This week on The Ministry Growth Show Jon Bennett from Generis joins us as we discuss generosity in the Church. Jon shares his insights on creating a culture of generosity. What would it look like if the Church was more generous?
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Welcome back to the ministry Growth show Today on the show. I'm going to be talking with Jon Benet. He is the senior consultant at generous john. Thanks for being on the show. Yeah, thanks for having me, Zach, appreciate you taking some time out to talk.
Yeah, of course. I'm excited to talk about generosity with you. So, um, can you tell us a little bit about generous and and maybe some of your past experience that helped you arrive where you are today with the company? Yeah, yeah.
The long and short of how I ended up here actually happened kind of in my encounter in college, I was probably a christian in college, but I wasn't, I wasn't very good follower, if you know what I mean, I was probably a believer, but I wasn't very good follower and Had a radical encounter with Jesus is the only thing I could describe it as this is back in 1983 and things just turned on a dime, you know, I started attending every Bible study, I could find every church service, I could find, I start talking everybody I knew about Jesus and probably in an obnoxious way to be put.
Uh but yeah, things just really began to go in a new direction for me, so much. So at the end of my senior year, I really began to feel like I was calling me to the ministry and I had no idea what that meant.
I was the last thing on my radar when I went to college to begin with. Anyway. So I went to my campus supervisor at the time who was the head of our campus ministry and I'm like, hey dude, I feel called to do this, you know? But how do you do the fundraising thing? I'm like terrified of that, You know, what does that mean? He's like, oh, he said, this is that's the easy part.
There's only three things you gotta know about fundraising. Number one, Find some people love you number to ask them for money and number three may the force be with you. I mean, that was it, you know? So here I am in 1985 you know, my parents had just paid for my college education.
I'm not going to get a real job in the real world. I'm going to be a campus minister and raise money and I can't, I'm not very good at it for obvious reasons. And so for the 1st 18 months of my experience on the college campus as a minister, I was miserable.
I mean, I love the ministry part and reaching college students, but I just hated the financial pressure I was continually under until about I like I said, a year and a half, maybe two years into it. I was invited to a training down in Dallas texas with about 100 or so campus ministers, just like me and for three days we went through a training and how to really develop your own personal support team.
And all I can say is that because I felt like I got born again again, I mean it was like a transformation, you know, same guy, same call, all that same gifting, go through three days of training, I come out the other side six months later I'm fully funded, I've got, you know, all the, all the resources I need.
I'm engaged to the girl of my dreams because she was not gonna, you know, marry me in my current financial state and uh you know, life was good and so fast forward and then 20 years later, after 20 years of pastoral work, you know, at college campuses for 10 years, local churches for 10 years, I really just had an epiphany in 2005, I just figured out, you know, I'm a better coach than a player, you know? And so I took off and started into this work that I'm doing now for the past 15 years of coaching, consulting and training ministries Right now with generis.
Uh, I've been with them about 2.5 years now, generics is a fantastic organization for around about 30 years. It's not the largest consulting firm when it comes to churches and nonprofits around the nation, Uh, in terms of faith based.
And so partner with those guys as I spend about 90% of my time working with churches and helping them through developing a culture of generosity. So that's the, that's the quick version, bro, that's really great.
So once you went through that training, you kind of hit the ground running and were fully funded pretty quickly after that. That's exactly right. It took a little while to get ramped up. But what happened really is that they gave me the tools and resources that were necessary to be successful.
Up to that point again, it was 100% organic, get some people who love me. And then, as I tell the story, it took me about two weeks to figure out nobody love me anymore, because nobody was connecting with me to give me some financial support.
And so once I figured out the process and once I was trained and coach and then had the tools and resources, Yeah, I mean, I think probably we raised, you know, probably 1 to 1.5 million in the 1st 10 years from the campus ministry standpoint and then got into local churches.
But even in the local church, when I was on staff and you have a salary, so to speak, I still was very involved in the fundraising aspect from, you know, both mission projects to uh, you know, uh younger generation kind of youth outreach kind of kind of things.
We would do that type of thing. So those principles have kind of stuck with me for this for this whole time. How have you seen over the last year? Covid affect generosity with some of your clients? Yeah, go Covid has just been, uh, as we all know the game changer, 35 years of doing this, never seen a year like this.
But I gotta tell that there was a couple of things that really surprised me. 11 thing was not so much of a surprise and that would probably be with my ministry clients, my faith based nonprofit clients.
Obviously they couldn't do the, you know, the spring events, the golf tournament gala, the different fundraising events they normally. And then we got to the fall and all said, you couldn't do those events again or if you did them, you probably had to do them virtually.
And so what I began to really wrestle through with my nonprofit clients was listen, we have got to change the game completely, we've got to do a 1 80 here and we've got to really think outside the box about how we're going to continue to reach supporters and for them.
And for the most part it's been a tough year based on the fact they couldn't do events. And then secondly, it's been very hard to cultivate new relationships. And I think that's because of the thing that surprised me and this is the other side of the coin here with my church clients.
