Preaching that Grows the Giving in Your Church
Seven preaching recommendations to help your church see stewardship as an adventure
by Kregg R. Hood
Preaching and teaching on financial stewardship is a key part of church leadership. Each week we want to see every financial need met, experience the excitement of growing ministries, and press forward with a godly vision.
Obviously, this requires a church-wide commitment to generosity. However, all too often, our lofty goals for stewardship are reinterpreted as, “The church is just after my money.”
My first encounter with such negative attitudes happened early in my preaching ministry. I was only a couple of months into my first pastorate when one of our wealthiest members told me, “Let me tell you my view about giving to the church. It’s like putting money down a black hole. The more you give, the more they want.”
As you can imagine, I felt a bit intimidated by this flippant comment from a man who was also a deacon in our church.
Thankfully, the Lord helped me get through this exchange and led me on a fascinating journey about stewardship teaching. During the next 10 years, I actually began to enjoy teaching on stewardship, giving, tithing, getting out of credit card debt, and biblical principles of money management. Then, in 1995, a Christian publishing company asked me to write a book on tithing. Candidly, I was thrilled, humbled, and nervous to take on this assignment, but by God’s grace, the project became my first book, Take God at His Word. Over the last 20 years, this little book and the preaching program that goes with it has helped more than 4,000 churches develop a positive, practical approach to stewardship.
I now have a passion to help preachers enjoy speaking on this great biblical topic — and get results, too! Allow me to share my favorite recommendations.
Preach the Positives
John Maxwell is one of my favorite stewardship mentors. While attending his stewardship conference, I heard him say, “You don’t give to get. You give to get to give again.”
When I heard that, another light came on. God wants to use us as channels of blessing!
Another time, while preaching an expository series through 2 Corinthians, I came to 2 Corinthians 9:7, and this well-known truth hit me in a fresh, new way: “God loves a cheerful giver.”
Here, the word translated “cheerful” in the Greek New Testament is hilaros, from which we get our English word “hilarious.” Imagine that! God loves “hilarious givers.” This truth energized me. I immersed myself in this entire section of Scripture as if I had never read it before. Even though it was not my first giving sermon, it was my first giving sermon to generate many genuinely enthusiastic comments afterwards. One of the church elders, who was also a fundraiser for a Christian ministry, said it was the best sermon on giving he had ever heard. That amazed me.
Another person said, “That didn’t even feel like a giving sermon!”
I said, “Thank you … I think,” and laughed.
I had finally realized that since giving should feel good — “cheerful” — my preaching on giving should feel good, too.
Preach an Annual Series on Stewardship
I learned this from John Maxwell, too. He has taught that preaching a four-week yearly stewardship series was the most important step he took to grow the giving levels in the churches he pastored.
Maxwell always preached his stewardship series in January, and I certainly like that time frame. Over the years, however, I have found that it really does not matter when you preach on stewardship as long as you make it a four-week straight preaching focus and preach with a positive, practical emphasis. I have seen giving go up significantly during the summer when the motive for the focus was spiritual growth.
Just pick four weeks in a row to preach on giving from a positive perspective. It is that simple. Your series works best when the first sermon is on some aspect of how giving is a blessing, how it helps people grow their faith, how they will learn to see God’s hand in their lives, and so forth. In other words, have some fun with this first sermon. If you are enjoying the topic, most other people will, too. Make giving an invitation to blessing (Acts 20:35), and resist the temptation to fuss at your listeners. In short, encourage them, and do not berate them. Your positive, gracious attitude will go a long way toward disarming critics and opening up many more people to letting go of their financial fears, trusting God, and giving.
Share Your Vision for the Power of Tithing
Next, make your second sermon in the series a message on tithing. As you preach on tithing, do not scold people for not tithing. I know it is tempting to put on the pressure here. Instead, speak from your heart, from Scripture, and from personal experience about why you and your spouse tithe. I cannot recommend this strongly enough.
No one can criticize your testimony. As you speak lovingly about why you are personally committed to tithing on the first-fruits of your salary, something very interesting will happen. You will not only be their preacher, you will also be their example. People who have always resisted tithing will stretch in their faith and their giving, too.
Typically, the third sermon should deal with practical issues related to giving. You might speak on 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 and the practicalities of the weekly offering, or on the importance of accomplishing current and new ministry initiatives. You might also speak on the unity that comes to a church when everyone gives to do the Lord’s work. Giving is ministry. If you are looking for new ideas, I have sample sermons available at kregghood.com/premium-resources. Again, my main advice is to stay positive, practical, and biblical.
