truth: To be a steward is to acknowledge that everything we have – our talents, our wealth, our families and all those things that we acquire – is actually God’s. We give generously and joyfully of all that we have because we have already received the free gift of life and its accompanying benefits.
Myth: People in our parish can’t afford to give
Truth: This statement reflects a theology of scarcity that will completely engulf all aspects of one’s life including their relationships with others. The theology of scarcity is one of the greatest impediments to growth in our churches. Adopting this principle is also one of the quickest ways to close a church.
Myth: Guilt motivates giving
Truth: If giving is forced it will not grow and it certainly cannot be sustained. God wants our giving to be joyful and abundant. A spirit of altruism – to give without expectation of recognition or return – cannot be nurtured and shared if it is rooted in guilt.
Myth: People automatically know to give generously
Truth: Unless congregants are informed of the time, talent and treasure demands on a parish they may never feel inclined to give more than $10 a week. Dedicated year-round stewardship education is essential if we are to inspire full participation from our church membership.
The real problem with any of these myths is that they often lead us to do the exact opposite of that which inspires growth in our churches. If you would like to cultivate a spirit of generous living and a deeper commitment to discipleship in your church, think about how you might incorporate the truths about stewardship and then take action.