Immediately in March, we went into 911 crisis mode. Right? So a lot of churches weren't even online, so we had to help them, you know, coach them through how to get online. Uh, A lot of them didn't even have digital giving platforms set up or that if they did, it wasn't very wasn't a very good one.
So I had to work through that through March and april and even into May a little bit, But we got them online and then we'll begin to happen really begin to surprise all of us engineers, like I said, there's probably about 45 of us that are consultants there and we're gonna have these team calls.
And I heard story after story after story of giving Is up. Giving is staying really stable within the church context. And now, you know, several months later, every time we're doing this now is December of 2020.
Um, what are we going to realize is that people who are very committed to a particular organization, whether church or ministry stayed very committed to that church or organization. And in some cases accelerated.
They're giving, they really wanted to make sure that those causes they love were fully funded and they began to really get behind it. And so what I found is that there's really one of three categories, churches fell into number one.
They're just not doing very well. Givings down even even though expenses are down, they're just really hurting. But that seems to be the minority of class that we're working with the second category, our clients that are maybe giving down a little bit, but expenses are down.
So they're, you know, they're, they're about even. But the third category is what really surprised me and most of my clients are in this giving is actually a little bit up or way up and expenses are down.
And so they're having a great year. And so it just kind of surprised me. Like I mentioned at the beginning of my answer here is that people this really showed their hearts generous, people really showed their generous hearts through this covid season, really stay committed to these causes and charities and churches that they were concerned about.
Were you guys able to see any, um, consistencies with the organizations or the churches that giving was up and expenses were down where they were just having a really great year. Um, yeah, absolutely.
There was definitely some of my clients are in that category right now. Talk about one maybe a little bit later, uh, in the show, but one that is in a very rural area. Um, and uh, it was a conversation with them.
We've been, uh, working with them for shoot the past two years. And like I said, rural area have one major manufacturer in their particular town. And if that company of that factory shut down, it would literally ruin the entire town where the factory stayed open, good things are happening there.
They're giving is up there, giving a strong and uh, yeah, so it just kind of shows that even in the middle of a tough place, uh, this is an upstate new york rural area that giving us up and expenses of course are down.
So they're actually doing really well. That's exciting to hear. Um can you talk about some of the trends you see in generosity in the church and, and maybe share why you feel you think the church struggles to give beyond that? Some of those stats say around that 2 2.
5% mark, what is and this is like pre covid stats to, right? So, what, what are some of those trends that you see and why is the church struggled in that area so much? Yeah, I would say, first of all, and I'm sure you probably agree that it kind of uh, it kind of breaks your heart, to be honest with you.
That, you know, giving is hovering around 2%. If you talk about all charitable giving in the US. I think the past giving us a report said it's at 1.9% of GDP uh, in the church, you're exactly right. It's somewhere between two and 3%.
So it's a little bit of a heartbreaking or really concerning type of issue to people like you and I, who are really trying to fan the flame for organizations out there to help them be fully funded. But I think, you know, if you're really going to try to address the question number one, you know, the giving is a hard issue.
It's really not a cash flow issue, you know, it's not really about money, it's a lot more about the heart. I mean I think it was martin Luther who said there's uh there's three different conversions, the heart, the head and the pocketbook, right? So it really has to do with are you going to come under this uh surrendered type of lifestyle to say you know what God, you're going to have all of me, including my money.
Which is ironic because jesus talked more about money than he did Faith. Prayer, Hope combined. In fact, I think if I got my research right 16 out of 38 of Jesus parables are about stewardship resources and money.
So jesus obviously understood this is a really important topic. And so the first thing I think we've got to address, it's it's a transformation issue. It really has to be dealt with at the human heart level.
I think the second thing, the second reason why it's it's kind of hovering low is it's either a lack of vision or a lack of communicating division really well, I think those two things really come into play, especially at church context.
A lot of times ministries will do that a lot better, but sometimes the church, this will assume or presume way too much, they'll presume that people are showing up or they're saying amen, they make clap once in a while, that means they really get the vision.
And the fact is they don't they don't understand how to connect the dots between being generous and how that's really affecting life change. And so I think it's super important that we learn how to communicate the vision well.
So they understand to connect the dots between their generosity and somebody's life really being changed. And I think the third reason for me is I really thought about this question is that, you know, my own story.
I mean, I heard the gospel for the first time when I was nine years old in a presbyterian church, in a building I didn't pay for, and then a year or so later at a christian camp, I heard the Gospel again and gave my life to jesus in a camp that I never supported.
And then when I was in college, as I mentioned at the beginning of the broadcast, you know, I had an encounter with a campus missionary who really challenged me and I never supported that campus ministry.
So in other words, I received the Gospel for free, but that doesn't mean the Gospel preaching the Gospel is free at all. You know, it takes a lot of money to do that. And I think in some ways, all of us who have really received the Grace of God need to understand that we need to pay it forward now.
