Every December, we encourage our church to spend less and give more. The idea is simple. Instead of overspending and overindulging, cut back a little and focus on acts of extreme generosity.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of enjoying a lunch with Chris Hodges, the senior pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. I had no idea that lunch would change everything about the way our church served the community.
Pastor Chris encouraged our leadership to budget less, rather than more. He said, “The Church of the Highlands budgets at 90% of the previous year’s giving.” Budget less, rather than more. So simple, yet it was a game changer for Woodland Hills.
I shared this budgeting strategy with our elders and they immediately implemented it. We had no idea how this “spend less, give more” budgeting would simplify our year-end budgeting process but more than that it increased our outreach into the community.
A few years later, and our monthly elder meetings are a blast as we seek ways to steward the excess. Should we send all of our missionaries a bonus? What if we buy gift cards for single parents? How much should we give to meet the physical needs of children in Stone and Taney counties?
Our outreach into the community and around the world increased exponentially because we decided not to be a financially “strapped” church. By giving our budget room to breathe, we freed ourselves to serve others better. Even though we budget for missions within our 90% budget, having a cushion frees us up to do even more. Here are just a few ways we minister to our congregation, community and world.
Mercy Offering – The first Sunday of every month is highly anticipated at Woodland Hills. After we take the Lord’s Supper, we take a mercy offering. This goes to meet the physical needs of our church family. Our giving goes to help families pay for rent, utility bills, gas, groceries, clothes, prescriptions and medical bills. We encourage our church members to bring us their needs (Acts 4:32).
Care for Kids – A few years ago, our church teamed up with the Silver Dollar City Foundation’s Care for Kids program to meet the physical needs of children in our community by funding benevolence in the 14 school districts in our surrounding counties. The Care for Kids program distributes funds to the counselors at area schools to immediately meet needs of children. These funds buy coats, eyeglasses, meals, shoes, and any item that a child needs to stay warm, nourished, and healthy. The first year our church committed $14,000 to Care for Kids, but because of our 90% budgeting we tripled that amount to $42,000 right before we cut the check. Every month we hear stories of children blessed by the little extra help.
Christmas Giving Tree – Every November we set up a huge tree in our church foyer. The ornaments are envelopes with the names of families in need. Inside the envelope is a list of names, ages and interests of each family member. Members of our church adopt a family off of the tree, shop with that list in hand and deliver the presents along with food right before Christmas.
Missionary Christmas Bonuses – Missionaries are often overlooked this time of year. Christmas is the perfect time to reach into your church and community, but it also a great time to reach into the world. We send all of our missionaries a financial Christmas gift each November. We encourage them to use the money to get away and enjoy a little rest and relaxation with their family. We seek to honor and prioritize the missionary’s marriage and family, so they can enjoy life and each other.
When I consider the simple ways in which we encourage generosity, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words to the believers in Corinth: “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.
Pastor, let’s encourage our congregations to spend less and give more. Let’s all participate in willing and joyful generosity to the church, community, and world.