the shape of leadership

Five Ways Missions Giving Changed Our Church

A shift in focus can make a big difference

Nichole Schreiber on October 21, 2020

Money was tight — like, bills-might-not-get-paid tight. Vision was foggy at best. Transition had taken a toll on our typically strong congregation.

I was just getting my feet under me as a new lead pastor. I remember praying and asking God what to do about our financial crunch. Should we organize a fundraiser? Lay off some personnel? Sell some assets? His answer wasn’t what I expected. I clearly sensed the Lord telling me, “You have to give your way out of this problem.”

Immediately, as crazy as it may have seemed, I lobbied our church board to begin the process of tithing on our tithes. It was slow at first. We started by giving 6% in the first year. The next year, we gave 8%, and by the third year, we were giving 10% of our tithes and offerings to missions and outreach.

We used the Kingdom Builders model (created by Rob Ketterling) and modified it to fit with the vision God had for our specific church. We use our 10% of tithing to support missionaries on a monthly basis. We support missionaries locally, nationally and globally.

On top of that, we collect offerings weekly that fund predetermined missions projects. For example, we helped fund a feeding program in Haiti, invested in a local downtown church to do needed improvements to its building, and sent a team to Cambodia to work with children who had been victims of human trafficking.

As a leadership team, we pray for a goal amount and then cast that vision to the congregation. Every year, the goal has been met and generously exceeded.

The method isn’t especially important as long as the end result is a priority to give to missions. Our church experienced significant changes in our culture that propelled us forward when we made the decision to make missions giving a priority.

Here are five ways missions giving has made a difference in our congregation:

1. Giving to missions turned our financial problems around. The more we gave away to missions, the more our tithing increased. This spiritual principle may not make good business sense, but God’s math never fails.

As we sowed into the Kingdom, our finances for the church became healthier. There is no other way for me to explain it except that God made good on His promise in Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’”

In just one year, we were giving more to missions than in the previous decade. We were even able to make good on some missions commitments that had fallen behind — all while our Kingdom Builders account began to see a surplus!

2. Giving to missions helped our congregation become less self-centric. We have an older building, outdated and still proudly displaying some 1980s mauve carpet. We need a new roof, and the parking lot is not in great shape. Before we started giving to missions, all we talked about was how to pay for all the needs we saw before us. Our building was our main concern.

After we started giving to missions — and hearing the reports from developing nations, as well as inner-city ministries in our own nation — something changed. The conversations weren’t all about what we needed anymore.

We saw that a moderately generous gift from our church could feed an entire village. The benefit of helping another ministry fulfill a dream was refreshing and invigorating.

The church as a whole has benefited as we’ve intentionally made the Father’s heart for the lost more central.

Over time, our focus shifted. Our congregation and leadership started changing the question from “What do we need?” to “What do they need?”

Giving to missions was a practical application of Jesus’ call for His followers to “deny themselves” (Matthew 16:24). As a church body, we were choosing to love others first.

Three years into this endeavor, our missions giving has skyrocketed. And we plan to repave our parking lot out of our savings this spring. We’ve learned we don’t have to choose between giving to missions and taking care of our own property. We can do both. In fact, these things go together as we fulfill the mission with which God has entrusted us.

3. Giving to missions grew our heart for the lost. As our congregation members learned about what God was doing around the nation and the world, they became more intrigued and more focused on the lost in their own neighborhoods.

One man in our church traveled out of the country for the first time — as part of a missions team to Honduras, where he helped with feeding programs for mothers and children. He was so moved by this ministry that upon returning the man immediately partnered with our local city mission to create a feeding program in the community.

A female parishoner was giving faithfully to a missionary in Uganda. When the woman found out some refugees had recently moved to our city from Uganda, she reached out to them and brought them to church. The lady is now learning the refugees’ language so she can communicate the gospel to them and others.

The seed was planted in the woman through missions giving, and when it grew, her heart for the lost blossomed. We are a more missional church in our community because we have committed to missions giving.

4. Giving to missions deepened community within our church. Coming together to reach a common goal and then celebrating that goal has been extremely valuable for our congregation. We recognize our church’s giving goals are too great for any one of us to meet. But together, it’s possible.

Each year, we hold a banquet to celebrate all the wins of missions and outreach. This has served as a rallying point for our congregation.

The missions projects where we have the opportunity to give and also send a team have made a lasting impact on our church body. These trips have helped bridge the gap between generations, and created unlikely friendships within the congregation.

I love watching the mentoring and investing that happens when a missions team is training. Traveling together, working together on location, and reflecting afterward on what God had done bonds a group of people like nothing else can.

This experience cannot be imitated or recreated with any other set of circumstances. The community building effect is invaluable.

5. Giving to missions increased the spiritual temperature within our church. As we shifted our focus to make missions giving a priority, I saw some fascinating byproducts. Many people in our congregation gave sacrificially and were blessed in return, as God promises, and this created real faith.

On several occasions, men and women were filled with the Holy Spirit as they served on missions trips at home and abroad. One college student delayed her graduate school ambitions to pursue a call to ministry after traveling to a developing nation.

The church as a whole has benefited as we’ve intentionally made the Father’s heart for the lost more central. There is a lot more work to do to get the gospel to every soul on the planet, but until then, let’s be careful to never abandon the call God has put on us as believers: to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

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