Scripture passages that shape our church on this topic:
Jesus and the disciples had a fund and made it a regular habit to give to the poor.
Since Judas kept the money- bag, some thought that Jesus was telling him, Buy what we need for the festival, or that he should give something to the poor. (John 13:29).
A key point for the church’s leadership in Jerusalem was to ask Paul and Barnabas to “remember the poor” as they ministered among the Gentiles. It seems from this that churches today each should have an intentional ministry focusing on the poor.
They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I made every effort to do. (Gal. 2:10).
One reason the church collected funds was for the relief of believers who were in the midst of a famine. Relief funds are collected when there is some unusual event like a famine that overwhelms the local community’s ability to care for itself. Churches gave the funds to the church leadership for distribution and trusted them to do the hard work of finding the right places to use the funds.
So each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea. They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:29-30).
Paul actively collected funds from some churches to distribute for the various needs of others.
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do (1 Cor. 16:1).
For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. (Rom. 15:26).
Jesus reminds of categories of the needing in His description of the separation of the sheep and the goats at the final judgment based on actions toward the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and in prison.
For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me (Matt. 25:35-36).
The church should be active in looking after orphans and widows in their distress.
Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (Jam. 1:27).
Church leaders should evaluate the right needs to meet, at times granting the support at other times refusing.
Support widows who are genuinely widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must learn to practice godliness toward their own family first and to repay their parents, for this pleases God… But refuse to enroll younger widows. (1 Tim. 5:3-4; 11).
Realize that many are tempted to give because of the honor that comes from giving, test your hearts though evaluating publicity on giving, whether God’s gets the glory or your church.
But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 6:3-4).
“Getting out of the starting blocks”, steps to getting off the ground this year:
- Promote a special offering for a Sunday in the near future and give all the funds to strategic mission organizations near and far.
- Establish or increase a percentage of the church budget that goes towards missions. Verify that you have a strong team of decision makers that allocate the funds.
- Read Contagious Generosity to help establish a culture of generosity at your church.
What we do:
About ten years after our church started we began to be more active and disciplined in our giving outside of our church’s ministry. We began with the goal of giving ten percent of our offerings to individuals and organizations outside of our church’s local ministry. Then each year we added one percent to our giving. We are increased to giving away nearly twenty percent of our offerings. Oversight for these funds is given by a small number of our church’s elders.
We have discovered some ambiguity in assessing whether a ministry was for our church or for the community. For example, if providing for needy in our community counts as “giving” and eligible for our missions funds, what if the person receiving the funds was from our church? The biggest issue for us is how we regard funding for university student ministry. Many churches and individuals give to student ministry because a college campus is a kind of “mission”. College students tend to be transient and give very little financially to the church. But we love them! If we count our student ministry as “mission” then our church’s mission giving is about a third of our receipts.
At our worship services, we’ve created an “Overflow Giving” moment that in a few minutes each week, highlights a ministry that we regularly donate to. Here is an example of the “Overflow” giving to the local crisis pregnancy center. Normally we also communicate others ways to be involved with the ministry like through volunteering.
Because we try to give generously to various ministries from our general contributions, we do not taken special offerings… except last month! For the first time in nearly twenty years we took a special offering and gave it all away. More information on the “One Day Give Away”:
Key Lessons to Share:
- If your church give to missions through the church budget, work hard to be disciplined to give a percentage to missions rather than an specific amount because it will be to tempting to balance the budget through reducing missions funds. Giving a percentage will help you to be disciplined. If necessary start with a lower percentage of the budget than your goal and increase the percentage each year.
- Finding the right missionaries and organizations to support is not easy. The decision-making team or committee should carefully work out their values before making allocation decisions because it is very difficult to not fund an individual or organization when they are relationally connected to the church or committee member. The committee or team needs to be made up of people who have the courage to make decisions based on the church’s values, see (Guidelines for our church’s funding of mission organizations). If necessary, leave the names off of the requests for funding and evaluate the funding requests based on the church’s criteria. If your church includes a large number of small, token donations for ministries that you really aren’t excited about supporting, then you may need stronger decision makers on your missions leadership team.
