When you look out at your congregation on any given Sunday morning, you probably see familiar faces in their familiar seats and some visitors scattered throughout the crowd.
But here’s the thing: You’re not just looking at people. You’re seeing stories, and many of those stories include financial stress. Nearly four out of every five people (78 percent) live paycheck to paycheck,1 while the average American carries a credit card balance of close to $16,000.2 That’s why I believe debt—and not some other congregation—is the number one competition for most churches today.
Truth is, only about 12 percent of believers tithe on a regular basis.3 In fact, most evangelical Christians give less than 3 percent of their income to their local church body.4 Why? Oftentimes, it’s not that they’re selfish. They’re just shackled with a load of debt that leaves them no margin to give.
That’s a huge problem! But real change can happen. People can find freedom. Marriages can be healed. Family trees can be changed.
It all happens when a stewardship culture takes hold of your church. And here are five tips to help you start building that culture today.
1. Remember the Owner. Psalm 24:1 says that the earth—and everything else—belongs to God. He’s the Owner and we manage His resources for His glory. Understanding that simple truth is what makes stewardship work in your congregation.
Biblical stewardship challenges believers to handle the 100 percent well, not just the 10 percent off the top. When we remember that God really owns it all, managing the other 90 percent becomes easier.
2. Don’t Just Tell People—Show People. I absolutely believe pastors should talk about stewardship from the pulpit. But I also believe that telling people to do something without showing them how to do it misses the mark. It convinces people that we want something from them instead of wanting something for them.
But you can turn the tide, starting with your own example. Take the lead by not only talking about giving, but also by setting the standard for giving.
Another way to show people the power of stewardship is by offering classes that will teach them to manage money God’s way. I work with a program called Momentum, which challenges churches to send 80 percent of their members through Financial Peace University. And I’ve found that when churches really dig in and teach their members about getting out of debt, living on a budget, and giving generously, they move the needle in big ways.
3. Encourage Intentionality. Honestly, not everyone can give 10 percent right away. So, encourage them to create a plan for giving what they can as soon as they can. That will get them into the rhythm of giving regularly. Then, as their situation improves, they can increase their giving. Eventually, they’ll be solid in their tithe and looking for ways to go above and beyond with special offerings. Again, it’s a matter of helping them first transform what they believe and then letting that affect their actions.
4. Bring It Home. While you’re teaching stewardship at church, challenge parents to teach their kids about stewardship at home. Biblical stewardship sets families up to win for generations to come. Once one generation gets out of debt, they’re eager to pass that legacy to their kids. As you’re teaching the topic in church, encourage parents to do “homework” with their kids!
My friend Rachel Cruze often says that “more is caught than taught” in a parent-child relationship, so remind parents to live out what they say they believe each and every day. Kids are watching to make sure their parents’ words match their actions—even when it comes to money.
5. Go Beyond the Walls. If every church member actually gave 10 percent of their income, an extra $165 billion would open up for Kingdom work!5 That’s incredible—but people need to make the connection between a church’s giving and its vision. They want to see the money being used for something bigger than themselves.
So, give your members opportunities to serve their community. Remind them that they can steward their time and talents, along with their money. And help them see how their generosity makes a difference for the Kingdom.
When people struggle with debt, their money has no opportunity for the future because it’s already obligated to the past. But nurturing a culture of biblical stewardship changes individuals and congregations. When people learn to manage God’s resources God’s way for God’s glory, hope becomes more than just a wish—it becomes a reality!
Momentum and Financial Peace University have helped leaders across the Southern Baptist Convention create a culture of stewardship and generosity within their congregations.
This is what some Southern Baptist pastors have to say about these tools:
“In 2014, First Baptist Church took the major step of encouraging our entire church to go through Financial Peace University at the same time. We offered twenty-one different classes—touching nearly every day of the week, mornings, evenings, weekends—and 87 percent of our church members participated. But one additional thing I like about FPU is that every time we offer it, at least half of every class comes from the community around us. This allows us to help them financially—but, more importantly, we get the opportunity to encourage them toward a more personal and meaningful walk with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus!”
—Jeff Rasnick, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Shelbyville, Tennessee
“In 2015, Bellevue trained over 4,200 people in Financial Peace University. The results have been life-changing. Momentum will set you and your people free, both financially and spiritually. I highly recommend it.”
—Steve Gaines, pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee; president, Southern Baptist Convention
“I encourage you: Do what we at FBC Woodstock have done and buy into Momentum and Financial Peace University. See the difference in your giving and—better yet—in the mind-set, attitude, and humility of your members.”
—Johnny Hunt, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia
For more information on Momentum, visit stewardshipcentral.org/solutions.
Chris Brown is a pastor, speaks on intentional living nationwide as a Ramsey Personality, and hosts the Life, Money and Hope podcast; he is an active member of a local church.