If you are going to grow a church significantly one of the skills you are going to need is to learn how to create and shape the culture of your organization. When we speak about culture, we are referring to an organization’s “values, beliefs, and behaviors. In general, it is concerned with beliefs and values on the basis of which people interpret experiences and behave, individually and in groups.” (HT) Building and shaping an organizations culture is not something that happens overnight, it takes time, relentless focus, consistent practices and inspirational leadership.
So how does one build a culture of generosity?
1. Pray for It!
Generosity is a spiritual issue. It is natural to hold on to things! It is supernatural to give away things. Generosity is a matter of the heart. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Church cites the true motivation for the overwhelming generosity of the believers in Macedonia, “And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will” (II Corinthians 8:5). When the Lord truly has our hearts, then he has our possessions. Asking our generous God to reign in the hearts of our people is the first act a leader needs to take in building a culture of generosity.
2. Model It!
Leaders set the pace of an organization. One of the nine prayers of a missional leader is “Father pour out a generous spirit in my life.” Generosity is a fruit of the spirit. Paul lists kindness as one of the by-products of being in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Like the word love (agape), kindness (chrestotes) is closely related to hesed in the Old Testament, which stands for God’s covenant love. Commenting on hesed, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says, “loving-kindness — is not far from the fullness of the meaning of the word.” (HT) So loving-kindness is the practical out workings of love in our lives. Thus we have the biblical definition of generosity. As a leader am I generous with my time, my words and my resources and how is my family, leaders and church witnessing that in my life? Generous living leads to generous giving.
3. Teach It!
Teaching generosity principles is critical to the spiritual formation of an individual and for a church, yet we shy away from teaching these financial principles. Brian Kluth writes, “We need to teach people to be faithful givers, not because the budget says so, but because the Bible says so. Our focus needs to be to teach people to be faithful givers to God, not to the church budget. Our goal is that our people please God, not the church finance committee. Church budgets are spending plans, not the giving goal. It is the Scriptures (all 2,350 verses on finances, generosity, and material possessions) that will help people become faithful stewards and givers.” (HT) I would add to this that we help them to be better lovers of God and followers of Jesus. Over 20 years ago, I did my first series on giving. I was afraid, timid and concerned that everyone was going to leave my church because I said that dreaded word in church: MONEY! The surprising thing was that many people began to experience the liberating joy of knowing Jesus. When I go back to my first church, many people comment on that sermon series and the impact it had on their lives.
4. Reinforce It!
Learning to say thank-you well is one of the ways for reinforcing position behavior. Expressing thanks is not optional for believers. Paul’s letters are filled with gratitude on many levels, even for financial support (Philippians 4:14-18). Your people deserve to have their generosity acknowledged for several reasons:
To know that you received their gift, especially for first time givers.
To know how their gift is being used, this is a vision casting opportunity.
To reinforce your relationship with them.
And finally, to reinforce the work of God in their lives. Generosity is a by-product of the work of God in people’s hearts.
5. Celebrate It!
Vince Lombardi once said, “Teams do not go physically flat, they go mentally stale.” Celebrations have a great way of keeping churches and organizations mentally alert. In Encouraging the Heart, James Kouzes & Barry Posner write, “Celebrations—public statements by their very nature—give expression to and reinforce commitment to key values. They visibly demonstrate that the organization is serious about adhering to its principles. So it is important to be clear about the statements you’re making. What are you reinforcing? What are you saying is significant about this moment? Parties are fine, but celebrations are more than parties. They’re ceremonies and rituals that create meaning. When planning a celebration, every leader should ask, ‘What meaning am I trying to create?’ Public ceremonies crystallize personal commitments, binding people together and letting them know they’re not alone.”
Someone once said, “You are what you celebrate!”
How often do you pray for a spirit of generosity to fall upon the hearts of your people?
How are you and your leaders becoming models of generosity?
How is generosity being taught throughout the church? In public worship services, affinity gatherings, small groups and one-on-one mentoring?
How are you specifically reinforcing vision, generosity principles and the generous acts of individuals with in your church?
How strategic are you in planning and creating the celebration of generosity within your church?