Churches in America and the Southern Baptist Convention may be heading for a crisis financially. Recently, Giving USA released their report on the state of charitable giving for 2013. The good news is that Americans are increasing their giving to charities. The bad news is giving to religious causes declined last year. 1
Giving to the church has been on a continual decline since 1968
Even with the ups and downs of our economy in America, it is almost unimaginable to me that giving to the church has been on a continual decline since 1968. empty tomb, inc. releases a study each year called The State of Giving. They report that giving, as a percentage of Americans’ disposable income, has fallen from 3.11% to 2.32%. At the present rate of decline, they predict that by 2050, Americans will only give 1% to the Church!2
If this trend is not reversed, it will impact our ability to accelerate the Great Commission
Our ability to accelerate the completion of the Great Commission in our generation will be impacted greatly if this trend is not reversed. This decline in financial giving may impact some churches even to the point of having to close their doors. Regardless, it will impact their ability to support efforts toward the Great Commission. In our own Southern Baptist Convention, our ability to do our own Great Commission ministries will continue to be impacted, especially our passion for mobilizing missionaries.
Generational impact is real
Another factor to consider is that Baby Boomers currently give the largest amount of money to charities and churches.3 This year, every Baby Boomer will have turned fifty years old. What this means is that this generation that is currently at the peak of their earning ability is nearing retirement. This means that your church’s largest donor group will soon be on fixed incomes with less ability to give. At the same time, we are continually hearing reports that many churches are having difficulty in connecting with the young adults called Millennials. We have a looming crisis that will impact our churches and denomination unless we do something.
Four actions we can take to address this possible crisis
I believe we can and must address this decline and reverse it! Let me share with you some practical ways each of us can see giving increase in our churches and as a result, in our Southern Baptist Convention.
1. We must make this a specific matter of prayer. Pastors and church leaders, pray that each Sunday’s offering and annual budget is exceeded due to generous giving. Share the financial needs with your prayer ministry, asking them to call out to God the financial needs of the church. During Sunday morning worship, do not be fearful of praying about the financial needs of the church. When we pray about it, we are believing that God is able to place this upon the hearts of God’s people.
2. Pastors and churches need to teach biblical principles of giving to their people. Yes, it may appear challenging to do as a pastor, but principles regarding money and giving flood the Word of God. We do so with the authority of Scripture and the Holy Spirit leading us. Your goal is not to lay guilt upon people, but hope that when they follow God’s way financially, it is the greatest thing they can do to secure their future financially. With conviction and compassion, we should encourage people toward obedience to God’s Word. As well, when you proclaim God’s Word, show them how their giving impacts their own lives and the work of God through your church and around the world.
3. Share the vision with God’s people. I am convinced that people support causes, churches, and even the work of denominations when they are presented a clear and compelling vision. We need to be open about the need, but share what God will do with what they give when they give it. Talk about how things will change within them and through the ministries they support financially.
We have the greatest message of all. We need to change the way we present our vision, making it so compelling that people want to support it. This kind of vision can help people believe they are moving toward a better future.
As gospel churches and as the Southern Baptist Convention, we do far more than any charity. Why? Our commitment to share the gospel regionally, nationally, and globally impacts not just now, but the eternity of countless people. Lives are changed for eternity. We need to tell the story of what we are doing to take this grand message to people, the impact it is making, and then people will give to support gospel work. When people see the link between their gift and the mission of the church and denomination being accomplished, they are much more prone toward generosity.
4. Celebrate what God does. Rejoice and celebrate openly when God does something wonderful through your church or our convention. I do this periodically before we receive our offering. I talk about people coming to Christ, families impacted, or compassion that is extended. It is about the ministry that is accomplished, not about the money.
For example, any time we face a disaster or crisis internationally, people need to know they are involved by giving through your church because of what your church gives to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program.
Is there hope that we can reverse the decline in giving?
I firmly believe the answer is yes! Let me illustrate by using my own generation, Baby Boomers. I remember when I was starting as a pastor that all the “experts” were talking about how selfish Boomers were. As a result, we were called the Me Generation. Now Baby Boomers give more money away than any other generation. I believe through prayer and a positive message, we can see the coming generations pick up the mantle left behind by the Builders and Boomers. We can and must reverse this decline!
Each day, your church meets the spiritual tsunamis impacting this generation. We truly have the hope for the world. When our churches are fully funded, it makes fulfilling the missions and ministries that God has called us to easier to accomplish. We have time now to reverse the decline in giving, but we must act.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
1 Giving USA Annual Report
Dr. Ronnie Floyd is currently serving as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.7 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide.
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