To Build a Generosity Story, Start with Why

By October 21, 2015 News No Comments
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Leaders move fast. Leaders get stuff done. Leaders solve problems and point the way. But leaders also often talk about solutions and moving in a new direction long before others even realize a problem exists.

They start with the “what” and not the “why.”

I personally experienced this phenomenon while repairing a section of my backyard fence. As any father would do in the hopes of effectively leading his family, I told my two oldest sons that they would be helping me with the project. In every aspect of the job—from demolition of the broken fence to setting posts to nailing new fence slats—I found myself explaining the “what” of our process several times. “We need to do this first so that….” “This hole needs to be a few inches bigger in order to….” As a result, very little of our work was inspiring.

I see the same thing play out in the local church.

Like me trying to get my sons to engage in our fence-building project, I see many church leaders spending much of their energies talking about the “what” to their congregations: “We’re going to do this great new ministry…” and, “You should consider joining a small group…” and, “Our budget’s running low here.”

The “what” messages compel some to help “build the fence,” but don’t ultimately inspire the majority of the body to give of their time, talents, and treasures. And eventually, fewer and fewer people feel inspired to work on the fence.

In his powerful TED Talk, “Start With Why,” Simon Sinek presents a simple model for how great leaders inspire action: The central motivation to jump into something new comes from a desire to know the reasons why something is the way it is. Think about gut decisions, for instance. Our instinctive motivation doesn’t rely on properly formed rationale as much as inspiration. Facts and figures rarely motivate people to change behavior.

So can those who attend your church be inspired to give? Can giving be more than simply funding the machine of the local church? How can church leaders motivate people to change behavior and resource the mission of the local church?

To answer these questions, you have to first address the most essential “why” question: “Why should I give to my church? “

Following are two powerful “whys” I’ve experienced in my own life and have observed in the lives of countless churches I’ve worked with.

1. Giving Is Good For Us

Several weeks ago, I was with a focus group at a local church in the Midwest, and we asked the question: “Why do you give?” Responses like, “I get to model generosity to my children,” and, “Selfishly, I know that God blesses me when I give,” remind me that giving has some real benefits, not just for the recipients of our generosity, but for us when we give. Primary among the benefits—we get to experience life with an open hand instead of a clenched fist.

There is a complex and inseparable relationship between the human soul and money. Contrast the rich young ruler (Luke 18) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19). When confronted with his tight hold on money, the ruler became sad and turned away.

When Zacchaeus met Jesus face to face and spent time with Him, he gave away half his money and vowed to repay anyone he had cheated four times the amount. Giving, in many ways, is a response to the amazing grace of Jesus. And that grace changes the way the heart feels about money. Generosity releases the heart from the chains of greed.

2. We Become Part of the Amazing Work at Our Church

Giving allows people to move from the sidelines into the game. It leads people from applauding others to dirtying their hands in the work. Churches can help inspire this transition in people’s live by regularly taking time to look back and celebrate more often what their giving has meant to the church. Why did that missions experience matter? What difference did that Saturday serve event make in the life of our community? By celebrating, saying thank you, and telling stories of sacrifice and life change, givers will be left with a sense of, “Wow! My church is doing something amazing. I can’t believe I can be part of this impact.”

Bill Hybels has famously said, “The local church is the hope of the world.” And the church can be truly inspiring to the world in which we live. But we inspire by why we exist as a church, not by what we do as a church. The more we can help people see why their generosity matters, the more generous they become. To build a generosity story, you have to start with why.


Generis walks with churches and ministries of all shapes, sizes and personalities to develop a generosity that permeates the culture. Download their free e-book, “Accelerating Generosity: How to create a culture of giving in your church or ministry.”

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