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How to Turn a One-Time Gift into a Lifetime of Generosity

religious cross on hill during sunset with birds flying in background

One of the great joys of ministry is watching a person you’re discipling discover the excitement that comes from giving to God’s work. You see faith become action through generosity. But what happens when that initial inspiration fades?

It’s great to see people give for the first time to your church, but it’s even better when you mobilize them to give for a lifetime to Kingdom causes.

You see, it’s not just givers who need to steward what God has given them; it’s the church, too. We’ve been tasked with stewarding those small sparks of generosity, as well.

The potential impact of turning that single gift into a lifetime of generosity is staggering. Imagine if someone in your church community gave $100. Certainly, you could put it to good use.

You could provide groceries for a family in need. You could send a child to summer camp. Or maybe you could provide travel expenses for a missionary to take the good news to a new community.

But what if that same person became a lifetime giver? Over the next 40 years, they continued to dig deep and give to what God was doing through your family of faith.

What could God do with those 40 years?

If that same person gave $100 twice a month for the next 40 years, you could turn that one week of groceries for one family into helping 3,000 families with their grocery needs.

Those 40 years of gifts don’t just help one missionary with part of his or her travel needs. It provides round-trip tickets for more than 300 missionary trips to and from places in need of the gospel.

In addition, instead of helping one child go to camp, these gifts would provide more than 600 kids with the experience of a life-changing week at camp.

But really, that’s just the start. Anyone passionate about giving to God’s work passes it on to others, whether it’s children, siblings, or friends.

Turning one-time givers into lifetime stewards of God’s resources is hard and holy work. You won’t find a push-button approach to doing this, but a few principles can help you move in the right direction.

The principles below will help you build a generous culture that regularly turns one-time givers into lifetime givers.

Say thank you for EVERY gift

Remember when your mom always told you to write thank-you notes whenever you got a gift? Mom was on to something. It’s not just about politeness either (although it certainly is polite). Saying thank you lets first-time givers know you’ve noticed their gift. That answers a big fear of first-time givers. They wonder whether their gifts are simply getting lost in a sea of other offerings.

You can use digital tools to help you say thank you for most of your gifts each weekend. But consider a more personal response for first-time givers—a hand-written note, a phone call, or a brief personal email will go a long way. Plus, this helps you build a personal relationship with the giver, where you can help them connect in other ways with the church.

Cast vision repeatedly

Vision is the reminder of why people give to your church. Too often, churches just talk about vision during an annual state of the church message and a membership class. But if you want to build a culture of generosity, you’ll need to do it more—much more. Repeat it regularly in all sorts of situations—from worship services to one-on-one meetings.

But it’s not just about repeating the vision. Regularly tie your vision with the generosity of the congregation. Remind them that their generosity helps to provide the funding for the vision. Help givers see exactly how their gifts help your church reach new people, meet needs locally and globally, and help train the next generation.

A compelling vision will remind your first-time givers that the size of their gift matters much, much less than the collective potential of changed lives that come when God’s people demonstrate generosity together.

Make giving simple and accessible

Someone may make an initial gift based on emotions. Make a particularly strong appeal, and givers may jump quite a few hoops to give. But they likely won’t do that again.

Provide as many options as possible for people to give—cash, digital, etc. Digital options are particularly important today. But having digital isn’t enough. You have to make it easy for people to give online. It shouldn’t take a prospective giver more than a few taps to give.

Maybe most importantly for digital options is to make it easy for givers to set up recurring giving. Again, allow people to do this in as simple of a manner as possible. And make sure your thank-you notes describe how people can become recurring givers.

Focus on spiritual growth

The most important part of turning one-time givers into lifetime givers is that consistent giving is integral to spiritual growth. Giving, particularly sacrificial giving, requires us to step out in faith and trust that God will meet our needs as we give to his work. It’s no wonder that Jesus tells us in Luke 12:34: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our giving is a critical barometer for how close we’re walking with Christ.

So it makes sense that spiritual growth should be a central component to helping people learn the spiritual discipline of generosity. Challenge your congregation not to just give of their money but of their time and gifts, as well. Teach them what the Bible has to say about their possessions through Sunday morning worship services and small-group experiences.

Tell the stories of people in your congregation who are taking these steps of faith to give and how it is impacting their spiritual development.

To learn more about nurturing your givers into greater faithfulness, check out our new free guide, Nurturing Generosity: Helping Members Take Their Next Step in Biblical Stewardship.


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