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Church Cultures that Grow Online Giving: Lessons Learned

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Church Cultures that Grow Giving: Lessons Learned

The pastor of a multiservice church shared with his congregation the need to build new parking lots at the church. He made a great pitch, full of vision and plans for the future. But people in the earliest service saw no point in it all. At their service, there was plenty of space to park. They’d never experienced the frustrations of the full lots at the other services. 

The pastor had forgotten to paint a picture of need for them. They only heard what the leadership wanted to do and how they were going to do it. These early service folks had a different picture. In their view, it wasn’t worth funding.

In this series, we’ve been talking about building a church culture that grows your online church giving program. We’ll close today by looking at some common mistakes pastors or churches make that can stifle donor engagement.

Sometimes, like in the example with the pastor and parking, we’re moving too quickly to solve a pressing issue. In a healthy church culture that supports online church giving, the donor is at the center. Open communication among staff and members should routinely raise joys and concerns. The parking attendant or congregational care associate at the earliest service likely could have flagged to the pastor that those members will need extra communication and a different presentation of the parking project.

“We don’t convince donors. We help them realize that they already care.” This bit of wisdom from Marc Koenig at helps us remember that we’re inviting our givers into Kingdom work with us, to be part of something bigger than themselves. We’re not convincing or arm-twisting them for their money for a project. 

Another common mistake churches – especially large ones – make is constantly revising their structure and organizational chart to solve a cultural issue. 

If you geek out on how organizations work (like I do), you’ve probably seen a little bit of everything when it comes to organizational structure. The hierarchical models— with boxes where one supreme leader stares down the chart at the others— may have seen its day in many organizations. You’ve seen the org chart with a lineup of more than fifty boxes, all people reporting up to one person. You’ve seen the chart of concentric circles and the inverted pyramid, with the senior leadership at the bottom. There are so many models to consider. 

Clearly, there is not one “right” structure for any church or ministry organization. Structure needs to reflect the culture and priorities of the organization, its leadership, and its DNA. It deserves planning and attention, but too often, I’ve seen churches reshuffle the staffing and leadership deck without addressing systemic cultural issues. No amount of title-changing and reorganization can fix a culture that isn’t embracing everyone’s role in building givers.

If you see yourself in what I just described, it’s time to focus on staff training and development, and less on who reports where. In a healthy church culture that supports giving, staff members in any role see themselves as having some accountability for fundraising and stewardship. 

But to achieve such a radical infusion of development philosophy into all our staff means taking a hard look at every process and every system in the organization. What does this staffer do? How do we measure his or her success now? What would a relational philosophy of ministry require this worker to do differently? How should we be measuring this staff member’s success? Will this staffer embrace the new idea? These can be painful questions, and the answers can be more painful still. But they are crucial to the achievement of a new ‘culture.’ And it’s an entire culture that is needed — an alignment of everybody, every function, to the priority of establishing and maintaining authentic relationships with donors.

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