Recently, we sat down with Dean Sweetman ofTithe.lyto discuss the state of giving. In our discussion, we went how churches can find and use best practices when it comes to cultivating generosity.
Here are a few highlights:
[3:31] In ministry, we live on a budget and the budget has its forecast of regular revenue that comes in and whether it be weather-related cancellation or holidays or people just not showing up at the church on a weekly basis anymore on our culture.
[4:09] A lot of pastors don’t think business-mindset when it comes to church in giving. I think the shift that has to come to the body of Christ coming to mind is “I’m gonna run it as a business, I’m gonna use best business practices and to do that, I’ve had to have some kind of a way of projecting my income.”
[4:57] When you put on anywhere, anytime giving solutions in people’s hand it changes the whole dynamic.
[5:38] More than 50 % of the contribution that come in by a mobile are over 250 dollars. So, people, they are not scared to give with their phones. They’re actually okay to give big money. 18% of our contributions, a thousand dollars plus, we get a contribution of 50,000 dollars via text message so it’s a no-brainer.
[6:23] Everybody is pretty much there on trusting the mobile device being a point of sale and it’s just a matter of the church, instead of being behind that curve, staying in front of that curve.
[7:13] Digital giving is definitely three times the size the amount of the contribution. I think that’s the couple of things I think it’s the convenience it’s the easiness of people giving, but you’re also hitting the demographic that’s pretty affluent and surely doesn’t having problems that making contributions today.
[9:13] We found the people who are not wanting to give is that the church has made people give number one on a Sunday. And, they have to give a checkbook or cash. Well, millennials, 35 or under don’t know what a check account is, don’t know what a checkbook is. My kids don’t and you know, they don’t carry cash. Everything is debit card or credit card. So, it’s giving people the solution to be how to do it and then, use it by and in their vacation, listening to a church’s podcast, get a message, they looked in the calendar in the app whatever and then next kind of normal thing to do is to make their contribution.
[10:16] Once we tied in with the data, we found that across all these and we’re talking, tens of millions of dollars, ⅓ is on a Sunday, ⅔ is on Monday through Saturday
[12:35] Looking at the months of the year, the summer slump which is classic, like schools are getting out everyone is excited, but the pastor is not excited because he knows during the summer, his income gonna go down up to 30%. So, what happens is when you put again a mobile giving solution in the hands of the members, guess what? They’re going to use it and so what we see is the out numbers actually stay firm and our July-August is actually up and so, people when they have the ability to give with their phone, they are going to give even when they’re out of town and on vacation.
[15:40] Other than the solution, providing tools, the other component probably the most key is education.
[16:37] The whole concept of Christianity is built around generosity, right? We’re taught in the New Testament to be generous with everything.
[16:51] So, whether you have a theological issue with tithe, let’s just put that aside for a second and decide that Jesus has taught us to be generous people. And I think that message can be preached, you know, if not on a weekly basis, certainly on a monthly basis, somewhere around the giving moment, you’re instructing your members about generosity and using the Bible to teach on God’s perspective on generosity.
[19:16] There’s the idea of getting people in the mindset of giving consistently. And if you can get people in that mindset to give consistent our numbers show that 85% of the people who give regularly, providing half the budget and 15% who give regularly provide the other half.
[21:47] If you search and dig and pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into the Scriptures on what they say about money, you will be many many hours and days and getting great revelations of what the Bible says about finance. So, it’s willingness of the minister to get the revelation first.
In today’s episode of the Generosity Labs podcast, we interview Joseph Sangl who is on a quest to help pastors get over their fear about talking about money. He is the founder of I Was Broke Now I’m Not.
Key points in the discussion:
How does a pastor bring up the taboo subject of money with his preaching?
What are some take-aways to add into a pastor’s sermon about giving and generosity?
How powerful and important is an offering prep?
4 Resources About Financial Management
You can listen, subscribe or watch my interview with Joseph below.
Reach out to Joseph Sangl on iwasbrokenowimnot.com
CHECK OUT WWW.GENEROSITYLABS.ORG for more episodes, blog articles and more resources about giving and generosity.
KENNY: Good day everybody. This is Kenny Jahng coming at you again and today, in the hot seat, we’ve got a good friend Joe Sangl. Thank you so much for being with us, Joe, today.