You know, we need to build platforms that the Gospel can continue to be preached. And so that needs to be a sense of urgency around the mission that, you know, I've received this freely, but I also need to have a sense of responsibility to pay it forward and back to that, that second point that you made around vision, the end purpose and goals pretty much the same for all churches, right? The the Gospel.
But, um, there's, there's different visions and missions within different contexts of local bodies of churches and believers, right? Uh, so being able to communicate that clearly to your congregation so that they know, hey, here's the direction we're going within our local area.
That's, that can be significant when you, when you start talking about, uh, requesting support and investment on that vision, that's exactly right. And so yeah, there's a huge difference between a church right now that is lacking mission and those who are very mission all in fact, one of the things I think that may come out of Covid and I don't know if I'm a prophet here are now, but one of the things I think will come out, Zach is that churches and organizations that are really mission.
I mean incarnation emission ally, mean they've really got it in their bones. They talk about vision, they talk about mission, they live it. I think those organizations and mission and uh, ministries and churches are really going to begin to prosper.
And I think it goes back to what we just talked about, what you just mentioned a moment ago. It's the ability to communicate that vision in such a way. It gets some of the bones of the people where they realize, you know, whether I get my time, whether I get my energy, whether I get my resources away, it's all for a cause, it's a lot bigger than they.
So what are some of the things that we can do to increase generosity within the church generics? Are you guys international working primarily in the Western Church context? Western Western context? Yeah, primarily in the U.
S. And Canada. But we do have some international clients as well. Things do begin to break down other context. As, you know, It's a little bit tougher in other situations, but I'd say probably 95% of our work is in the US.
and Canada. But we do have some international clients. And so that's been kind of fun to uh to handle, you know, attack that challenge. But increasing generosity overall, which is a really great topic to talk about.
First of all, I just say, you know, we just need to talk more about money. You know, I think a lot of ways the church got a little bit freaked out ministries got a little bit freaked out because of some stuff that went out in the 80's about you know different versions of the Gospel talking about, you know, it'll make you rich and so on.
And I think people really kind of almost swung the pendulum too far to the other side. So we're not going to talk about it at all. But the reality is that every one of us is talking about money almost daily at home, right? I mean we're having a money conversation, we're talking about the Bills were talking about the business, we're talking about the kids.
And so when you get to the church, we've got to be able to have that conversation in a more real way. And I think when you really talk about what that means to have more of a money conversation at church, really, what you're talking about is creating a culture of generosity.
Because words create worlds, language determines culture. So the more we created culture within the organization, within the church, it says it's better to be generous or God is generous. Therefore, I want to reflect, reflect who he really is.
And I think that's uh, the goal there to develop a kind of culture of generosity. So one passer is one of our clients on the phoenix area. He's adopted this phrase that actually a lot of churches around the US have.
And it's simply this, it's give first save second and live on the rest. Give for safe. Second, live on the rest. And it's a mantra that almost weekly 52 Sundays a year, they get up and they'll say some version of that so much so that it's really beginning to be ingrained into the culture of the, of the church.
So they understand that giving first really honors God because it's prioritizing him saving Second is really about building wealth or paying for your future self and living on the rest is really about teaching contentment.
And so there's this principles underneath that, that people are beginning to understand it. Yeah, you know what? When I get paid, I'm going to give first, I'm going to save second and I'm gonna live on the rest because these things biblically are going to make me healthier person as you become a more generous person.
So I like that because I think those words start creating worlds, start creating culture within the church to help it become uh just just, just more generous overall. So if I could get Uber practical for a minute, I'd say number one of your pastor listening right now, I would inspire weekly, remember you have 52 opportunities every every year to inspire people to be more generous.
So inspire weekly preach on it annually, do a series every year, uh, encourage pastors to do that all the time. My pastor, the church I attend two years ago, did a six week series on money, It was fantastic.
And then I would say, finally model consistently. So in other words, it's not just talking about it now, just preaching about it, inspiring people, but really model it, talk about how the church is generous.
Uh, maybe have some testimonials of people that I went through a financial peace university and got out of debt and now they're more generous, continue to model it from the pulpit to the pew, pew to the pulpit.
So people really understand what it looks like to be generous now, how does that translate with, into the, like a para church type space where a non profit ministry might not have a congregation that they're speaking to on a, on a weekly basis about like, there's can't do a series on, on generosity.
You know, there's other, they don't have that kind of attention. What does that kind of look like? Yeah. When you guys consultant coach, one of those type of ministries. Yeah, that's an excellent question.
A couple thoughts came to mind. What one is that, You know, when it comes to, let's just take major donors of an organization, Uh, they're giving, you know, 5, 10, maybe even up to 100,000 plus to a charity to a ministry.
A lot of times that they're giving at a higher level. There are people of wealth to build a relationship with them. Number one, it lets them know that their gift is not transactional, it's not just a transaction to you, but you actually want to build a relationship with them.
But number two, we used to talk about and teach the concept of disciple ng your donors and I think you have a trusted relationship if you take the time to visit with them to talk to them about the ministry, but they also really talk to them about their own life about what God's up to and really begin to get some resources into their hands.
