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Shifting Your Focus To Increase Tithe and Offerings: 12 Tips that Have Helped Us
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By Dan Serns
 
 
How can you get more people to return tithe and give offerings? Here’s what’s worked for us (tithe almost doubled, local church budget up 50% over the past three years) across the board with our Millennials, young families, immigrants, and long-time Adventists. It all had to do with shifting our focus. 
 
Shift your focus from…


 
 
  1. Stinking Thinking to Thankful Thinking. As pastors we must shift from thinking we can’t live on a pastors salary, operate a sideline business, or try to get a pay raise. We must never allow greed or covetousness to take root in us (Luke 12:15f.). We must remember that 90% of the world would in a heartbeat trade places with us financially. We must determine by God’s grace to be thankful for what we have, to live within our means, to pay our bills on time, to get out of debt as fast as possible, and to be faithful with tithe and generous with offerings. God’s will for us today is to remember that to rejoice is a choice, when we neglect to pray we go astray and to get rid of our angst we need to give thanks! See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
 
  1. Needing Money to Needing Faithfulness. The Bible makes abundantly clear that God doesn’t need our money (Psalm 24:1; 50:12; etc.). So by extension God’s work and God’s church doesn’t need our money either. God is not after our wallets or bank accounts; He is after our hearts. The reason we need to return tithe and give offerings is to keep our hearts going in the right direction (Matthew 6:21). As pastors our motive in talking about money is not to increase the church income but to deepen the discipleship and stewardship of the people God has given us to care for. Their need to give is greater than the church’s need to receive the money given.
 
  1. Solo Problem Solving to Team Problem Solving. When finances are tight in a church it is easy for the pastor to feel like they alone are responsible to turn things around. Yet the church is much more than the pastor. If the church doesn’t have a finance committee that meets regularly why not ask the treasurer to gather a group of 5-7 faithful givers and begin meeting with them each month before or after church board. Be sure to include the church stewardship leader. Call it a Financial Ministries Team. During your meetings get an update not only on money, but on how many givers there have been. Take time for a devotional and prayer. Explore options on how to make the shifts included in this article. They become some of the church’s unsung heroes.
 
  1. Bills to Blessings. When finances are tight at a church, it is also easy for conversations at church board meetings to degenerate fast! We determined when we met for Church Board meetings to focus on God’s blessings much more than our bills! This meant that we put the Soul Winning and Ministry Updates first on the agenda and spent time praising God for what He was doing through us. Later we looked at the financial report and prayed that God would supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19) and that He would touch the hearts of more and more people to be more and more faithful more and more consistently!
 
  1. More Money to More Givers. In the light of eternity it is far better to add ten new faithful stewards than ten thousand more dollars to the church treasury. We knew that many people give when there is a strong appeal or a desperate need. But we wanted to develop systematic givers who gave because they knew it was good and right and fun and wonderful! We made up a simple commitment card and gave it out to the congregation one Sabbath. It listed 3 levels of faithful giving. We challenged everyone to prayerfully consider at what level Jesus wanted them to commit. The levels were “Moses’ 70” (10% Tithe + 10% Local Church Budget), “Gideon’s 300” (10% Tithe + $70 or more a month Local Church Budget) and “Widow’s Mite” (10% Tithe + Any amount monthly to Local Church Budget). We explain on a regular basis how to properly mark the Tithe and Offering envelope so their commitment will go to the proper place. We send a confidential congratulations and confirmation letter to each person who turns in a commitment form. On the fourth Sabbath each month we include a blank commitment card as a bulletin insert. (Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 8:3). Many of our attenders who are not yet Adventists fill out commitment cards as well and learn to be faithful and generous.
 
  1. One Way to Give to Multiple Ways to Give. Many churches have only two ways to give – Sabbath morning during worship and not at all! Make it as easy as possible for people to give. We now have four ways people can give – worship services, two drop boxes in the lobby, online giving (sign up at www.adventistgiving.org) and by mail. Once a year we include a Tithe and Offering envelope in one of our mailings to all our members. We’ve discovered that many members who travel, live out of town, or are homebound will mail in their tithe and offerings when we do this.
 
  1. Monthly Financial Picture to Yearly Financial Picture. Bulletins and other communication methods often list the local church budget for the month and where the church is at in its local giving for that month. But this often doesn’t give a clear picture of where the church is at for the year if it falls behind each month. We changed from a monthly financial picture to a yearly financial picture by listing these five items each week in our bulletin and e-newsletter - Tithe year-to-date; Local Church Yearly Budget, Given Last Week, Given Year-to-Date and Needed Year-to-Date.
 
  1. Offering Appeals to Offering Testimonies. We shifted the focus of offering time from appeals for money or chastisement for not giving to testimonies of what a blessing it is to give. Elders, Church Board Mentors, young adults, youth and even children give a brief testimony (2-4 minutes) of when they had first started to return tithe and give offerings and how the Lord had taken care of them and blessed them in many ways, not just financially. When a 13 year old talks about how he decided to be one of “Moses’ 70” the whole congregation pays attention!
 
  1. Interest in Church Finances to Interest in Church Families Finances. Rather than just be interested in whether the church was paying its bills we shifted the focus to helping the members and families of our congregation succeed financially. The Financial Ministries Team began to offer Financial Peace University (see www.daveramsey.com) as one of our weekly groups. It did a lot to help members and community guests get out of debt, live within their means and become more generous in their giving.
 
  1. Preaching to Teaching. When I was a young pastor I thought “If I just preach a powerful sermon on stewardship everyone will give more.” Then I read Ellen White. “The sermon may arouse the conscience, but the labor will be lost if the soul is left to settle down into the same state of indifference as before the words were spoken…” {Pamphlet 118 11.3}. I now take 3-5 minutes one Sabbath a month before I preach to focus on financial faithfulness and generosity. It might be an interview with a giver, an appeal to fill out the commitment card, a story of how God is blessing, or a clarification of a simple Bible verse on money or finances. These teaching moments seem to go farther than heavy doses of stewardship preaching.
 
  1. “My Tithe” to “God’s Tithe.” Much of the Christian world does not recognize the Bible distinction between tithe and offerings. This fuzziness has crept into the Adventist church as well. We clarify through sermons, teachable moments, Church Board discussions, etc. that tithe is the first 10% of our increase and is to be released to the world Tithe fund (“storehouse” in Malachi 3:10) to pay for Jesus’ Workers around the world. If it is misused it is not our responsibility but God’s. If it is not released from our control but we choose where to give it then it is “our tithe” rather than “God’s tithe” and we are responsible to God for misuse. Offerings on the other hand can be any amount and given to wherever God impresses us to give to pay for Jesus’ work locally, regionally and around the world. Because of this important Bible distinction all those involved in our Church Elections and who serve on the Church Board or in ordained positions must first be cleared by treasury to show there is evidence they return tithe and give something to local church budget regularly. We want people who have learned to trust the Lord and His church in the sensitive area of finances to be the ones making decisions for the growth and development of His work in our area.
 
  1. Reaching the Jaded to Reaching Receptive Givers. Some people in the church have an allergic reaction to any mention of money. They can talk to you for hours after church on why you shouldn’t talk about money for a few minutes at church! Smile, listen, thank them for sharing but then spend your best efforts with those who are receptive future givers. Focus on new members, young people, children in their Sabbath School classes and those who have stories to tell of God’s faithfulness. Watch what God does to increase the excitement in the congregation as more and more receptive people share with others how generous God has been with them. It’s much better to start a movement of generosity with receptive rather than jaded people. “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have… for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7.
 
Dan Serns is the senior pastor of the Richardson church in Texas