I had someone ask me recently how to handle church members who were no longer making donations to the church.
This person asked if it was appropriate to contact the member and simply ask the question.
I kind of cringed when they said this because this is one of those potentially awkward and volatile situations that need to be handled very thoughtfully, gently and prayerfully.
The right approach to addressing the issue could possibly increase donations for the church but an insensitive approach could potentially backfire and cause hurt feelings that may be difficult to mend.
Depending on the culture and teaching of a particular church the percentage of members that actually tithes varies.
According to a Barna study on American Donor Trends, specifically on tithing rates:
“The research shows that 5% of adults qualify as having tithed—giving 10% or more of their annual income to a church or non-profit organizations.
Among born again Christians, which includes both evangelicals and non-evangelicals, 12% tithed in 2012, which is on par with the average for the past decade.”
Church members come to church to experience and learn about God and develop their Christian faith.
Supporting the church with tithes and offerings is an outcome of discipleship and the church teaching on tithing.
6 Things to Consider When Members Stop Donating
1. Is the Member Experiencing Financial Hardship?
When someone stops giving to their church it may be a symptom of a problem.
The member may have some personal finance issues that they have not talked about which is why it is good to offer personal finance help for church members.
Whether it is budgeting help or pastoral support through a trying financial time, most people can benefit from personal finance teaching and support.
2. Does the Member have an Unspoken Issue with the Church?
The member may have some issues with the church that they have not expressed.
The bible tells us that offenses will come so we should not be surprised when offense happens in the church.
Churches should make it easy for members to ask questions and seek clarity on issues within the church.
Good church communication processes can help minimize misunderstandings that come with miscommunications.
3. Does your Church Teach on Tithing?
It is natural for longtime Christians to understand the concept, principles, and outcome of tithing but people who are new to the Christian faith may not have been exposed to teaching on tithing.
Research suggests that churches that take the time to teach about tithing can actually increase church offerings.
A model that many churches use is setting aside a few Sundays a year to do focused teaching on tithing.
Scheduling this time of teaching each year can also support a budgeting process.
4. Ask for an Annual Financial Commitment.
It is common for churches to ask members to make an annual giving pledge. This can help in a couple of ways.
First, it encourages the member to consider their annual tithe and make a personal budget decision to support the church.
It also provides the church with some projected numbers that a church budget can be based on. Just having the conversation brings awareness.
5. Solicit Feedback.
Churches should consider soliciting feedback from its members and volunteers. It is amazing what you can learn when you simply ask the question.
Feedback can bring to light issues that church leadership may not even be aware of.
Healthy churches understand this concept and have systems and processes in place to allow congregational and volunteer feedback.
I used to tell my employees “I can’t fix it if I don’t know it’s broke”.
Knowing what the issues are and developing plans to address them is the best way to manage volunteers and keep church members engaged.
6. Make It Easy to Get Help.
It is difficult to tithe when you can’t meet the needs of your family.
And, asking for help is easier for some people than others so create an easy process to seek help.
We know that life sometimes throws financial challenges our way and finding help before things get really bad can be the difference between bottoming out financially or rebounding quickly.
When a church offers to help with prayer, support, and christian personal finance education they help not only the member but also the church.
A member can’t give if they’re broke!
The church needs tithes and offerings to function but the church’s main objective is to get people in the door, keep them in the door and develop them into disciples.
A temporary setback in giving will work itself out if the church provides good teaching, cares about, offers support and is meeting the needs of its members.