So I think you may have as an executive director of the ministry, you may have a unique opportunity with a donor to actually lead them down their own journey of generosity to help them understand what that means, because you've got one on one face time and you may have one of the only trusted relationships with them to be able to speak into the life like that.
So I think it's a very unique role. Second thing is we did this when I was running a non profit organization called Ministry Ventures, we did a jog event, jog is an acronym. It means journey of Generosity And it's a 24 hour.
You get away. The folks at generous giving will actually send you a facilitator for free and you take your board, you take some major donors away and you get to a hotel And you go through this 24 hour journey of generosity and it is a highly collaborative, just nonjudgmental beginning of the conversation of what it means to go, I'm here and does God want me to go there and it is so, so powerful, I still remember the one we did, we had one of our board members, their advisory board members there, his name is, bob, bob is very wealthy and uh he literally started breaking down at the end of the meeting going, you know, I gave X amount last year, he said, I'm gonna tenfold that this year I realized, you know, I've been holding back, I've been selfish, I've allowed lifestyle creep to come in and he's saying this in front of a group of 15 or 20 people, you know, and he's just being real about where he's at in a very nonjudgmental context.
And so that's just going back to the whole idea that we have the opportunities as executive directors to disciple are, are givers and especially disciple are major donors Now, Do you see a correlation between generosity and the communication between a church or a ministry with their donors? Oh, absolutely.
In fact, I think in some way churches are just starting to catch up with with what great charities have been doing for years. In other words, uh, major ministries, major charities do a much better job normally of communicating how and how the, the impact of an individual's giving on the life's lives that are being transformed.
They communicate well, they communicate often they come and visit, they build relationships, They talk about, hey, you know, you've been giving and this is what's been happening. And so I think in a lot of ways the church is just really can just beginning to catch up with that and that's not to say that we don't have clients.
I have clients right now that are very good at this. But a lot of churches will default to two things. Number one, they'll get up and they'll say on sunday as they receive the offering to everybody in the room, thank you for being so generous.
Now, the problem with that is that 50% of the people per our data for data of any giving, uh, this studies the church, 50% of the people that you say, thank you for being so generous are not giving anything at all to the church.
You get a little bit of a problem there. In fact, the church I attend, which is a mega church here in Atlanta. The pastor got up one day and said 70% of the people don't give anything to the church, 30% with all the heavy lifting of millions of dollars for this organization.
And so you get up and you say that 52 times a year, thank you for being so generous. And then once a year you get a statement in January because the I. R. S. makes you do this. It's called a giving statement.
It says dear john and Beth thank you for your gift of X. Please use this for your tax purposes. 11 kisses the business administrator. I mean that is it. That's the whole package of communication around my generous giving throughout a year to a organization that's supposed to be about life change.
And so what we're seeing now, what we coach ministries and churches now is into doing everything from the weekly reports all the way to annual impact reports, to even opportunities to take some of these pacesetters away and talk about the vision and talk about their own journey of generosity.
And so we're seeing churches really begin to catch the wave and catch the fire of what nonprofits have been doing well for a long time. Mm Yeah, we've, I'm on board with that completely. We believe that there is a really strong correlation between communicating to the church what God is doing through that church, what he's doing, um, through a ministry, what he's doing across the world and the generation, then the generosity that that has the potential to create.
And that comes out of that kind of storytelling. Communication, um, can be significant is there is and you guys work, have you seen that correlation play out within like specifically around storytelling, communicating the stories of how God is transforming life through the organization, the entity, the ministry of the Church? Yeah, absolutely, exact.
Well, first of all, thanks for leading the way on that because it couldn't not be a more important topic. And that is to really help organizations tell their story better. Let's face it. You know, in the world we live in right now.
It is just we are just inundated with messaging all day long. I think it's Seth Godin who says, you know, our parents uh, received 2500 times more messages than their parents and we and our generation are receiving 2500 times more messages than our parents.
And so and so, and so it grows exponentially. So how do you not get lost in the noise? I think you tell stories. Well, uh, you have to do that in a lot of context, a lot of mediums, a lot to use a lot of modes, whether social media, your website, email in person, whatever it might be, but you have to learn how to tell great stories.
So let me just take, for example, you know, if I'm getting up and after summer camp and I'm the youth pastor and I'm in front of the church and I'm, I say, Hey, you know, we had youth camp this week and, and all the adults are sitting in front of us and we want you to know that we had several 100 kids come and 40 kids gave their lives to Christ and what was the congregation gonna do at that point? They're all gonna clap because 40 people who, they have no idea who they are.
We'll clap because 40 students gave the lab to Christ or The other alternative is for that youth pastor to get up and go ahead as we'll let you know guys on the move, thank you for being generous. 40 lives give for students get the lives of Christ, but we want to tell you one story and then roll the tape and for two minutes some student telling their story of the impact of camp.
And so The only one that's gonna walk out of church that morning and real and remember 40 is the guy who loves baseball statistics, right? He loves numbers, but everybody else is gonna walk out the building and go, man.
