It’s a long-standing tension in Christian circles: What motivates people to be generous? Is it duty? Discipline? Response to God’s generosity? A recent study by Barna Group reveals some helpful insights into the question of why people give. For church and ministry leaders, these insights amount to a call to discipleship, helping people better understand who they are in Christ and why giving is vital to their life in him.
In a recent blog, Who Are the Givers? And How Can You Become One of Them?, Barna Group President David Kinnaman reported that the maturity of a person’s faith has a profound impact on what they give and why:
For example, regular church attendance strongly correlates with giving goals. Nearly six in 10 Christians who attended a worship service within the past week are Givers (57 percent), compared to 45 percent of Christians who did not. And only weekly (not just occasional) church involvement appears to make a significant impact.
Barna’s research separates Christians who give into two general categories: Givers and keepers. “In simplest terms,” Kinnaman says, “Christians with ‘giving’ goals give more, while those with ‘keeping’ goals give less.” Not surprisingly, motivation matters when it comes to stewardship.
The Generosity Gap, another Barna study commissioned by Thrivent Financial, confirms that motivation matters and that it reflects spiritual maturity. Consider this from Changes in generosity, represent challenge, opportunity for churches:
“Generosity is both a reflection of people’s heart and a reflection of their wisdom with money,” said Christopher Kopka, president of Thrivent Church Solutions Group. “Christians’ interest in generosity provides a strong base from which pastors and leaders can grow their congregants’ understanding and practice of generosity in both monetary and non-monetary ways.”
While the study also found that giving motivations and patterns vary among age groups, perhaps a more surprising discovery was a “significant generosity-related misalignment between pastors and church attendees.” This misalignment surfaced in a number of questions. One of the more striking: “Nearly half (47 percent) of Christians surveyed agreed that it is okay for church members who volunteer extensively not to give financially; just nine percent of pastors surveyed agreed (and 85 percent disagree).”
For churches, these findings represent not just an opportunity to grow people in their understanding of biblical stewardship, but a responsibility to help them see it as an integral part of their walk with Christ. To get started, check out How Do You Build a Culture of Stewardship and Creating a Culture of Generosity throughout Your Church.