No matter how well you teach stewardship, you likely have many people in your congregation who do not give. If your church is typical, 37 percent of your church attendees are not giving. Ever wonder why?
Here are 11 top reasons regular attenders aren’t giving at your church—and what you can do about it.
1) They’ve never built a habit of giving
Generosity is a spiritual discipline. It must be taught (and caught) like any other habit. Many people have never been taught the importance of giving.
Teach giving along with other spiritual disciplines in your membership class and in other discipleship forums. Habits take time to develop, but once they’re developed they are hard to break.
Another way to help is to provide digital tools (such as recurring giving) that encourage consistent giving. It’s much easier to be consistent when the gift is automatically given each month.
2) They don’t know what the Bible teaches about giving
Because some church leaders have struggled to talk about finances in the church, many people today don’t know what the Bible teaches about stewardship.
Make it a priority to teach people the biblical foundation of generosity. It’s not just about money. God has given us time, talents, and treasure to use for his glory. We give them back to him as an act of worship.
Churches need to teach biblical stewardship in multiple avenues, including sermons, Bible studies, membership classes, digital communications, and more.
3) They find giving to your church is too inconvenient
Fewer people carry cash or a checkbook to church than in years past. If your church is still depending upon the passing of the plate to bring in the majority of your weekly offering, you’re likely missing some people.
Even if your church has digital giving options, they may be clunky and complicated to use. For example, if a giver has to memorize a difficult password to donate, it’ll make giving more difficult.
You need to provide as many different giving options as possible. Don’t necessarily stop passing the plate (particularly if you’re engaging a community with older congregants), but make sure you have easy-to-use digital giving options as well.
4) They’re not giving as an act of protest
These are the people who are upset about something in the church. Maybe they don’t like a recent sermon, or they disagreed with your decision to paint the nursery. Often, it’s a petty, even passive-aggressive response.
You may or may not know the reason for the giver’s protest. In some cases, it’ll be obvious; other times it’ll be more subtle.
Fight the urge to get frustrated by the act or to capitulate. Most experienced church leaders understand it’s important to not let a person’s giving (regardless of how much it is) impact the decisions the congregation makes through whatever polity the church employs.
5) They’re struggling financially
Sometimes, a committed church member will hit tough times financially—unexpected bills, job loss, health problems, etc. These congregants may not feel comfortable sharing their struggles with the church, so the first time you notice is when their giving level drops or goes away completely.
This is a pastoral care opportunity. Your first goal isn’t to help them restart giving; it’s to care for the needs in this family’s life. You may have church procedures that preclude the pastoral staff from viewing the giving of parishioners (and there are good reasons for this), but it’s a good idea to set up a process that allows you to notify pastoral leaders of possible care situations like these identified through giving patterns. You can do this without necessarily allowing the pastoral staff access to giving records.
Also, consider either starting some kind of ministry to the unemployed (or underemployed) or alerting the congregation to ministries like these in sister churches, para-church organizations, or nonprofits.
6) They don’t believe their gifts will matter
Some people will look around at the well-to-do church members around them and not believe their giving will be missed. This is particularly true in larger churches where members are likely to see a lot of potential givers in the congregation.
Consider including testimonies of givers during worship services (when teaching about giving), on your website, on social media, etc. When you do this, include people of different socio-economic backgrounds.
Also, when you teach on giving (during weekend worship and/or smaller group experiences), look for ways to illustrate the principle that every gift matters, along with teaching the biblical instruction about giving.
7) They believe the church already has plenty of money
Sometimes, people don’t understand the financial structure that enables churches to do ministry. Often, it’s simply because they haven’t stopped and thought about where the money comes from. Other times, parishioners see spending decisions they don’t understand and assume it means the church has more than enough money to cover its ministry needs.
Re-frame the conversation. God will meet the needs of the church, but he uses his people to do so. Regularly tie God’s work in the church and in the community to the generosity of congregants.
8) They’re giving elsewhere
There are likely many good causes in your community your congregants can give toward. Just because they don’t give to your church doesn’t mean they aren’t generous.
Make sure your congregants understand what the Bible says about giving to the local church. Often, a membership class is a great place for this kind of teaching. Also, ensure you make it clear all God is doing through the ministry of your church. Consider creating an annual report that describes what God has done over the past year.
9) They’re struggling spiritually
When people feel distant from God, they’ll often have difficulties being generous. Giving requires faith. If you’re struggling to trust God, you’ll be more likely to hang on tightly to the resources you have.
Often, people who are not giving because of spiritual struggles don’t tie the two together (or they are in some sort of denial). Look for opportunities either in sermons, Bible teaching, or one-on-one counseling to clarify how struggling to give and spiritual staleness correspond with one another.
10) They are concerned with how your church uses money
People don’t trust the church as much as they did in years past. A 2023 LifeWay Research report noted that trust in churches has dropped by more than half since the 1970s. Particularly if your church is reaching people who are new to Christianity, they may have some skepticism in how your church manages money.
Transparency matters in today’s ministry world. Look for ways you can be as open and honest about your financial decisions as possible. Show them you have nothing to hide.
11) They’ve heard too many churches ask for money
Often, this excuse is just that, an excuse. But it may be a real perception. You’ll see this concern pop up, particularly after a church scandal makes the news.
Because this excuse is often tossed around without validity, there isn’t much you can do to overcome it. But you can focus as much as possible on how God is using the generosity of your church to make an impact in your community and around the world. Also, be as transparent as possible in communicating how you use the gifts of the congregation in ministry.
Helping non-givers learn to give isn’t just about meeting your church’s budgetary needs. It’s about helping people become more mature disciples, and better stewards of all God has given them. For more about helping people take their next step in generosity, check out our free guide: Nurturing Generosity: Helping Members Take Their Next Step in Biblical Stewardship.
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