No matter the size of its congregation, every church has a limited amount of resources. Whether yours brings in hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars each week, you can’t say yes to everything. Besides, you shouldn’t. We have to say no to the things that don’t contribute to our mission so we can say yes to the things that do. This is especially true in small churches.
Often, in small-church contexts, the church is renting a shared space, has a bivocational pastor, or both. There is considerably more to say no to than there is to say yes to. And while every pastor and church is different than the next, there are healthy practices that go beyond any particular situation.
One important practice is corporate giving to mission work. It’s definitely worth a yes, especially in small churches.
You might object, thinking that every dollar given should be used toward acquiring a permanent space or securing a full-time job for the pastor. I don’t oppose either endeavor. I went full-time at my church last year, and I dream of the day we’re able to open our own building. But before either seemed possible, since Day One, we’ve given 10 percent of our general income to missions.
The benefits of including missions giving in your church’s budget are many. In the same way God blesses people who give faithfully, God blesses churches that do the same. But besides the supernatural benefits, there are numerous natural benefits when it comes to your vision, the church’s generosity and our shared mission as followers of Jesus.
Here are three ways giving to missions work helps your dream:
1. It makes the vision tangible.
Much has been written and more said about the power of casting vision. In small churches, the vision is our most valuable asset. We point to a promising then and there when our here and now is lacking. In giving to organizations that are going somewhere to do something for the kingdom, our church sees itself doing in the future, and so we make the vision presently tangible. Our vision becomes global, and our purpose for growing, gathering and giving matters today, not just tomorrow.
2. It inspires generosity.
We see our biggest increases in giving in the months following a weekend service in which a missionary speaks to the congregation. When people who are new to faith or giving experience firsthand how we use our church’s finances, it inspires them to be generous. These people know that we’re making corporate sacrifices to give, and they feel compelled to do the same. Those in our faith community are more willing to invest in us when we practice what we teach.
3. It advances shared mission.
Every church is just one expression of a global movement. We’re not even the only church in our community that is intentional about reaching the unreached. God has a mission, and we’re called to join him on it. Each of us has our own role and set of responsibilities. This includes giving from our corporate income. We are better together, and advancing our shared mission with our finances is a task none of us are exempt from.
There are more benefits (natural and supernatural) than I’ve listed here, but the big idea is that there are immensely more pros than cons when it comes to corporately giving to missions work.
Begin to work this category into your church’s budget. It may initially feel like there are not enough resources, or that it takes away resources from something more important. In the counterintuitive way God usually works, he’ll honor your steps of faith and help you see the dreams he’s given you become reality.
Stephen Feith is the lead pastor at Madison Church in Madison, Wisconsin, and holds an M.A. in missional church movements from Wheaton College.