How many times have you mentioned Malachi 3:10 in a sermon meant to inspire giving? “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. . . . Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’”
How has that been working for you? When you take into account all of your church members and consider the total tithe given to the church from them, is your church any better than the shockingly low 2.38% that at least one 2009 study (from Empty Tomb, Inc.) reported that the average church receives from each of its members?
Let me preface this quickly: We cannot minimize the power of God’s inspired Word. And that includes the passage from Malachi, as well as all the others I’m sure you have thrown out there at times. But for the most part, everyone in your congregation has already read or heard those passages multiple times. What makes you think you preaching on them will finally inspire new results? We never know what will finally lift the veil up from someone’s eyes and give them a new outlook on their responsibility as Christians to give to the church, and no doubt nothing is more powerful than scripture. But why not try a few new tactics, especially since I know you hate preaching on tithing?
The majority of a family’s financial decisions are going to come from the husband, so we need to speak more of his language. And men speak facts, numbers, graphs, and charts. At the end of every quarter, you should send out a brief financial summary of the church’s income and expenses. Keep it as simple and straightforward as possible: This is how many family units are in the church; this is how many have contributed financially thus far this year; these are the dollar amounts that most fall into. And then give them a pie graph saying how 45% contributed between $500 and $1000; 20% between $1001 and $3000; and so forth. When men see the horrifically low percentage of family units who are contributing at the higher levels, that should speak volumes to them, especially to those in the middle- to upper-class range.
And if you’re feeling really bold, do not send these summaries to families that are not currently giving to the church. Instead send them a separate letter explaining that recently a church financial summary was sent out to church members. If they did not receive one it is because the church has not received any financial gift from them, but the church would encourage them to take part in the great work God is doing in their community with the financial resources others have been giving. Talk about a punch in the gut!
Secondly, on this financial summary, be sure to list exactly what the church has spent so far in missions (local and international) and point out in a footnote where else you’d like to give in the area of missions if giving increased from the church. Both men and women respond well in the area of providing for others and reaching the community, so include the church in what you are hoping to do in the area of missions if giving were increased from them.
Another method you need to be implementing if you are not already, is to have others speaking on giving who are not employed by the church. This means your deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and others. It’s no secret that pastors make their income from the tithe, and every church has its naysayers complaining that the pastor only wants more people to tithe so that he can make more money. But if they are hearing it from their small group leaders and the like, and on a consistent basis (not just during “stewardship month”), then hopefully they can receive the message more openly, without the usual grumbling toward the “money-hungry pastor.”
One statement, four times a year; an emphasis toward what is going to missions and what you’d like to go toward missions in the future; and your lay leaders speaking in smaller groups on why everyone should give financially to the church—all without yet another sermon about Malachi’s storehouse that no doubt you have memorized by now.
Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, his most recent being All You Need to Know about the Bible in Pop Culture. He also writes at BibleInPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter under the handle @PopCultureKevin.