That story brought me to tears. That is so amazing. I hope that's true for my kids. I hope that's true for my grandkids. I hope that's true for my nephew and niece. They began to personify that story to say that's what I believe for my family.
So that's the power of telling a story. Yeah. It's so much more memorable. And when we're emotionally engaged by something, we remember those things far longer than we do. If we're just being communicated data and statistics about something.
That's right. How often do you guys encourage ministries or churches to make financial aspect? What's the balance between when when you consultant come into partnership with a church or ministry? What's that balance you're encouraging them to find between the communication and the storytelling, what God is doing through the organization and some type of financial ask that's may or may not be tied to that communication.
Yeah, yeah. Really great question. You know, I think if you got to divide out ministries and churches for a moment ministries, you know, coach the 7-1 rule, so it's seven non solicitation contacts to everyone solicitation.
So, you know, that a non solicitation could be everything from a newsletter to a social media posed to, you know, something some touch some visit cup of coffee with somebody visiting bill relationship, that kind of thing.
So potentially your point. Exactly. There you go. So some touch point and then eventually we're going to have to have and ask ironically on the church side, what I typically deal with and have to coach through our pastors that are very hesitant about asking.
Uh, some are anomalies. I'd say 10% of my clients are anomalies are like, Oh, yeah, no, no problem bro, I got this. I will ask boldly, But I would say probably, you know, 60-70%. I really have to kind of coach them through both to allow their defenses to drop.
And then what I tell them is listen, if awkward is in the room, you brought it. You can't feel awkward about making a big ask. You can't feel awkward about being bold because this is not about you. This is not even about the money, this is about this mission being fulfilled.
If you if if they'll step up and do what God is asking them to do. And so a lot of ways on the other side, it's more that they seem to be less likely to ask. And so to be real pragmatic on the church side, I'd say 52 times a year, I think it's really important to be super intentional about that offering moment.
More and more churches in a post Covid world are going to go to no receiving of an offering, meaning they're not going to pass a bucket or plate anymore. Uh which I understand. And I think that's okay because you can have a given kiosk, you'd have boxes in the back.
And in fact, now digital giving is way on the rise. Anyway, people are giving in a non plate context, but I think you should be very intentional about the offering moment, what you say and how you encourage people to give.
Like making sure at some point, at least in a church context, that there is time set aside for this is this is our moment. Time were set aside to as a congregation come before the Lord with our gifts.
That's exactly right, man. You know that that's right. And so if your recommendation for the para church space will call it, is that 7-1? What are you guys actually seeing? Yeah, that's a really good, you know, so the 701 is a little bit of a just a great it's almost like sticking your finger in the wind.
Uh it is more, but I think the idea of starting point. Yeah, it is and it's just the idea of listen, you need to inspire and you need to inform and you need to build relationship first that that's the idea.
And so the 71 is almost kind of, uh, you know, it is what it is, but I don't think it's necessarily things that people are actually counting Again with the ministry leaders that I typically work with, which are probably, let's say, anywhere from a $2 million dollar annual budget.
And, and below in other words, not the real larger organizations. A lot of times are understaffed. Uh, they were wearing too many hats. Uh, they're, they're the, you know, the tyranny of the urgent is demanding their schedule.
And so a lot of times it's really just helping them set up systems. They're going to push out communication. They're going to make sure that people get on their calendar to go meet with them for lunch or coffee or whatever it might be.
And then strategically at the right times of the year to make that ask. And I'm talking about mid range donors to major donors. In that case smaller donors. Same thing. We've got to have a calendar. We've got to have a system.
But the ask is going to be different primarily is going to be social media or email that we're going to do that. But we've got to build the case and we've got to continue to instruct and inform and inspire as to what's going on with the ministry.
Mhm. Yeah. So are you guys consulting and on, especially in the, uh, we'll just call mass fundraising space where you're communicating with smaller donors? Um, a lot of social media communication, a lot of email communication on, on being nimble in where those audiences are engaging with content because like our inboxes every day are getting more congested.
And then people are kind of just throwing junk away now and not responding to the thousands of things that they have subscribed to. And so obviously the how that plays out with any given ministry is going to be unique because every single ministries audiences different who they're talking to is different.
So how do you guys navigate some of those spaces with in your consultancy fees consultant? Do you work with your clients? Yeah, that's a really good way to frame up giving Tuesday. Actually, we have a client, I've worked with all of 2019 Christian camp called Willens Fantastic Camp.
I mean it is just outstanding the impact the way we'll give you a quick idea they sell out campers online, parents are getting ready when, when, when they open registration, they sell out in 4.5 minutes.
I mean this this place is so popular, but they're getting ready to expand it. We're helping them do a capital campaign. And so when I got to giving Tuesday, um, our team visit with them and we're like, hey, listen, giving Tuesday is getting way overcrowded to your point.
A lot of voices, a lot of demands, a lot of hands out. He said, let's pick a different day and let's just try. So what they did is they did a proud of week or so beforehand. They called it Woodlands National Woodlands Day.