JOE: Fired up. Thanks so much brother.
KENNY: It is great to be with you especially because the conversation that we’ve been having with a lot of churches in the past recently center around the taboo topic of money. Giving and money. And I know that you are in that space. You’re talking about that everyday, actually. So, why don’t you share with our audience a little about who you are, what you do and how you help churches in particular.
JOE: My name is Joseph Sangl. And I founded an organization called I Was Broke, Now, I Am Not. and I’d like to say people, if you’re saying now, he is broke? You’re failing grammar class and it’s not fun being broke. And I got unbroke and I did it by following God’s Word and applying His principles. And as I went through the process, I have an Engineering degree from Purdue University, got my MBA, and I was still broke. And I was wondering, “Was it that difficult?” And I realized, I was thinking too hard that it’s really the reading of God’s Word and the application of it. I started finding all the scripture about money. And I’ve found out that God’s Word is not silent on it. But, my pastor had been silent on it. Therefore, I was educated by all those great marketers from Madison Avenue and I spend it all. I have the spiritual gift to making money disappear and I got deliverance. And I am on a one-man quest to help pastors get over their fear in talking about money because all their people, they make money decisions all day long.
KENNY: So, let’s get into that because I think it’s still even today in 2017, a little bit of a taboo topic for these pastors and church leaders that we’re talking to, they’re afraid to bring it up. They feel like they’re begging for money. They feel like it’s out of place. It’s not an etiquette. In fact, I’ve had lunch with a pastor this week who said, he literally doesn’t have any data on how much money people give in his church. They put up a security wall, so that he literally doesn’t know. So, what is the first step? If people here listening today want to embrace a culture of generosity, how do they bring up money and tithing and giving if they’ve never preached on it before, right, which is very possible, they don’t do it in classes, or workshops or seminars, or even in the bible studies, what’s the first step? How do you bring it up for the first time the pulpit or from the stage?
JOE: That’s a great question and I would say, they need to start with the “Why”. Why do they want to talk about it because if it’s just to get them to give, that’s not appropriate “why”. If it’s, I want to teach them about what God’s Word says about all of money, giving but also saving, debt, planning, investing, if I want to see them win and fund the dreams God has placed in their life and be able to fund the shared dream of the church, then, when they get to that place if that is their why, then, that’s when they need to approach the church with it. A lot of pastors, when they hear us say, “You need to preach on money.”, they immediately, something about that word replaces it with the word with ‘giving’ — preach on ‘giving’. But, that’s only, you know, 10%. If you’re giving, preaching the tithe, that’s only 10% of the resources God has placed in their hands. You need to make sure you speak to the entire pocket, the other 90%, as well. And so, I would start by talking about their goal as a leader to help people live a fully funded life, being able to do exactly what God has called them to do, regardless of its cause or income potential and then, go from that point. I am going to talk about giving, yes, that is God’s Word. We should be givers. I will talk about the rest, too because I also want to help you live the best and only life you have.
KENNY: I love that. That is such a critical insight. That, if you’re preaching on giving, you’re only talking about 10% of their daily living of what they go through, you need to talk about the holistic aspect. Now, some people have an allergic reaction to thinking that money and stewardship is a part of spiritual discipline. What’s your take on it?
JOE: I just say, how can you say you love the Lord and not be a giver? How can you say He died and paid the ultimate price that we can have liberty? And you know, I have heard one said, “How can I stare at the blood-stained cross, and say what is the minimum of I can give?” You know what I’m saying? So, Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And if you say you love the Lord, if you say your heart is with the Lord, it will compel you to be a giver.
KENNY: In terms of preaching, you were saying that, “Hey, look, we’re not going to talk about actually giving to the church. That is not the focus or the end goal or the call to action at the end of the first time you’re talking about it.” What’s the take-away of that first talk, the first sermon someone’s going to give?
JOE: I think the take-away is to ask the question, “Are you truly honoring the Lord with everything He has placed in your hands?” And I would challenge every person within my church to spend an hour this next week reviewing their last month’s spending. Pull out their credit card statements, bank statements and say, “In an audit, when someone convicts you, which means having them found guilty of, living a generous life and being a wise manager.” I am going to start there. I love the story that Jesus shares in parable to talents in Matthew 25:14-30, where it talks about the three manager. And it says in there, each according to their ability they’re giving different amounts. If people want more to manage, increase your ability to manage it. It says, the Lord pays attention to that.
