Giving and Generosity (Chapter 9)

One of the five most pressing issues facing small churches identified in a survey of EPC ministers was "resources."  Participants said, in summary, "A large proportion of small church's income is devoted to basic staff and building expenses, leaving little for programs and outreach. This, along with scarce human resources and sometimes a less than adequate meeting place can lead to a survival mentality, stretching the pastor financially, physically, and emotionally."  Callahan says, "There is always a shortage of personnel, inadequate supplies, and hardly ever enough money" (p. 288).  The remarkable thing is that this shortage of personnel, supplies, and money is what you find in a small, strong congregation.

The key is the attitude we have toward our resources.  Are we approaching them with a hording, conserving, survival mentality or with a spirit of generosity? Are we shaping our mission according to our budget or our budget according to our mission?  "Small, strong congregations focus on misson, giving development, and budget--in that order.  Small, dying congregations focus on budget, giving development, and mission, in that order" (pp. 284-285).

This material would have promoted some healthy discussions among the leadership of the small church I pastored.  We did fairly well at annual giving budgeting accordingly.  I can't say that mission drove our budget.  We were in rented facilities, and we didn't do too badly giving over and above toward a building fund, even though there were no blueprints.  I likened it to a family setting aside money for a downpayment on their first home, even though they didn't know exactly when or where they would buy.  As I read Callahan, I wonder if we put a future building too high on our priority list.  The people of the little church were generous, but I wonder how much more we could have been done if mission had driven our budget and we had opened up the other channels of giving.

Add your comments

What has your experience been with Callahan's six doors of giving: spontaneous, major commuity Sundays, special planned offerings, short-term major projects, annual, enduring gifts (p. 276)?

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George Carey on Oct 10, 2008 12:10pm


Our current congregation has been in deficit spending since I arrived five years ago. We were able to spend from a hefty savings account established before the church had a mass exodus of people. The leadership hoped that we would grow numerically and the new people would increase our giving to defeat the deficit. That, however; did not occur. Oh yes, some new families. But their giving did not make up the deficit. With the bank account dwindling each month, the elders promoted a pledge campaign to defeat the deficit. I preached five Sundays on Generosity during this campaign. Lo and behold, we surpassed in pledges for the new budget year what the budget expense is estimated to be.
This gives a definitive boost to our perception of ourselves and promises to be a key ingredient for the strength of our future.

Our mission to be all that we can be in Christ has been considerably enhanced as we have become self-sufficient financially.

Marty Guise on Oct 17, 2008 11:34am

Just out of curiousity, what would happen to churches if people practiced a Biblical tithe ("annual giving")? Would this increase or decrease the need for the other 5 types of giving?

I do like Callahan's recommendation that people switch to mission first in giving. It converts the thought process to a completely different mindset.

As I have worked with churches, I have certainly seen spontaneous giving provide some of the largest offerings. However, call me old-fashioned, but I still see the practice of the tithe as a spiritual discipline as the most ideal course of action.