That's what National Woodland, which is cool. And so I had a little bit and they kind of leak some stuff out about it. They kept talking about the fact that hey, we don't want your support this year because we're trying to bail our budget out by, by God's grace.
We've done okay. Even though Covid, you know, kept the camp numbers low, He said we want to expand in 2025 and double the double the footprint of our camp. And so they did national wouldn't well Wednesday.
And then the other thing they did well as they ended up with two different matches. And so up to that point, I think that the best giving Tuesday they have was like somewhere between seven and 9000 This year because of the matches, they had 161,000 come in, uh, and doing in a completely, you know, social media driven, email driven context.
You know, so it really worked out well. That's really cool. Yeah, that's a significant increase. Goodness. How do you, we've touched on this a little bit, but how do we, how do we avoid making uh, congregations or donor basis feel guilted into giving and kind of help shift that mindset to the fact that this is an invitation to be a part of what God is doing.
This is an invitation to be a part of his redemptive story and create excitement around that invitation. Like he's inviting us into the greatest story ever told. And there's the mentality around generosity and giving tends to be oftentimes communicated in a way that makes a congregation feel guilty that I just need to give because I'm here, I'm part of this church or whatever it may be, like, this is such a bigger invitation than than what is communicated most often.
So how do we shift my like, this is a big shift that need, it's a, a large, large task, but like what are some of the things that you guys are doing? Yeah, well, again, I love your phrase, it's an invitation to a bigger story.
I think that Zach, I think that is so spot on. I love that phrase. It's an invitation to a bigger story. That's true. So part of it just begins right away with as a leader of a congregation or even a leader of the ministry, me communicating the fact that this is not what the church wants from you, but it's what God has for you, it's not what we want, it's what God has for you.
So there is a little bit of a divine exchange, right? Starts with the gospel, right? I give him my life, you know, even though it's broken up and busted up, you know, I'm kind of driven it into the wall and beat my life up, and then he gives me his life in return, but it feels like a real price to pay.
You know, I'm giving my life away and then and then what I figure out, once I do that, the piece that comes and and the blessings that come and all these things, I begin to figure out the live God's got my life God's way.
That is much better. I'm much better off because I do that the same thing is true with money for, but for some reason for some personality types, you know, the idea of crossing the line of the Lordship in their life and going, I'm going to surrender everything to the Lord.
I'm gonna start giving him a percentage of my income. Uh It just seems like a tough thing to do. And like to your point, sometimes it feels like I'm being pressured into that or I'm I'm being guilted into that or it's an obligation or I hear people say I've got to pay my ties.
I hate that phrase. I don't want to pay anything, I pay the electric bill, you know, I pay that table bill, but I don't want to pay God for something or pay the church for something. I really am being invited, some other just an additional bill that we have.
So true man goodness. It is so true and it's so uninspiring, but yet, like you said, it's really an invitation into a bigger, bigger story and we've already talked about this before ministries and charities typically do this much better.
I mean, let's sit and listen to scott Harrison talk about, you know what he's doing with clean water around the world and you know, hide my credit card because I'm going to put it down, you know, I mean, he's going to inspire me about a bigger story of life change.
So many ministries are great at that. The church is catching up to that to go listen. This is not about you just paying the bills, that kind of thing. It really is about the mission expanding and doing what it is.
And and a lot of that's got to do with the ability to craft the right language. Because again words create worlds. You know what are we saying and how we doing that intentionally to make sure and people are getting that and not feeling guilted into it.
Because that's really what second Corinthians talks about right talks about giving and sewing but doing it without pressure, doing it. Without compulsion. Is the word there in the N. I. V. And I don't want to be that person that either inspires people to be you know compulsive or to feel that way.
So it really is a it's something that has to be thought through very intentionally. Mm. Yeah. That's so good. Now you've touched on a couple of stories, can you, can you share maybe uh one or two significant stories that you've seen over the years, working with generous of in how increased generosity has blessed the ministries or churches you serve or those that have like bless the person that is being generous.
Mm. Yeah, you know that's a really good uh want me to start with the individual story. I was working with a client up in Green Bay Wisconsin a few years ago and which by the way, was a bucket list because I got to go to a Packers game on december 14th I think it was 14 below zero.
I did not care. I went with the pastor, he got his tickets and I got to sit and actually Aaron Rodgers was playing at that point, got to actually be uh, and watch the Packers play their Atlanta is a lot of fun.
But there was a church I was working with and they were challenging people about being percentage givers. In fact on Wednesday night, pastor was teaching kind of a stewardship series before would actually do the campaign And he challenged him to give 10%.
There's a college professor sitting in the congregation that night, went home with his wife, they were both there And he said to his wife, he said, you know what, we have not, you know, we're not giving percentage.
She said, I think we should start giving a percentage of our income. And said, how about if we start with 3% and his wife's pretty savvy. She looked at him and said, I think he said 10%, I don't think like three is going to get it, you know? And uh not to say there was something wrong with three, but it was just like in that moment she challenged him and he goes okay.
