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7 traits of churches with increasing per-member giving

| by Thom Rainer

One of the key metrics of financial giving in a church is per-member donations. The important question for congregations to consider is—what is the average giving by each member (or attendee)? Since overall weekly giving is often masked by fluctuations in attendance and membership, the most effective measure is to calculate average giving per member.

Churches with increased giving per member have seven dominant characteristics. These seven traits are becoming even more important as Millennials enter in our churches in greater numbers. Wise pastors and church leaders will pay attention to these trends. Relying on past appeals, including church loyalty or dedication to missions, won’t necessarily stimulate generous giving.

Giving options

Research shows churches seeing increased giving follow these seven practices:

1. Placing increased emphasis on belonging to a group.Those members who are part of a group—such as a cell group or Sunday school class—give as much as six times more than those who only attend worship services. Take time to absorb the previous sentence. It’s a huge issue!

2. Offering multiple giving venues.Per-member giving increases when churches offer more giving options. I recommend all churches provide these four venues at a minimum: 1) offertory giving during worship services, 2) online giving, 3) mailing offering envelopes to all members and givers, 4) automatic deductions from members’ bank accounts. I also recommend churches strongly consider kiosk giving and offertories in groups.

3. Setting meaningful and motivating goals.Church members give more if they see the church has a goal that will make a meaningful difference. “Increasing total gifts by 10 percent” is not a meaningful goal. “Giving 10 percent more to advance the gospel in the 37201 zip code” (which happens to be one of downtown Nashville’s) is more meaningful.

4. Explaining biblical giving in the new members’ class.New member classes should be an entry point for delivering information on and expectations of biblical church membership. Biblical giving should be a clear and unapologetic expectation of giving by church members. While that almost sounds obvious, too many members give little because they don’t get enough instruction in its biblical basis.

5. Willingness of leadership to talk about money.In the 1980s and ‘90s, some pundits did surveys of unchurched persons that indicated they did not go to church because “all they talk about is money.” As a consequence, many church leaders stopped talking about money altogether. While it is possible to communicate about giving in an overbearing manner, it is inexcusable for church leaders to be silent about the need for financial stewardship by Christians.

6. Meaningful financial reporting.Many churches provide financial reporting that only a CPA or a CFO can understand. Church members need to be able to understand clearly how funds are given or spent. Offer a breakdown that the average lay member can comprehend.

7. Transparent financial reporting.If church members sense that pertinent financial information is being withheld from them, they tend to give less or nothing at all. While that does not mean every financial statement should provide endless details, it does indicate that church members will have a clear idea of how funds are given and spent. That is simply good stewardship.

Optimistic outlook

When it comes to the topic of church giving, there are reasons for optimism. Many churches are experiencing increases in both total giving as well as per-member giving. And most of those churches exhibit the seven characteristics noted above.

What is your experience in church giving? What has worked? What hasn’t? Let me hear from you.


Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.

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