KENNY: Got you. Shifting gears a little bit. About the specific offering, one of the things that I’m a bit proponent about, and I think that people miss is that the offering part of the service is one of the most strategic moments of your ability to influence the daily living of your congregants. How powerful can that be? Have you seen any tangible differences when people pursue that?
JOE: Absolutely. There’s a massive difference. Some people called it an offering prep. But, really, it is an opportunity to speak about money 52 times a year in a positive, productive and spiritual principle manner. And we encourage people to change it up each week, so it doesn’t blend into the woodwork. Many churches have fallen into a routine, and it’s, “Oh yeah, we need to do that.” But really, giving is one of the most tangible forms of worship that we can do. It is really us, saying, “I can give this and believe that with God’s blessing on the rest, I can live a better life.” It’s the tangible form of saying that I trust the Lord. And so, I want to encourage every leader that’s listening to this, watching this is that you should think through and spend as much time planning the offering moment as you do in planning the message. It’s that important.
KENNY: And one of the biggest hesitations is that if you are constantly putting up calls-to-action about giving and money that the reaction is being negative, you’re going to be seen as someone who’s greedy and self-serving. How do you avoid that perception on the receiving end?
JOE: So, again, if the leader feels like that is what they’re doing, then, they are probably doing that they need to re-evaluate their why. But on the other side, the way you speak about giving, it needs to be about the mission and the vision and how giving has helped accomplished it. And being into the attitude of gratitude to tell people, “I’m so grateful to you’ve chosen to be part of the vision here at Cornerstone Church, at Crosspoint Church. Let me tell you how your giving a dollar makes a difference in our community and connecting the dots that these dollars really have equal life change.” And when you do that, it actually encourages people. It helps them understand that there’s a return of investment, an ROI here. And they know for a fact, this is the greatest place that I can give my dollar.
KENNY: Tell us a little bit more on your ministry in particular, how you actually help churches accomplish that tactically and logistically. What other resources that you are able to derive?
JOE: Well, I feel like there are four spokes of the wheel that fund churches. And we’re serving all 4 of them. One is personal stewardship. With I Was Broke, Now I Am Not, we have personal finance group studies, think of Dave Ramsey’s Type studies. I go on sites, teach stewardship messages, teach 2 hour classes. And then, have DVD based studies resources. The next one is InJoy Stewardship Solutions. That’s capital campaigns. That’s the sacrificial pocket. You know, that time of sacrifice come and go. And that helps churches raise big time money when they’re raising half of the year’s the budget or more. That’s when we can help. And then, the third pocket is the regular giving pocket. And I started that with somebody you and I both know, Michael Lukaszewski, an organization called Fully-Funded. It’s an online coaching membership where churches have gathered together, learning how to implement regular giving systems within their church. The fourth pocket is Estate Planning and that’s talking to people about their assets and what they’re going to do with them when they leave. And how they can still have kingdom impact even beyond their after life. And so we help in those all four categories and the greatest place to start really is a conversation with I Was Broke. Now, I Am Not or with InJoy Stewardship Solutions or Fully-Funded whichever category a pastor needs. We love to help them with that.
KENNY: Most of the churches in this country now, in the State of the Union is that over 50% of the churches are a hundred or less in attendees.
JOE: That’s right.
KENNY: And then, you’re probably talking solo pastor ministries, right? Is the pastor himself/herself the one that really should be the spokesperson, the steward, the facilitator of this conversations or is it a treasurer, a finance person, volunteers, an elder or somebody else that should be the point person for these types of conversation?
JOE: That’s a great question. And the right answer is it depends. It depends upon the past culture of the church and how people respond to that culture. So, if the pastor feels confident talking about money and can answer those questions, then, it should be the pastor, you know, their kind of CEO of your church. They’re the public face of the ministry. They are the chief vision-caster in most cases. So, it’s most compelling when it’s from the leader. However, many pastors in smaller churches have a very strong business leader, who’s a leader of their board, who can speak very eloquently on this topic. It can be a very wise shepherd, helping people honor the Lord with their resources. So, if that’s the case, then, it’s okay if that person as well.