So he added up that year What 10% was and he wrote to check out, I mean literally whatever it was in the year, I want to say it was sometime in the spring and so it was pretty hefty check. And so the next sunday he came and uh, he had a check in his pocket, but something significant happened before that.
And when he gave the check to the pastor, he wanted to give it to him personally because he wanted to tell the story. He said, we wrote this check out on Wednesday night, he said, but on thursday I got a call from the University of Michigan there in Green bay, Wisconsin with Wisconsin.
He said, I got a call from the University of Michigan. They offered me to teach two classes this summer, which was not on my radar screen. And when they told me the amount of money, the amount of money they said they were going to pay for me to teach those two classes added up to exact amount of money I got on this check that I have my pocket that I'm gonna give that I now know is my tied, you know, and was with tears coming down the guys cheeks, he knew that it was so much more than a cash flow decision.
It was a God decision. It was a spiritual decision that was changing his life forever, you know. And so the pastor told me the story and told the congregation and it's, it's an amazing thing how that that can happen.
Yeah, I think so too. So on the corporate side, working with a client I mentioned a moment ago up in upstate new york called barren church. Love these guys man multi site in a really rural area. I think the main campus they may have, I think 8000 people in their town.
But the other two campuses and they're about to have 1/4. They're both in communities of about 3000. Uh we did what we call one fund One fund is a different approach to generosity than the typical traditional capital campaign.
We can talk about that at some point, Maybe the different podcast. But we did the one fund. The goal was 2.7 million over two years. So this is all giving all in over two years. Their budget is about $800,000.
So about 1.6 But they set a goal of 2.7 million, which was a real stretch for them over two years. And nobody had an idea that COVID was about to hit. Mm. And, But what was so cool about it was they not only hit the 2.
75, they actually went above, they hit 3.1 million. They actually received an offering as they did their commitments. Two weeks later, we do what we call big give. The big give was the largest offering in the history of the church.
It was, well, I think it's close to $150,000. Along with that, they had a piece of property given to them and one of the little areas that they don't have a church yet, they're using a rented facility.
A man donated some land, seven acres. And so because they went above and beyond in that amount of money that they received as well as the money was flowing in, they were able to start construction on the building of the property that was given to them two years before they thought they were going to be able to build their and even in the middle of covid giving is up, it's actually over where we should be at this point and the steel is up and the building is up and they feel like it's going to be right now, they're having a kind of slow down right now because it's upstate new york, it's getting kind of cold.
But they will finish up next spring and be able to open that new building up two years before they thought they could. So it's just amazing how, you know, these principles work in every different kind of context and region around the country and that's really cool.
I have a mentor of mine who, I don't know, I think it's just a friend of his who is a pastor, I believe somewhere in texas, it's a small little church. I think he said maybe uh, 3, 400 members of the church regularly.
Attorney members and, and the pastor set out to, uh, and I don't know this may end up being one of your guys clients, but he wanted to increase generosity in the church and he set a goal to get his entire church To that 10% mark like everybody in the congregation Tithing and giving at a 10% of their income.
And so the start, they started small and they said, Hey first we gotta get everybody in our church out of debt. So the, the giving was inbound and it helped people get out of debt, help moms that were single moms type situations that didn't have much of income.
Get jobs, they, they invested in themselves, first invested in the, in the congregation. They got everybody out of debt, They got everybody moving towards and working towards giving 2% to 5%. They finally got everybody in the congregation, a majority of the members to that 10% mark wow.
And the the things that they were able to do As a little tiny small congregation with their entire congregation giving at that 10% mark. This little 3 400 Member Church was giving away over $1 million dollars a year just to other organizations.
They were, all of their projects and all of their things were the things they were doing with outreach were completely funded beyond what they needed. They were able to do far more than what they thought when they set out those to those perform those strategies execute on those problems uh those programs and and they just had still loads of cash that they didn't know what to do it.
So they just started giving it away to other organizations, other churches. And I hearing him tell me that story, it was just kind of this testament like goodness gracious. What if the church as the whole just was Like, I know you can I know there's argument for um we don't necessarily have to follow that 10% mark anymore, but like what if we just were obedient to that? We accepted God's challenge, what is it Maliki where he's uh, you know, he says, hey, challenge me and this is the only time in scripture where he challenges his people, has challenged me in this and see that I don't open up the floodgates.
What if the church was to move towards that and be generous? Like she's called me generous because of and out of the overflowing of our hearts for what christ generosity for us has done in our lives. And I think that little church example is just the story of the significant ramifications.
Um that could come out of that type of generosity and uh I would just love to see the church moving that direction. It would be so cool man, It is an awesome stories. Ag I love that. I love the whole idea to the progression, right? Starting with getting people out of debt, helping find getting their own financial housing or because that's more like a hey, it's not what you can do for the church is what God wants to do for you, right? And then to see them be that generous as a church.
