Giving Out of Obligation


Giving Out of Obligation

I was back in school last week.  Well, sort of.  I spent four days in Seattle steeped in “Creating Congregational Cultures of Generosity” sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference and the Northwest UM Foundation.  We were very fortunate to have with us and learn from Dr. Bill Enright, Director of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, part of the Indiana University School of Philanthropy.  What a great experience!

I am still on information overload (thankfully, no papers to write or tests to take!) but there was one set of statistics I keep reflecting on:

In one study, 89% of Presbyterians (or mainliners) said they gave to their congregation “Out of responsibility or obligation as a member of this church” compared to 6% of Presbyterians who said they gave “Because everything I have is God’s.”

Wow.  There’s a spiritual disconnect going on.

You may legitimately ask, what’s the problem with people giving out of obligation if the bills are getting paid?  If that is your understanding of the spiritual life and if your church doors are still open, albeit barely, then I guess it’s working for you.  

However, if our call as Christ followers is to live a life centered on Jesus, then our giving needs to be out of gratitude and devotion to the One to whom all things belong.  John Wesley so eloquently stated: “Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but how much of God’s money will I keep for myself.”  Even better is 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion [or obligation?], for God loves a cheerful giver.”  

How can you move people from “obligation-centered” to “spiritually-centered” giving?

•    Preach more about what Jesus said regarding money and possessions
•    Provide concrete examples of people who inspire you to live generously
•    Encourage your congregation to read the Bible on a daily basis so that they can see for themselves what the Good Book says about generosity
•    Make giving a joyous and celebratory experience

What a great day it will be when the next survey comes out and the statistics are reversed:  6% give out of obligation to the church and 89% give because “everything I have is a gift from God.”  That will be a "hallelujah" moment, indeed.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing.   Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise nearly $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations.  She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012.  Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation.  You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.

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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.