KENNY: I am really glad that you’re both advocating depending on the context. This past week I had lunch with a pastor who shared with me that he literally does not know any of the finances of his church. Is that wise? Is that something that you think that needs to be cordoned off, you know, the pastor, he’s deep in the Word, preaching in his ministry and the rest of the flock are concerned about the business of the church, the expansion of the church, etc. what’s your opinion on that?
JOE: I would argue strongly, the pastor should know. Proverbs 27:23 says, “A Shepherd knows the status of his flocks.” The pastors and shepherds and giving is an absolute outward sign of a person’s heart condition. I know in some cases that if the pastor knows they would be fired. So, if that’s the case, I would want to get the pastor fired. I would say, someone must know. And I would start by saying, “Anybody who’s on staff or in a key volunteer leadership position, somebody needs to know that they’re giving generously.” Plus, everything rises and falls on leadership. John Maxwell, right? And if the leader and the leaders of the church are not leading the way in this thing called generosity, you can not expect for that mission, that vision to be fully funded.
KENNY: Wow, that’s pretty powerful. I think it’s a good guidance, too. And I think it also always comes down to the confidence of the pastor. Many pastors are not, right? Seminary didn’t change us like an MBA, like you and I have. It’s a part of the profile that a pastor needs to understand. Where do they go for resources to become up to speed on the financial aspect of the business?
JOE: I would say every single pastor can sign up for our online class for free. And so, I Was Broke, Now I Am Not has a year-long course with coaching, mentoring and lessons and I would give it to any pastor, senior pastor, that contacts us. We would give it to them for free. And I’ll answer their questions. My passion. You know, there are too many broke pastors. And most pastors, especially those of the 200 or less, 100 or less, they don’t go in the ministry to make millions of dollars. They do it because of passion and calling. Most of them don’t have any vacation and are very tired. And my goal is to be able to help them become liberated in their finances so that they can solely focus on God’s calling. And finances, generally, is the number one barrier from that church growing to the 500 mark.
KENNY: I love it. And that’s what I love about your ministry. Your heart really comes through authentically. That’s where your passion is. You really want to help that pastor, the leader get a hold in their own finances, so that they can actually focus on all the other things in ministry as well.
KENNY: Thank you so much for stopping by. If someone wants to get in touch with you personally, what’s the best way to do that? Social media, email, website? Give us your digits here.
JOE: Go to iwasbrokenowimnot.com Just Google it. I Was Broke Now I Am Not. And click Contact Joe. That will go right through me and my team and we’ll be in touch very soon. We’d love to help any leader to be able to fund vision. It’s our passion.
KENNY: Thanks so much Joseph, really to stop by and hope some time to revisit with us later to go deeper in some other topics. But, I love what you’re doing and everything that you do for the kingdom.
JOE: Thanks for the opportunity. So blessed. Thanks Kenny.
The Generosity Labs Podcast is part of a new resource hub for pastors, providing free resources and information about digital giving. You can find more free resources here. A full transcription is below
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White coats? Beakers? A little smoke and occasional explosion! Needles, knives, tweezers, and other tools?
The dictionary tells us that a lab is “a place providing opportunity for experimentation, observation, or practice in a field of study”. An experiment is “a test for the purpose of discovering something unknown”.
So let’s use Generosity Labs to talk about a few real world giving experiments we’ve been up to over at Tithe.ly. Sound good?!
Lab coats. Check.
Protective eye wear. Check.
Experiment #1: Will Mobile Giving Grow Overall Giving?
It’s not uncommon for us to hear from churches that they have “online giving”, but there is a very big difference between “online giving” and “mobile giving”.
You see, most of the time “online giving” requires people to go to their laptop which is sitting at home. Meaning, instead of giving in the moment of the offering at church, the person has to remember to crack open their computer and get online when they get home. The chances of that happening is fairly slim because people fellowship after church, go to lunch, attend their kids sporting activities, spend time with family and countless other things. Then, the go home. Tired 🙂 Next Sunday rolls around and they are listening to the offering thinking “shoot, I was going to give online after the last service!”.
Mobile giving, on the other hand, allows people to take part in the worship and give right in the offering moment or while the plate is being passe.
Michael Morris, Sr. Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in the rural mountains of Virginia launched Tithe.ly about six months ago. Prior to Tithe.ly his church only had online giving tools avail for members to give.
