All but a few churches in our region are struggling with their finances.

Giving is down, expenses are up. Many of the ensuing financial discussions focus on what should be cut to meet ends. We need more insights on how to increase income.

I had a recent discussion about church finances with a pastor who is always trying new ideas to improve his church’s effectiveness.

He said, “Our giving has increased significantly in the past year. In fact, we used to have a small emergency fund. Our giving has been so strong that we quadrupled the size of the emergency fund in the last year.”

OK, he had my attention. So, I asked, “What did you do that made the difference.”

His response was, “We changed the way we take the offering and how we talk about giving.”

Then he listed these practical pointers:

1. We give a small message, or talk, prior to taking the offering at every worship service.

Sometimes it is a Bible verse about giving. Other times it is a brief story about a person’s life that has been changed through a ministry of our church. We use these brief messages to cast vision and show how their giving regularly funds our efforts to fulfill the vision God has given us.

2. When a member or new attendee starts giving for the first time, they receive an encouraging letter from the pastor.

This reinforces this important step of discipleship, which is a foundational part of their journey into spiritual maturity.

3. Every quarter we send out a letter to each person who gives.

The letter reports what they have given to date. It also thanks them for their regular contributions. Additionally, the letter reinforces how their investment in the church’s ministries is resulting in transformed lives.

4. We stopped asking people to give to all kinds of special offerings.

Instead, we ask them to give regularly and faithfully to the general offering. This way, they learn that it is their giving that sustains our ministries, including the missions organizations that we support.

5. It is important to make giving as easy as possible.

Many people have moved to online bill paying and fewer people write checks. Realizing this, we searched for the best online giving app. We test drove many and settled on one that is really easy: Over one third of our contributions come to us online.

6. I stopped talking about tithing.

Mind you, I still believe in tithing. But, the reality is that few people actually tithe, that is, give a literal 10 percent. It seems so far out of reach. Instead, we talk regularly about taking the “next step in giving.”

We say things like, “If you are presently giving 1 percent of your income, why not take a step of faith and start giving 2 percent of your income.” As a result, more people have increased their giving.

In closing out my conversation with my pastor friend, he said that these six simple steps have revolutionized their giving and increased his church’s income. As a result, their ministries are fully funded and they are expanding their reach.

As I listened to his simple outline, I was reminded that often it is common-sense attention to details like these that can result in a dramatic increase in effectiveness.

I trust that you will consider adopting some of these practices to assist your congregation in increasing its giving.

Charles Revis is executive minister of American Baptist Churches of the Northwest. A version of this article first appeared on the ABC-NW blog and is used with permission.

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