How many times have we given spontaneously in response to a direct mailer’s emotional photo? Or committed to a friend who called us out of the blue for missionary support, without giving it much thought?
We all want to make the biggest possible impact with our generosity. While spur-of-the-moment, Spirit-led giving holds an important place, so does prayerful planning. Without it, we may wind up unfocused, nonstrategic and unaware of the impact we are making in our communities and around the world.
That’s why it’s important that we, as Christians, take time to plan …
- To prayerfully consider how our beliefs about money shape our actions
- To discover the causes we’re truly passionate about
- To set financial finish lines and annual and lifetime giving goals
- To learn why what we give can be as critical as how much we give
- To evaluate charities doing the best work right now, and …
- To measure the ultimate, lasting impact of the gifts we’ve made.
It may take you an hour at a coffee shop to read these articles here online, or you may want to devote more time alone or with family to dive deep. Whatever you choose, we encourage you to slow down, pray, think, study, and seek God’s leading. The reward will surely be a wiser, more-targeted approach to your giving that frees you up to say “yes” when you should say “yes,” and “no” when you should say “no.”
In doing so, there is great potential to multiply your impact for the causes you really care about.
So let’s get started!
Create your giving mission statement
The first step in giving more wisely and strategically is to create your giving mission statement – a written paragraph or document that you develop on your own or with your family, friends, or even an employee giving group.
Your mission statement will capture your beliefs about money, why you should live generously, and what causes you’re passionate about supporting. Then, you can use this document as the foundation for all of your future giving plans and decisions.
The process involves two components: clarification and communication.
Start by examining your core beliefs, feelings, and attitudes about money in light of Scripture. Why is this important? Throughout your life, you are bombarded with competing ideas, claims, and experiences that affect how you view money, either consciously or unconsciously. Over time, you develop attitudes, habits, and behaviors that ultimately reflect the beliefs you have adopted, and you may not have considered whether your beliefs and actions are truly aligned.
Because of this, it’s important to bring thoughts, feelings, and behaviors concerning money out into the open. This allows you to evaluate them in the light of God’s Word, which teaches that we are simply managers – or stewards – of God’s resources. God owns everything, and we simply get to manage some of it for a limited time.
Though this is Scriptural truth, research shows that up to 97 percent of American Christians don’t understand this. So taking some time to let this sink in – that everything belongs to God, and that everything we have is only on loan to us for a time – is a wise move. (If you’d like more information about God’s ownership of everything, you can explore this article to learn more.)
The discovery process usually begins with individual study and prayer. You may want to do your own specific Bible study of money, wealth, and giving, or follow the links to read all seven articles in our Principles of biblical generosity series. As you reflect on your own beliefs, it’s helpful to write out your thoughts in a notebook or journal. Record anything significant that God brings to mind.
Here are some questions to think about:
- What did my parents teach me about money?
- What were my feelings about wealth as I was growing up?
- How have my beliefs changed over time?
- What people or events have shaped my view of money?
- What Bible verse(s) had the most impact on my beliefs about money?
Once you’ve answered those philosophical questions, you’re ready to clarify your purpose and passion for giving:
- Why do I want to give?
- What special talents, interests, or resources do I have available to give?
- What causes am I most passionate about? Where do I feel especially called to give? High-level categories include:
- Evangelism – church planting, Scripture translation, missions
- Culture – the arts, media, history preservation
- Justice – efforts to end modern slavery and oppression
- Church – the local ministry of my house of worship
- Support – prayer, generosity, stewardship ministries
- Growth – discipleship, youth ministry, counseling, job training
- Poverty – food, clean water, shelter, medical care
As your thoughts fall into place, it’s essential that you are able to communicate them effectively for yourself and to others. Creating a written Giving Mission Statement is the key to keeping your giving focused and on task, especially if you’re giving as part of a group – such as your family or a giving circle (typically a small group of friends that come together to share ideas and pool resources for giving).
This can be as short and simple as a single paragraph, or it may take shape as a multi-page composition. Think of it as the “Constitution” for your generosity – the foundational document that records what you truly believe about the source and purpose of the resources God has entrusted to you. Of course, your Mission Statement may change over time as you grow and adapt with God’s leading. Make a plan to review it regularly, so it can continue to serve as a reference point to keep you on course over your entire lifetime, maybe even for generations.
The following is a very basic template you can use to craft your own Mission Statement. Copy this to your own computer or write it down in your journal, and then fill in the blanks and expand as needed:
My name believes in a life of giving generously because Reasons. I am called by God to give to Categories / Causes in Geographical Areas (Local, National, or International) because Purpose / Passions.
Finally … once you’ve clarified and put your beliefs and passions into writing, it’s time to demonstrate your commitment. But that starts with the next two steps in our five-step process: setting tangible giving goals, and giving in the wisest possible ways.