In my experience, there is no better place than the local church to teach people how to become fully-generous. The reason for this is that the church is uniquely positioned to help move people through, what I call, the 4 stages of generosity. As you read the rest of this post, go ahead and ask yourself: “Where else, other than the local church, can people easily experience and move through all 4 stages?”
Stage 1 – Giving Is A Duty. Something painful happens to an individual during this stage. This is when giving is a chore; it’s something people do because they have to or because they feel guilty if they don’t. This is one of the main reasons people don’t like going to church. When people are not giving and they hear about giving at church, they feel uncomfortable, guilty, beat up or frustrated. The vast majority of human beings never move passed this first stage because it hurts. And since people don’t like pain so they try hard to avoid any reminder that they are in this stage.
Why is this stage painful? Because all of us like generous people and we all dislike stingy people. This stage hurts because it reminds us that we are more akin to the people we dislike than the people we like. The answer to the pain is to push through it, and determine to become the kind of generous person others want to be around.
Stage 2 – Giving Is A Priority. During this stage, something spiritual happens. People who don’t like the idea of remaining in the first stage make the spiritual decision to give. Truly generous giving is not a financial decision; it is a spiritual one. When people give merely for a tax advantage they are still in stage 1. When they give because they’ve determined to become a fully-generous people, they have moved on to stage 2.
This stage is the first step to becoming a generous person. Giving shifts from duty to priority when people decide to make giving the default rather than an option. People do this by making their giving automatic. One of the best ways people automate their giving is by establishing a budget. The first money to leave their account each month is the money they are giving away. They decide immediately how much they’re going to give, when they’re going to give, and then they do it! Another great way people make giving a priority is by setting up ACH bank drafts, or by setting up recurring credit/debit card payments. This removes the possibility of not giving, and when people make the conscious decision to automate their giving, their actions scream, “Generosity is truly a priority in my life!”
Stage 3 – Giving Is A Habit. During stage 3 something subtle happens. Once people consciously decides to make giving a priority, something happens after a while: giving becomes easier, less painful, even normal. Somehow without even recognizing that it’s happening, giving becomes a natural habit. We’ve all seen that person for whom generosity is an easy choice, and we long to be like that person. When we enter stage 3 and giving becomes a habit in our lives, we are then becoming that person.
Stage 4 – Giving Is A Privilege. Something supernatural happens when we move into the fourth stage of generosity. When we give with consistency, we begin to notice God working in ways around us that we never noticed before. We begin to see how our generosity touches other lives and how it changes people. We begin to see the impact of our giving multiply and expand! Then it’s in those moments that we fall to our knees in worship and thank God that we have been given the privilege of contributing to his work! Now giving is no longer a duty, it’s no longer just a priority, it’s no longer even a habit. Now giving is something that we get to do…something we want to do. In stage 4 giving truly has become a privilege!
May we all strive to reach the fourth stage of giving because…
…God loves a cheerful giver.
~2 Cor 9:7 (NIV)
Next week I’ll write about how the local church can help people progress through each stage.