“I just don’t feel like I could trust the church with that much money.”
Maybe you have heard this sentence uttered by a church member. More than likely, this member was already one of your larger givers, and they were contemplating giving above and beyond their regular gift. But they had questions that needed answering.
In every church, there are those who give numerically more than others. Often, these are the twenty percent that cover eighty percent of the church’s budget. If you are a pastor, you probably know who these church members are even if you don’t know the exact amount of their giving.
These larger givers tend to ask different questions than those who give numerically less. These questions often are not motivated by a desire for power and influence but a desire for wise stewardship. They ask questions about vision, mission, strategy, and accountability. And it is important for pastors to have answers.
Answering these questions helps increase confidence in the church’s wise stewardship of large gifts. Answering these questions can also increase the likelihood that their next above and beyond gift will go to the church.
What are some of those questions for which pastors need an answer? Here are four:
1. How will this money help move the church’s mission forward?
Large givers are often motivated by mission. They want to grasp the mission and understand how financial gifts are leveraged to impact lives. This question can come up really anywhere or anytime. So always have a few ministry efforts in mind that need additional funding.
I’d like to share an incredible story with you. Back in February of 2020, I was talking to a friend who is also a fellow pastor. He was telling me that on Sunday morning he had a donor come up to him, excited to tell him about a big win in his life. The donor said that since the Lord blessed him above and beyond with this big win, that he wanted to give it back to the church. So, he wanted to know in what ways he could help. How the ministry wanted to advance but lacked the funds to do so.
Thankfully my pastor friend was prepared. He told the donor that the church needed to upgrade their cameras to produce a better live-stream service. The quality of the streamed services impacted two groups of people. The first being regular attendees that were watching from home because of the pandemic. The second being a huge influx of new virtual attendees that were drawn to the church during the pandemic.
The large giver said he wanted to give a donation to the church, which equated to the same cost of the new cameras. What’s even more amazing is that something similar happened a few years ago and he bought the current cameras the church was using at the time.
Large givers are often motivated by mission. They want to grasp the mission and understand how financial gifts are leveraged to impact lives.
Maybe it’s a technological need to reach more people, like the one mentioned above. Maybe it’s a specific need in your congregation, like supplying a new bunk bed to a single mom or helping to rebuild a family’s house after a fire. Maybe it’s campus expansion so your church can minister to an underserved and overlooked area of town. Share the numbers and the stories of how these large gifts will move the ministry forward.
So, be ready to answer the question, “How will this money help move the church’s mission forward?”
2. What does the church’s financial accountability structure look like?
Most churches have some type of financial accountability structure. Pastors should understand and describe the structure.
These large givers are familiar with cases of fraud and theft within organizations, and they want to know that a financial accountability structure is in place and functioning. Is there a process for approving large purchases? Are there protocols in place to make sure no one is ever alone with the cash received from Sunday offerings? Does your staff submit itemized receipts for any purchase made on a church credit card? You’re likely taking measures to ensure integrity in how your church spends money. Share some of these safeguards with large prospective donors.
You’re likely taking measures to ensure integrity in how your church spends money. Share some of these safeguards with large prospective donors.
Show them how your church allocates funds. You don’t have to go over every line item and budget with them, but give them a good look into what the church’s financial practices are.
So, be ready to answer the question, “What does the church’s financial accountability structure look like?”
3. How can I encourage other people of means to give more?
This question probably surprises you. But mission-motivated givers often like to invite others on the journey. They have friends they want to buy into the church’s mission and encourage them to give. They also likely carry influence with other people of means. They walk in the same circles and speak the same language. If you’re asked this question, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to squander.
But mission-motivated givers often like to invite others on the journey. They have friends they want to buy into the church’s mission and encourage them to give.
The response to this question does not need to be elaborate. The answer may be a simple willingness to go to lunch with the member and their friend to talk about the church’s mission.
But make the most of this time spent together. Get to know this potential donor. What is their background? What are their passions? Their interests? What is their professional role and how well are they connected in the community? Knowing these details will help you best connect them to outreach opportunities that they are most interested in and can make the most impact in.
So, be ready to answer the question, “How can I encourage other people of means to give more?”
4. If I gave the church one million dollars today, what would church leadership do with it?
This is a dream question, right? Now, the figure may not be one million dollars, but it could be a large number nonetheless. At this point, the giver has already determined the amount they want to give, and they want to know if the church has an immediate need he or she could meet. They are now looking to see where the money can have the greatest Kingdom impact. If the pastor is unable to identify a need, they may give the money elsewhere.
Of course, there are always needs, but the pastor just hasn’t spent time identifying and prioritizing them. Always be ready to talk about the church’s current and future needs. Have a list of short-term goals for the immediate future but also a list of long-term goals for five, maybe even ten years down the road. This way you’ll be able to share the needs of the church this month, like the building needing a new roof. But you’ll also be able to share the long-term goals of the church, like opening a new campus in a part of town that desperately needs a new church.
Always be ready to talk about the church’s current and future needs.
Be ready to answer the question, “If I gave the church one million dollars today, what would church leadership do with it?”
Large givers often ask different types of generosity questions. Don’t get caught off guard if one of these questions comes your way. A little preparation can give large givers the inspiration and insight they need to take whatever the next step is that God is leading them to take on their generosity journey.