Deficit Thinking Is A Generosity Killer

Have you ever noticed how financial fear creeps into our leadership decisions? It even portrays itself as wise, sound, and prudent. We feel that protecting our resources and people are some of the highest callings of pastoral ministry. Yet, I have seen generosity potential limited again and again. Here is what deficit thinking often sounds like among church leaders.

We say things like…

“I do not want to mention the opportunity to give to a special cause for fear of how it may affect budget giving.”

“If we have an event for those with the gift of giving won’t it hurt the feelings of those who are not invited?”

“If we do a year end offering for a designated cause it will decrease budget giving.”

“Designated funds are unhealthy and they hurt budget giving. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Now let me restate these axioms with the unintended consequences included. I want to help us see the actual fruit of such leadership decisions.

“When we do not provide people the opportunity to give above and beyond dollars they won’t. At least, they won’t give them to the church.”

“If we do not have an event for those with the gift of generosity they will invest their above and beyond gifts somewhere else.”

“If we do not do a year end offering we will receive less gifts.”

“If we do not create designated accounts for special causes beyond the budget we will struggle to fund them.”

Less generosity is the measurable result 100% of the time. Fear and protection can easily mask themselves as wisdom when they actually cripple giving. Here is what I know for sure: When giving people are not provided the opportunity to easily give in meaningful and enjoyable ways, they won’t. They will look for the next opportunity that makes giving easy, rewarding, and powerful. There are plenty of opportunities that exist for givers to give in their circles of influence. Givers are well connected and always on the lookout for a great place to invest significant dollars in an important mission. Giving people can’t stop giving. So if we do not ask we will not receive.

However, if we are afraid of what may happen when we make the opportunities readily available we will never see what givers can actually do. Fear of what may happen to the budget, or a concern for how a giver may feel when being presented the opportunity to give, can create real barriers to generosity. So how do we break through these leadership obstacles?

  1. Create a yearly budget with margin. Margin will give you the space to not feel fear. Your expenses should be consistently covered which gives you tremendous freedom to ask for above and beyond dollars.
  2. Always have a vision bigger than your budget. Make it clear and easy for your best givers to invest above and beyond dollars towards specific visionary causes on an ongoing basis. Do not wait for the next capital campaign or missions offering season to roll around. Givers need causes all year long.
  3. Set a higher standard for giving than the budget. The annual budget should guide wise stewardship of expenses. It should not set the standard for discipleship conversations related to giving. Your best givers want to move the vision forward in big chunks. They do not naturally see the budget as calling for these types of gifts.
  4. Take a baby step this year to begin moving beyond fear and protection. Identify ways your team is led more by fear than it should be. Exchange your fear for faith in a God who has every resource you need and more to accomplish His vision. Once you gain confidence that giving people will actually give more, you can then take bigger, more confident steps.

I hope this helps. Fear can rob church leaders of a healthy money culture. Let’s stop deficit thinking in its track. God’s not thinking in deficit terms when it comes to His kingdom work through your church. Unleash giving today!