I looked at our grocery bill. Wow.
As a dad of three growing and constantly hungry boys, our house goes through an amazing amount of food. Our milk consumption alone likely supports several dairy farms. Food costs for us have always been high, but recently they have climbed significantly higher.
Inflation is the increase in prices when compared to prior periods. Small amounts of inflation each year are normal and usually manageable. However, the past year’s inflation rate has been anything but small. The purchasing power of our money has been drastically reduced.
I feel the effects of inflation. You feel the effects of inflation. Your church members feel the effects of inflation.
With church members’ personal finances feeling squeezed, they will be tempted to create financial margin by reducing their generosity. While generosity should be a financial priority for a believer, it is often the first amount they reduce.
But God has called church leaders to encourage biblical generosity, even during financially trying times. Those whose generosity was celebrated in Scripture were often individuals or groups who were facing significant financial difficulties. The hungry widow with only a jar of oil. The widow with two coins. The Macedonians.
Calling the church to follow the example of these generosity heroes is not easy.
So, how does a church navigate these financially trying times? How does a church encourage generosity during times of discouraging inflation? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Acknowledge reality.
Don’t be tone deaf. Recognize that, like you, church members are being significantly impacted by the rising costs of goods. Their standard of living is being reduced at a rapid pace, and for some, the financial fallout is dizzying. They are not sure what to do.
Inflation is real and so are its consequences. A church that acts as if the lives of their church members are not experiencing real stress, real frustration, and real concern, will only cause members to distance themselves. During these discouraging times, your church members need to lean into God and His Scripture. But communication that does not acknowledge their plight, will cause them to run away, not run toward Him and the church.
2. Focus less on the amount and more on the heart.
It is understandable for church leaders to be concerned with the amount church members give. Bills must be paid. However, we know that money management reflects heart management. And in the church, our focus should align with God’s focus. God does not address the topic of money to increase His heavenly money market account. He addresses the topic of money because He is after our hearts.
For churches, now is the time to demonstrate that you are truly concerned with the heart of the giver, not the amount given. Now is the time to demonstrate your confidence in God as the owner of all things and as the One who can provide all things.
Encourage members to trust in God and his provisions. Encourage members to align themselves with what Scripture teaches about generosity—making giving a priority, giving proportionally, giving sacrificially, and giving cheerfully. Focus less on the amount and more on the heart. Then, trust God that He will provide for them and the church.
3. Suggest recurring, online giving.
Recurring giving is the solution needed by several of your church members. Many in your church have already adopted online giving as their preferred mechanism of giving. However, it is likely that most givers have not set up recurring giving. Recurring giving allows a member to set up automatic, scheduled gifts. As an example, a member can have a predetermined amount be deducted from their checking account on the fifteenth of every month.
Certainly, recurring giving benefits the church. The scheduled gifts smooth out giving fluctuations, allowing church leaders to better budget and steward church finances. Recurring giving can also ensure that a person does not forget to give. Unless there is some type of system in place, even the most faithful giver can occasionally forget to give. This can lead to an increase in annual generosity.
However, recurring can truly help the giver. Automatic giving is a tool that can reduce a member’s temptation to use the money for other purposes. They have determined to put God first in their finances and set up a mechanism that ensures it will happen. It is an act of commitment and discipline. As you discuss generosity during inflationary times, encourage automatic, recurring giving to reduce the temptation to withhold or reduce their generosity.
4. Provide financial health classes.
During times of high inflation, your church members are faced with significant financial challenges. When these inevitable challenges arise, they run the risk of either making poor financial decisions or seeking out financial advice from worldly sources where generosity is an afterthought. One leads to financial ruin. The other leads to spiritual ruin.
To combat both options, consider providing financial health classes at the church. These classes can be comprehensive in nature, covering everything from savings to life insurance, or they can focus on a specific topic, like budgeting during inflationary times. The content can be prepackaged by a resource ministry, or the church may have someone who can develop their own content. Whatever approach you decide, you can be confident church members are receiving needed information through a biblical lens.
These are difficult financial times for many in your church. They are watching their expenses significantly increase on almost a monthly basis. They are concerned about their present and future financial situation.
As a church leader, you know the Bible has called you to encourage believers to live generously, even during difficult periods. As you encourage generosity during times of discouraging inflation, acknowledge reality, focus on the heart, suggest recurring giving, and provide financial health classes.
Encourage your church to follow in the footsteps of those biblical heroes who gave when giving wasn’t easy. Encourage them to give, not for the church budget, but for their hearts.