One of the best ways I’ve discovered to begin giving more wisely is to put on paper how God seems to be directing you to give. This includes both the kinds of ministries God wants you to support as well as those you sense he doesn’t want you to be engaged in. Very few people can be knowledgeable or thoughtful enough about many different ministries to be a truly informed donor.
This kind of intentional stewardship will take time. Depending on the amount of capital God has entrusted to you, this process of prayer, fasting, getting godly counsel and then rewriting your stewardship statement may take many months. However, it’s been my experience that when and if Christians go through this exercise, they will emerge more thoughtful, strategic givers, and enjoy giving more than they ever dreamed.
The following are some of the basic elements of a Family Stewardship statement and some examples of ideas and language you may want to use.
1. Write a one paragraph summary of a personal or family giving philosophy.
Sample: Our mission is to use the resources God has entrusted to us to assist Christian ministries, missions and individuals in their efforts to extend the kingdom of God in the areas for which he has given us a heart.
2. Fast and pray about the primary ministries you sense God is wanting you to support.
Sample: Evangelism – While we recognize that all Christian ministries or missions have an evangelistic component, our interest is in ministries or missions organizations whose primary goal is creatively and clearly presenting the gospel to the unchurched of all ages, with a realistic plan to integrate them into a body of believers.
Or, our current areas of interest are:
The evangelism of international college and university students.
International church planting in the 10/40 window.
Justice Ministries – God has given us a heart of protecting the rights of the poor, the defenseless, widows and orphans. Our current areas of interest:
The rights of the unborn.
3. Fast and pray about areas that you don’t feel God has called you to invest in. (It will make it much easier to say “no” when these ministries call.)
Sample: Although we are grateful that God has provided ministries and organizations to meet the following needs and believers to support them, it’s not where God has led us to have an interest at this time:
High school ministry in the U.S.
Christian television or radio
Any organization which does not have a biblical worldview.
4. Fast and pray about how God wants you to invest and for how long.
Sample: Gifts for support of individuals or families (i.e. CRU (Campus Crusade), etc. are generally made only for a three-year period to help individuals begin their ministry and get out to the field. The three-year maximum allows us to help future individuals begin their ministry. Supported individuals should budget accordingly. (Or do you prefer to give to fewer individuals for a longer period of time? Do you want to set a goal for this type of giving, like 5% of total giving?)
Sample: We prefer organizations, which are members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
I’ve written A Guide to Developing Your Personal or Family Giving Philosophy or Strategy, with many more ideas for thinking through how you can be a more effective donor. If you’d like a free copy, email me at email@example.com and request “The Guide” we’ll email it right back to you.
Christians need to be as thoughtful and prayerful in giving as they are in investing their retirement funds. As you think and pray about this more deeply, you will find that the Holy Spirit will help refocus your heart where he wants. I’ve known families to take many months before they found clarity in these matters.
The following offers some guidance to a few of the questions I posed in Monday’s blog regarding giving to the church and to secular organizations.
Giving to your local church
It has been the practice of serious Christians to give of their “first fruits” to their local church to provide for the people who are leading and teaching them. This practice began in Deuteronomy 26 to provide for the Levites, widows, the poor and aliens. This practice was repeated by Paul in I Corinthians 9 when he made the case that those who preach, teach and lead have a right to be provided for and Paul urged gathering offerings for the poor.
“Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?” Corinthians 9:7, 11-12
“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” Acts 2:45
However, Christians aren’t duty bound to give to their church, if for instance, the church is no longer teaching the gospel, if they’re not caring for the poor and widows in the church, or the leadership is spending significant amounts of money simply to provide better and better services for its members. Each believer must ask hard question of its leadership and go before God for guidance and not blindly “pay dues” simply because you and your family benefit from services provided. “Is your church still faithful to the mission of the gospel?” is the real question.
Giving to non-Christian Colleges or Organizations
I once had a conversation with a fine Christian attorney – a man who I knew to be a generous donor. He mentioned a gift he had given to his alma mater, a large secular university. So, I asked him why he gave to them?” “I graduated from that school and I have great loyalty to them.” Here was my response.
“Well, I understand that, but you’re giving God’s money to an institution that isn’t God neutral. Their worldview and that of most of their professors is antithetical to a biblical worldview. I know you also give to student ministries working on that campus. So, think about this irony: You’re giving to these ministries to help undo the thinking of students who are being taught to have no regard to God, by the very university you’re also supporting.”
As he and I began discussing the God owns it all idea, then whether or not he went to a particular university should have no bearing on his giving.
I’ve known fine Christians who have prayerfully and thoughtfully decided to give money and serve on the boards of secular universities simply so that there is a Christian voice at the table. They see themselves as agents of God to influence policy, fund Christian guest lecturers or to evangelize fellow board members. While personally I have some misgivings about their ability to effect serious change, I have to admit that they appear to be doing so for the right reasons. However, given the three sweet spots I discussed a few days ago, it seems wise to me that God’s resource would be better used where they can have a more strategic impact for the kingdom.
Question: Do you like the idea of a personal giving strategy or does it feel too ridged?