Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops– Proverbs 3:9 (NIV)
While it may seem easy to honor God in some ways, others may seem more difficult. Through the Bible, we see reminder after reminder that we can honor and praise Him through our finances.
In a previous blog we examined factors that motivate people to give to church missions. However, one might ask, what are the barriers that prevent members from giving?
A recent study (2016) conducted by Petr Cincala, René Drumm, and Duane McBride on behalf of the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR) and the North American Division, surveyed 872 North American church members. The purpose of the study was to examine patterns of giving to World Mission, including barriers to giving.
Study participants identified four main reasons they do not give to the church mission offering:
- A growing distrust, or lack of understanding, regarding how funds are managed
- A preference for local giving
- A perceived shortage of communication regarding missions
- A lack of personal funds
Perhaps the most important reason cited for a lack of giving to the mission offering is the perceived shortage of communication regarding missions. While some churches may place a greater emphasis on the mission offering, some focus group members shared that they never hear about the mission offering at their church. These members felt a reminder would be helpful (FG7 and FG3). Others mentioned that they would like to learn more about specific projects that their donations would fund (FG7).
Another reason is a lack of trust or merely an absence of understanding of the church’s fund management. Focus group participants in this study mentioned that they do not feel that the church administration is in touch with what goes to the mission projects nor do they know if their funds will be used appropriately. As one focus group member put it, ““There’s perception that funds are not being used appropriately…and so that, you know, generates mistrust” (FG9).
Other members shared that they would prefer to donate their money to local needs instead of the mission offering. Some focus group respondents shared that they would rather give to their local church to help cover its expenses (FG4), while other respondents see needs in their community and would rather focus their giving on those needs (FG5).
The final reason cited for neglecting to give to the mission offering is insufficient personal funds. A member of focus group 3 shared: “At this stage of my life, I have, I’m not in the position to give that much…” Focus group participants shared that they feel their own funds are inadequate when compared to the needs that are presented.
While much of this may sound negative, survey participants also had ideas for how to increase giving to the mission offering. These ideas included:
- Increasing transparency
- Increasing the use of existing resources
- Updating giving mechanisms to make giving more convenient
When it comes to increasing transparency, focus group members felt that learning specifics about where their money is going would help them be more inclined to give (FG7). They also shared that they would like updates on the projects to which they have previously given (FG9 and FG3).
Focus group members also shared that they believe there are resources currently available – or ones that have been used in the past – that are being underutilized. A member of focus group 5 shared thoughts on one of those: “We used to have Mission Spotlight, but we don’t have that anymore, that’s disappeared… I know every week in Sabbath school they would get up and somebody is doing a mission story. Always, and I haven’t heard that in years.”
The last suggestion made for increasing giving to the mission offering was to update the mechanisms used to donate. Focus group participants shared ideas such as electronic giving, texting to give, creating an app or a website dedicated to giving, and being able to use credit cards at church. If you would like to explore these ways of giving to Adventist mission, you can visit its website.
Although there are barriers to giving to world missions and the Adventist Church’s missionary enterprise, there are clearly things that could be done to increase offerings to this vital cause. As church leaders, it is our responsibility to keep lay members well informed of our global mission needs, to report on the use of these funds, enhancing accountability, and to simplify the way they are collected and used, ensuring transparency. As lay members, we can encourage each other to learn about these global mission projects and understand our responsibilities to the billions who still have not heard the Third Angel’s Message, indeed have not even heard of Jesus Christ. Consider your own congregation: what steps could you take to encourage your fellow church members to learn more about global missions, and to support them regularly, generously, with prayer and offerings?
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.