- Our church should have the same level of generosity with its funds as it asks it members to give. If a church constantly reduces giving to missions causes because of a “tight budget” they shouldn’t be surprised when church members use the same excuse for not generously giving to their church.
- We highly discourage special offerings and designations. We notice that everyone assumes that the lights work in our building, but we have not discovered that anyone “has a passion for the electric bill” and designates their offering to the utility account. Designations distort a church budget. We continue to remind our church family that our church’s leadership is actively researching the best places to give our funds according to our church’s values and that donors should remember that a percentage of everything they give goes to missions organizations. If they want more funds to go to a particular mission organization, the way to do this is to give more to the general offering.
- We don’t give people time at a worship service to solicit funds from our congregation. If someone would like our church to consider supporting their ministry, we ask them to meet with our missions leadership.
- In investigating an organization we’ve found two ditches to avoid. One is that our criteria for a ministry to receive funds are so tight, that almost no ministry (maybe including our own!) can meet all of our standards. The other ditch is that we should feel compelled to give to anything with the words Africa or orphan in it. We need to be wise in the stewardship of our funds, but also balance that with trust and generosity.
Other Posts on this Topic:
- Help in knowing how to Fund Missionaries, 14 posts, also How much financial support should our church give each missionary?
- Guidelines for our church’s funding of mission organizations
- A peek into our church’s budget allocations for 2013
- Iowa and the World Fund A balanced approach to local and international ministries including balancing church planting with relief and development ministries. We intend on donating ten percent of our general contributions to this fund.
- Advice for those Budgeting for the least of these
- Missions vs. Charity
- Cost-Effective Compassion: The 7 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor
Helpful Books on this Topic:
Lawrence M. Mead was one of the theoretical architects of welfare reform of the 1990’s. This book focuses on identifying the cause of poverty and the cure. From Prophecy to is worth reading for those whose aim is to develop the objectives of organizations and governments seeking that provide services for the poor. It is a short book, 108 pages, and should be regarded as a brief introduction from a public policy perspective to the topic of poverty.
Pastor Tim Keller has combined his experience with mercy ministries New York, his ability to communicate, and sound biblical teaching to produce an essential guide for churches who are developing their ministry to the poor. Keller opens by stating that, “Mercy to the full range of human needs is such an essential mark of being a Christian that it can be used as a test of true faith.” I would recommend this book for any church leader who is developing a ministry of mercy or any believer who has a vision for expanding ministries of mercy in his or her local church.
Since 2007, more people live in cities around the world than in rural areas for the first time in history. This trend is unlikely to change. To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel moves beyond the call to evangelism or even church planting in the cities. The authors describe a whole new measure of church health: the health of the city. This book is worth reading. You’ll find yourself wanting to buy copies and give them to others who have a vision for reaching their whole city or those who know that a healthy church’s ministry should be much more than programs at the church building for its members.
It normally doesn’t occur to good-hearted people that charity can cause harm. For many, the solution to a need is to simply give a gift. The need is eliminated isn’t it? Robert Lupton points out that gifts that are indiscriminately and regularly given erode the recipient’s personal dignity and initiative. A more useful approach is to take the time to understand and address the root causes of the need in community and not just temporarily meet the needs of individuals. If you are involved in any kind of ministry to the needy or are considering getting involved, this book is worth reading.
This book was selected by a group of mission pastors as the one most helpful book to read.
Contagious Generosity has three parts: Church Development, Leadership Development, and Impact. At the end of every chapter is a summarized list of key ideas and a list of discussion questions. I recommend the book to church leaders who know their church is not generous and would like vision and tools for creating a culture of generosity.
Other topics in this series:
- Mobilize and educate the church to serve outside of its walls and lead them in praying for the nations
- Strategically allocate the church’s missions funds
- Select, promote, coordinate, train, lead, and debrief short-term missions trips
- Recruit, select, train, send, and support long-term missionaries from our church
- Create and coordinate evangelism and service projects in our community
- Recruit, develop, and send church planters from my church