5 Next Steps in a Life of Generosity
These stages focus on behaviors and attitudes of our hearts, rather than on amounts or percentages. Each step represents growth in a lifestyle of generosity and sacriﬁce that transforms us into being like Jesus, who was generous with His life.
An Initial Giver is someone who decides to give for the first time, out of a response to God’s Word about giving. This is someone who decides to give something and trust God and the leaders of the Church with this gift.
A Consistent Giver is someone who commits to give something on a regular basis. Consistent Givers start to think of their giving in the same way they think about other budget expenses that are always paid, regardless of seasons of plenty or want. They often set up an online recurring gift to help.
Intentional Givers think about giving in relation to other things they spend their money on—“Why do I give the cable company or my cell provider more money than I give to God?” They consider a percentage or amount they want to commit to in order to consciously grow in their generosity. Intentional Givers look at their budget and consider how their giving reﬂects their view of God and commitment to His work. This may also be the point when someone begins to tithe, which is being intentional about a certain amount or percentage that they want to give to God.
A Surrendered Giver is someone who recognizes the cost Christ paid on the cross for us and is surrendered to honoring God with 100% of their resources as a result. A Surrendered Giver gives in a way that changes them. Their giving governs their spending/ saving rather than their spending/saving governing their giving. A Surrendered Giver isn’t concerned with what they ARE giving but more concerned with what they’re NOT giving and why. They seek to honor God with 100% of what He has given them, whether direct monetary giving or a God-honoring use of an existing resource like a home or a vehicle.
A Lifetime Giver is someone who thinks about the long-term effects of generosity rather than month-to-month generosity or even year- to-year. A Lifetime Giver makes decisions in the short term which have longer term effects as it relates to their generosity capacity. They think of what home they buy, what car they purchase, how much savings they choose to keep, all in relation to their generosity capacity. A Lifetime Giver might be someone who has a lifetime giving goal which governs their larger-ticket decisions. Much like a Surrendered Giver makes a commitment that will govern his/her monthly and annual decisions, a Lifetime Giver makes a lifetime or longer-term giving commitment that governs his/her larger-item purchases like homes, cars, investments, and the like.
Creative Ways to Give More Generously
Generosity Initiatives rely on church members, attenders and friends making gifts expand and accelerate their current level of giving. The best path to increased giving is the spiritual path, where you set your heart on things above. Financial priorities then take shape from the spiritual priorities.
One way of defining this is “Lifestyle Stewardship”, a term used to describe a level of giving that affects one’s living. The challenge of Lifestyle Stewardship is to find ways, boldly and prayerfully, to let our giving touch your living!
King David declared, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24 NIV) David understood the gift that would touch the heart of God must first touch the heart of the giver! This is the spirit of Lifestyle Stewardship: If it is for my God, my gift must have value and meaning to me.
Often, Lifestyle Giving means giving up something in one area so that you can give more of yourself in another. The three keys to effectiveness in Lifestyle Stewardship are:
Many believers have been amazed at their ability to give more generously to their church. The following seven steps are offered to help you in this regard.
1 - Practice priority budgeting
Many families will choose to rearrange their priorities and give up something in their current budget in order to give more to a generosity initiative. Priority budgeting may mean postponing a planned expenditure such as a new car, vacation, home remodeling or other major purchase. Many Christians giving to capital stewardship campaigns find a way to give through sacrificial commitments made in faith and coupled with priority budgeting.
2 - Redirect present expenditures
Often, families have significant short-term expenditures for special needs. One example is the large expenditure a family incurs for a child to attend college. A family realized that their daughters would be graduating from college during the two years of the generosity initiative and, as a result, they were able to increase their commitment to the second year of the campaign by thousands of dollars by giving what they had been spending on their daughters’ tuition. Another example would be the cash flow that is freed up when a loan is paid.
3 - Increased giving with Increased income
Some people receive periodic increases in salary or bonuses from their employers. The temptation for many of us is to increase our lifestyle to fit the higher income. In many instances, families have decided that they will commit the full amount of salary increases.
4 - Give from your excess
A young man decided that two collectors’ baseball cards worth over $20,000 he had been holding for a number of years would be the most appropriate means of touching sacrifice for his family. Some families save money over a period of years for a special project. A couple had saved $80,000 to build a lake cabin. When their church entered a generosity initiative, they decided the needs of the church were greater than their need for a second home.
5 - Commit unexpected cash
Often, people pray for God to show them a way they can give beyond what they can presently see or afford. Sometimes, the answers come unexpectedly. A couple had been praying for weeks about their commitment to the church generosity initiative. Much to their surprise, they received an inheritance of several thousand dollars. They gave the entire amount to their church as part of their two-year commitment, in addition to a commitment from their regular income.
6 - Sacrifice your extra time
Some family members have extra time they would be willing to use in a part-time job to be able to give more to the church. This is particularly true for families whose children are grown and away from home and for semi-retired or retired couples. A man was in the process of retiring when his church entered a campaign. He and his wife secured new jobs and gave the first two years of their retirement income to the generosity initiative.
7 - Donate appreciated assets (stored resources)
Many people own stocks that are worth significantly more than the original purchase price. That is good news. The bad news is that if these stocks are sold, a significant portion of the gain would be lost to taxation.
Gifts of Appreciated Assets
Gifts of appreciated assets – typically investment securities or real estate – can be very advantageous to both the donor and to the church. By transferring ownership of the asset to the church, the donor avoids capital gains taxes on the sale of the asset. In addition, the donor receives an income tax charitable deduction for the full market value of the asset. That, in effect, makes these gifts less costly to make.
- Assumes 12-month holding period, 15% capital gains tax, 6% state income tax rate.
Though it is important to invest your giving to further the mission of the ministry God has laid on your heart, it is also important to consider the tax implications of making a gift to the church. Before making a commitment of this type, please consult your CPA, tax attorney or other financial advisor.
A Final Word
Giving does not have to be in equal increments over the two-year period of the campaign. You might be able to give more in the second year than in the first. As you think about your financial commitment to the campaign, think not just of your potential to give right now, but also of your potential to give in the future. It might be that you can make a two-year commitment in which 35-40 percent is given in the first year, and 60-65% is given in the second year.
Finally, as you consider your financial commitment to the Lord’s work, you might want to consider estate planning. Many sincere, committed Christian people have not made provision for God in their wills and estate planning. Now might be a good time to do that. It might be as simple as including a provision in your will that 10 percent of the value of your estate will be donated to the church holding your letter of membership at the time of your passing. Or, it could involve a planned gift such as a charitable remainder trust. While such gifts do not provide immediate financial benefit to a generosity initiative, they are marvelous gifts of faith commitment to carry on the work of the church for future generations.