Include Other Stewardship Topics
When you get to the fourth sermon, here is a great change of pace. Did you know there are only four things you can do with money? You can make it, spend it, save it, or give it. Amazingly, the Bible addresses all four topics. So consider making the fourth sermon in your stewardship series a practical money management message, like budgeting or getting out of credit card debt. When you help people learn biblical principles for money management, you not only help them with a very practical need, you earn the right to talk to them about tithing, too.
Another related topic for week four is the stewardship of life. Point out that we are all managing other God-given resources besides money. We should carefully manage time, relationships, and other abilities, skills, and gifts for ministry. Once people see the big picture, it expands the amount of time they willingly give to ministry just as they are learning to increase their financial giving.
God Is the Source of All Blessings
Christians must reject the false conclusion that the source of their income is their bank accounts, abilities, or intellects. Deuteronomy 8:17,18 clearly says that God is the One who gives people the ability to make wealth. This means money, ability, and intellect are not the sources of our income. They are simply the means by which God, the Source, provides blessing. God provides for our needs according to the riches of Christ. He uses the material resources of our world as the delivery system to care for His children. To experience His abundance, we must first see Him as the Source of every blessing.
Once we see God as our Source, we can receive a new definition of the word “rich.” In fact, this understanding liberates us to see that we may all be “rich” when we reflect on what Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth. In 2 Corinthians, Paul provides a different picture of what it means to be rich (or enriched): “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10,11).
In God’s kingdom, there is a correlation between true riches and generosity. Most people think they are rich if they make a lot of money. No, being truly rich has nothing to do with the amount in our checking accounts. We are rich as soon as God gives us enough to take care of our needs and have extra to share. This insight helps me see how blessed I am when I drive a car, take a hot shower, or eat at a restaurant. I am rich because these are all signs that I have more than I need to live on. With this perspective, we always have something to give back to God by sharing with others through the ministry of the local church. This passage also identifies one of God’s many promises: If we give to Him, He will enlarge our financial capacity to be more generous in the future, too.
I know another successful Christian businessman who has counseled scores of couples over the years who were in deep financial difficulty. When they came to him for advice about solving their money problems, he agreed to help if they would decide to give 10 cents of every dollar they made to the Lord. This person told me that every couple that followed through not only got their financial house in order but they also had the opportunity to do good for God. That’s a tremendous track record!
Luke 6:38 says: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Now I want to say up front that I am opposed to the many extremes in “prosperity teaching.” Nevertheless, the Bible does teach that God rewards our faith (Hebrews 11:5,6). That includes obedient giving.
Jesus says to tap into God’s economy. The Lord is a generous provider. Teach people not to be afraid to give. For years I thought it was materialistic to think God would bless me financially when I gave money to do His work. In reality though, the materialistic view is thinking that my own ingenuity is the only source of my ability to make money. A spiritual person obeys and trusts God to release good blessings and provide all the resources of life. The unspiritual person believes human effort is the source of material wealth.
Emphasize “Sowing and Reaping”
Galatians 6:7 and 2 Corinthians 9:6 allow you to show the cause and effect relationship between what someone gives and what they receive in return. The principle holds true whether you are talking about finances, friendship, or faith.
If people want God to bless them, they should do something that is a blessing in that area of their need or desire. God will oversee the experience. It is safe to teach people to be bold in this area of faith because God will watch over the results of our sowing and bring about His will. He does not guarantee this principle to create selfishness but to create faith and partnership with His purposes.
Be Patient: Growing Faith Takes Time
One of my preacher friends who grew up on a farm gave me this little three-point outline: (1) You reap what you sow; (2) you reap more than you sow; and (3) you reap after you sow. When we see this Scripture as insight into the ways God works, we know giving is not an expense — it’s an opportunity!
Another time, during a capital stewardship campaign in which our church was trying to raise several million dollars for a building expansion, one of our truly generous givers shared this with the entire church: “Don’t pray and see how much God wants you to give. Instead, pray and see how much God wants to give through you. That number will be the amount you should commit to give.”
That definitely stretched some people, but it was the good kind of stretching. When we challenge people in a healthy way to trust God, we can help them discover some of the best spiritual feelings they can imagine.
God wants every one of our uses of money to lead us to trust Him. Let Him use you to encourage generous giving, smart spending, and wise investing. Help people escape from the bondage of credit card debt, too. Most of all, guide them to see stewardship as an adventure with Him, not a burden to endure or dodge. As we help people grow in all areas of their stewardship, we will help them grow in their faith. God will use this kind of faith to change the world!