That is an awesome story. I love it. Yeah, that's pretty cool. Um if a ministry church wants to move, uh, wants to move their congregation, their donor base, their audience towards increased generosity, what are some maybe simple initial steps that they can start and some tangible things they can do today? Yeah, I mean, first of all, you know, if if anyone's listening just wants to have a conversation, I have conversations with, with no expectation of a contract or getting hired and I have conversations all the time with leaders and pastors, because that's what I love to do first and foremost.
So if I can be a source of just talking through where they are and what they're thinking about and just be a sounding board, of course I'd love to do that. But one of the things that I think one of the ways I like to challenge local churches, because I think one of the things that's going to happen post covid is that, uh, the local church is going to become hyper local, you know, because let's face it, you can hear great preaching now all day long, you know, turn on youtube.
It doesn't matter. You can access the best speakers, best communicators in the country, but those communicators cannot reach your local community. They can't, okay, only you can do that. Right? So I think local church is gonna become hyper local.
So one of the questions I would wrestle with as a team would be, what's the, what's the reputation of our church in the community? Uh, what's the word on the street? What are we known for? We known for our doctrine, We known for that.
We got three services or are we known for something that we want to be known for? And then I would ask the question is, what do we really want the community to recognize us as? And maybe a follow up question would be if we would go away tomorrow, would anybody miss us in our local community? And I think if you wrestle through some of those questions, I think all of us could come up with a lot of different answers, but I think the fastest way to kind of reshape who you want to be in your community, which simply to be more generous, kind of like the story you just told.
I think that was beautiful to be a more generous congregation in the community. That may be a time volunteering your time, energy resources, networking, training, education classes. But it could also be with giving money away The church I attend here in Atlanta.
They've been doing this for 11, 12 years now, 11 time a year, usually in the fall They take up an offering. They called be rich and I think it's startup, they gave away two million, then three, then four.
And then this, this past year, I think there are 12 years in now. It was $7 million dollars that came in basically over about a week And they take 100% of that seven million and they invested into the community.
So into schools, into charities and the ministries. And the idea is that we can't do most of the things that they do, but you do it well. So we're going to get behind you and they come in with a big fat check or they come in with volunteer hours and they really try to be known as the generous church in the community.
And I would say this, this particular church, you know, I don't know what his reputation was before 12 years ago. but I know what it is now. It's known as one of the most generous churches in our local community.
And because it's multi site, you know, those additional communities are also gaining that reputation of being more and more generous. So part of it. I think it's just really the, the ability to start asking these deeper philosophical questions are what do we want to be known for in the community and what are we truly known for right now? And how can we change that to be a different kind of congregation? Then we can start getting really tactical out of that mission that says, we want to do this, we want to do that.
And then really helped take those steps to be more and more technical. Mm That's so good. Well, john, this has been awesome. I really appreciated the conversation. I hope that this is some insights for ministry leaders on generosity.
Some of the topics we discuss today. If people want to get a hold of you and learn more about what you're doing at Generis or just have a conversation. How can they do? So yeah, generics dot com. Generis is spelled sort of like it.
So I guess. And I'm sure you'll put that in the show notes, but generic dot com. And also, if you feel free to put my email in the show notes as well and uh, like I said, I have no obligation calls all the time with pastors and leaders around the country.
We love just to have a, a conversation with you get to know, you better, get to know your ministry, get to know your church and see if I can point you in the right direction or if I can help you to a deeper level.
Would love to talk about that as well. But this is what I do all day long. This is only what I do. I I don't, I don't do any other thing on the side that this is what God has called me to now to coach and really be kind of a Jonathan to the David, so to speak and a Barnabas to the polls to, to really help these kings and these leaders really established and fulfill the mission guys call them too.
So I really appreciate the opportunity from you exact thanks for taking a few minutes out with me man and allow me to kind of share some of these things and, and I appreciate everything you're doing as well for ministries to help them.
Yeah, thanks, I appreciate you being on the show. Can I pray for you and generous real quick please too. Father, I just lift up john and generous. I pray that you would guide and lead him as he guides and coaches and consults with ministries and churches on being more generous father, you have done incredible things in our lives, you paid the ultimate price, you were, you are the most generous that's ever existed and so out of your generosity and our appreciation for that.
I pray that we would be more generous, that we would model that that would mirror that to the world. Um, and I pray that you would be with john as he leads and guides ministries and how to um shift mindset in, in congregations and donor bases and audiences, Father, I pray that you would help him to see areas where we can be more effective in this space and um I just pray that the church would, would see that this is an invitation into the redemption story of humanity, Father, That you have invited us to be a part of what you are already doing, what you're going to do.
You don't need us, you could have done it all on your own and yet you invite us into this story. And so, um, I pray that the church and us and individually as ministries, as churches would um, see that we would see that as an invitation that we would jump on board and we would just have excitement and joy around the fact that we get to do this with our father Lord.
We love you so much in jesus name. Amen and man, thank you, Zack, john, thanks so much for being on the show. I appreciate it. Yes sir. Good to meet you. Thank you. Bye. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Ministry Growth show.
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