An Over-and-Above Giving Strategy
by Rob Ketterling
The odds are already against us. With 80 percent of the U.S. population giving less than 2 percent to charity, giving and generosity aren’t deeply embedded in our national culture.1
The situation in the Church isn’t much better. According to a 2008 Barna Group report, only 5 percent of U.S. church members tithe.2 For the majority of Christians currently giving little or nothing, 10 percent seems like a big commitment. Adding to the difficulty, trends show the next generation doesn’t have strong loyalties to institutions. Younger people give on emotion and feeling, not discipline and loyalty.
So, how do we lead people on the journey to becoming generous, over-and-above givers? The challenge is teaching churchgoers that 10 percent is really a starting point, not the end game.
It All Starts With Tithing
In our church, we ask people to be biblical tithers, and we don’t apologize for it. It is something I had to settle early in ministry. It’s clear that if someone is to be an over-and-above giver, they have to be over and above something, and that something is the tithe.
To show the under 35 generation that tithing is biblical, and not just part of the Law, we investigated what the Bible says. The Scriptures that show tithing predates the Law opened the eyes of many of our younger attenders. In Genesis 14:18–20, Abraham gave a tenth to show that God was his source and that all his success was due to God’s blessing. At the end of his victory — his “big business deal” — Abraham could have thought, I did this. I’m really great. Instead, he gave back to God in humility, with an attitude that said, “God, You did this. You’re really great.” Abraham tithed out of love for God and a desire to acknowledge Him as his source. Jacob followed Abraham’s example. In Genesis 28:22, Jacob declared God as his Lord and began to tithe.
Tithing, then, predates the Law, and it is a matter of the heart. Grace giving in the New Testament is a type of giving that is above the tithe. This teaching strongly impacted the under 35 crowd. When they were convinced that tithing predates the Law and is biblical, they were on their way to becoming over-and-above, generous givers.
With so many churches struggling to lead people to be tithers, asking for over-and-above giving brings your church into unique territory. New Testament giving goes above the Law or anything pre-Law. Grace giving goes even further. Grace giving goes over and above — helping the church build the kingdom of God.
Once people understand tithing, we ask them to become Kingdom Builders. We use this term to help people understand a simple, but powerful point: While we’re here on Earth, we’re here to build the kingdom of God. With over-and-above giving, we can accomplish that mission much faster.
Every year we have a financial goal we would like to receive from the congregation that is over and above the tithe. The plan is laid out and the projects lined up so the congregation can see how the funds will be used. I share that we have eight, 10, or 15 projects lined up, and if they give toward Kingdom building, it’s like giving to a heavenly mutual fund. This seems to connect with the next generation of givers. I share the vision and ask people to pray about how much they want to give. Kingdom Builders view money as a means to advancing the kingdom of God. Giving over and above is successful when people have a plan, vision, and dream.
Have a Plan
Purposeful planning creates an atmosphere of accountability; it is the foundation for a lifestyle of giving. Financial planning companies are dedicated to helping people maximize their resources. The Bible addresses this topic as well. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Deciding ahead of time what you want to give serves as a commitment to God. It is a pledge dedicating you to this purpose and showing that you are serious enough to write it down. I remember early in my ministry when my wife and I first decided to give over and above our tithe. We wrote it down as part of our budget. (I like to think this was all because we wanted to stick to the plan, but I’m sure it had something to do with my wife being a chartered financial analyst as well.) We started with a commitment of $50 a month. For some perspective, our car payment at the time was $150 a month. That may not seem like much, but for us it was the start of something much bigger. This was our start to a lifestyle of giving. It was faith-stretching, but we were committed.
Dedicating a plan to God engages Him on an entirely different level. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit whatever you do to the Lord, and he will establish your plans.” When we start with a plan, God moves to blow past our expectations.
Get a Vision
Starting with a plan is a simple step toward creating a lasting obedience in giving. To test and stretch our faith, however, we should cast a vision for our giving.
The vision number or dollar amount is our ordinary giving partnered with God’s extraordinary generosity. It’s a way to catch God’s attention with a faithful commitment. I often challenge our congregation to think of a vision number that excites them and write it down. Casting vision can be intimidating, so we ask everyone to pray about the number or amount and seek God’s response. For married couples, this may mean praying separately and then coming together to compare notes. God often speaks the same amount to both individuals. (If not, we joke that the bigger amount must be God.)
Give From a Dream
Plans lay the groundwork, vision builds the house, and dreams create the legacy. I remember wondering what our life could look like if giving was our biggest expense. What could our giving be without a mortgage? What if we could give away 90 percent and live on 10 percent? Creating a dream helps us steward our plan and vision. It keeps us in a forward-thinking mode. I remember starting River Valley Church and praying, “God, could someone someday give a gift of $5,000?”
Sure enough, He answered the prayer. Then I added a zero and repeated the same prayer. He answered again. I added another zero, and again God answered my prayer. Each time my faith was stretched. Each time I desired a bigger dream. And each time, my expectations of God were shattered. By the way, I’ve added one more zero, and I’m praying in faith.
People tend to distrust ambiguity. The more unclear things are, the greater chance people won’t join in. This is especially true where money is concerned. People believe in giving, but they are skeptical about where their money goes. We’ve made it clear in our church that the tithe covers the local church, and offerings further the global church. Regardless, people deserve to know what happens after their envelope is dropped in the offering.
It is also important to show the journey and the final destination of every dollar spent. I think there’s wisdom and accountability in transparency, especially when it comes to the church and how money is spent. Our annual church report fully discloses how much we gather and how much we give. We’re not afraid to announce not only where we sent the money (organizations, missions, etc.) but also how much we sent.
Transparency promotes trust, confidence, generosity, and a stronger passion for giving. If we can break down the walls of distrust, we can strengthen the walls of the storehouse. It is far better to build on transparency and accountability over ambiguity and speculation. This builds trust across all generations.
The Next Generation
People under 25 are the least likely to give, according to the 2008 Barna study. I have a son in college and understand how his giving anything can sometimes seem impossible. At his age, ordering pizza seems like a luxury. But gaining dominion over consumerism is easier than it seems.
People naturally make comparisons when talking about money. When we set a Kingdom Builders goal that seems astronomical to college students, it’s easy for them to feel lost, overwhelmed, and meaningless. Yet, Jesus isn’t concerned about the amount. He considers the heart and the sacrifice. We see this with the widow with her two coins (Mark 12:41–44) and Mary with the expensive perfume (John 12:1–7).
I encourage the younger generation to give in the same way I advise others: Have a plan, write down the vision, and hold on to the dream. But the key difference is asking them to create a vision that is tied to a percentage. Could you give away1 percent, 5 percent, or 15 percent of your paycheck? Even if you’re making $100 a week, percentage giving establishes the key principles of giving. It is much easier to learn to tithe on $100 a week now versus learning to tithe on $100,000 in adulthood.
Regardless of age, cause, or source, we want people to give following a model that is built on a plan, a vision, and a dream for over-and-above giving. This kind of model sets people up for a lifestyle of long-term, healthy giving.
Celebrate your goals along the way, and don’t be afraid to cast a large vision. I would rather depend on God for something incredible than make something mediocre happen in my own strength.
Let’s get out there and use what God has blessed us with to reach more people.