A major complaint I hear from church leaders is that many people in their churches are consumers—that is, people often are at church more for what they can get than what they can give. This certainly isn’t a new complaint, and most assume that it’s simply a product of our culture. The trouble is many leaders complain about the issue as though being a consumer is a permanent state of being. We’d all like to have more people in our churches who are investors in your church rather than consumers of it, so how do we stop complaining and start making it happen?
1) Recognize that we are all in need
The reason people consume anything is because they don’t have everything. People make their way to your church usually because they know that there is something there that they need. Of course, much of our consuming is misguided, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are in need—specifically, in need of what only Jesus can provide. Most who come to your church for the first time—especially those who don’t yet know Jesus—is there because they hope they’ll get something out of it. Everyone is a consumer, and everyone needs Jesus. That includes church leaders, which means we can’t hold it against anyone when they approach a church based on what they need instead of what they can offer.
2) Serve people well—even if they are consumers
Most people who lead lives characterized by generosity and service do so because they saw it modeled somewhere. You won’t help people stop being consumers if you’re stingy in serving them. Lead a first-class children’s ministry, even when parents won’t serve there or anywhere else. Have a generous home repair or financial assistance ministry without making past giving or service a consideration in who gets helped. If you build a generous culture within your church, chances are people will eventually catch on.
3) Cast the vision that we give because God gave first
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Any church that hopes for people to move from consumers to investors should begin with the fact that we should serve in give because God did so first. For us. Desperate pleas in the bulletin and from the platform that we need more people in the nursery don’t work—at least in the long run—because such pleas try to guilt people rather than painting a picture of a God who loved us first. When people understand that their Savior came to serve, they’re more likely to step up and serve.
4) Tell people you want them to serve and give
Church leaders often feel guilty about asking for people to serve and give from the platform. But in reality, if followers of Jesus are expected in Scripture to serve and give, why would we not make that ask? Many people in our churches don’t give or serve because they have no idea that they’re supposed to invest in their local church.
5) Celebrate and thank people who serve and give
Every church has people who give sacrificially of their time and resources in order to help their local church accomplish its mission. Thank your volunteers publicly. Throw them a party each year. Send people who give a lot of their time a nice gift card. Thanking people who give is important as well, so find a way to do so in a way that makes sense in your context.