He rolled out true mobile giving through Tithe.ly and the early results are impressive. Here’s what Pastor Morris has to say …
“After launching Tithe.ly, we quickly saw our giving trends change. We now have 34% of all giving occur from mobile, which is a big increase from our previous solution. Another positive benefit is that 41% of our online giving is recurring giving, meaning that our giving is now more consistent week after week.
After the first quarter, the church is ahead of budget by 2 entire weeks! This is the first time the church has ever been ahead of budget during the first quarter. Based on the current average for 2017, we should exceed our annual budget by $50,000.
Conclusion: When put in the hands of members, mobile giving does, in fact, increase giving.
Experiment #2: Does the Summer Giving Slump Have to Happen?
The summer giving slump is a real thing in the church world.
What is it, you ask?
For many years there has been a direct correlation between attendance and giving. If people miss church, they don’t give. It’s seen most dramatically in the summer months. People go on vacation, have family in town, stay out and wake up late, etc. So, from May through August, many churches in the U.S. see giving “slump” (aka decline) due to attendance dropping.
It’s been reported that the average decline is between 20 – 30%!
Based on the historical trend, many churches simply plan for this in their annual budgeting process. The scale back programs, activities, and other costs in order to keep cost during the summer inline with income.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Check out the chart based on Tithe.ly giving research below.
The line represents the normal giving pattern for many churches in the U.S. That’s the summer slump!
The bars in green represent what churches using Tithe.ly see during the summer months. You don’t even have to look closely to see that there is NO SUMMER SLUMP for churches using Tithe.ly. Giving actually steadily grows through the summer.
Conclusion: When you give people mobile, text, and online giving tools so they can give whether they are in church or away, giving doesn’t suffer during the summer months so you don’t have to plan for the “summer slump”.
Experiment #3: WIll People Give Big Gifts Online?
It’s not uncommon to hear church leadership share opinions about online giving being for small gifts. Somehow, church leaders have been convinced that people won’t give big donations through a mobile giving app or online giving solution.
But, is that true?
The data suggest this is, in fact, a myth!
54% of gifts given through the Tithe.ly digital giving platform are over $250 with 18% being over $1,000! I wouldn’t put those in the “small gift” category, would you?
Conclusion: Although popular opinion suggest online giving is for smaller gifts, the data shows that this isn’t true. People are comfortable giving big!
Experiment #4: Do People Prefer Using their Bank Account Over Credit/Debit Card for Giving?
Let’s start with a disclaimer: We are NOT in favor of anyone using debt to give or otherwise going into debt. That goes completely against the biblical call to be good stewards of the resources that God has entrusted to our care. We understand that this heart is the heart behind churches wanting to not allowing giving by way of a credit card.
The thing is, people, your members, prefer giving through a credit or debit card compared to using their bank account directly.
We don’t have any hard data to support why this is the case, but we do have two anecdotal bit of evidence based on talking to a lot of people about it:
People do not want to attach their bank account to anything.
People like getting the points associated with using their credit card.
Conclusion: Card based giving is the preferred method for most individuals.
Experiment #5: Will People “Cover the Fees”?
Cover the fees™ is a handly little feature in Tithe.ly that allows the giver to help offset fees paid by the church to use Tithe.ly. Essentially, the giver can turn on Cover the fees™ and it will increase their donation amount slightly so that the church gets the full gift amount.
It’s a feature that, to be completely honest, we didn’t know would work or not, but we had a hunch and wanted to experiment a bit.
Much to our surprise, Cover the fees™ not only worked, it gets used in over 25% of all gifts made across the Tithe.ly platform.
Your turn …
You can take off your protective eyewear now 🙂
The experiments are done.
There you have it. Five real world generosity experiments that we’ve been running for some time, along with the data to back up the results. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below! What giving experiments have you run? Do any of the above stand out or do you find yourself questioning the data? Let us know.
Dean Sweetman For over 30 years, Dean has been involved in ministry and building businesses that support the work of the Church. He’s help plant over 50 churches and raised millions of dollars to spread the Gospel, equip leaders, and change lives. Now Dean spends his time focused on using technology to advance the Kingdom. When he’s not helping churches grow their giving with Tithe.ly he’s spending time with his family and new grandson!