Why You Want Connection First and Giving Second
We live in a world of constant marketing, manipulation and cajoling. Advertisers have found their way into every place we visit: television, the roadways, radio, social media, and every form of entertainment. This is one of the reasons that human beings are so quick to suspect that people have ulterior motives. Ever heard the argument from a non-Christian friend that churches are just looking for your money and that’s why they are always talking about money? Yeah, me too. The hard truth is that some churches are doing just that. Most aren’t, but the ones that are make it easy for people who are looking for a reason to avoid church to paint us all with the same brush. It stinks, but it is the reality of our times.
Let me give a disclaimer now: If you are thinking this blog is going to share about how to build connection so that giving increases, you can stop reading now. If on the other hand, you believe that connection is a goal unto itself, then this post is for you. I do believe that people’s giving is a result of connection, but if all you are thinking about is giving, TRUST ME, they will smell it a mile away.
Okay, now that this is out of the way, let’s talk about connection. People are hard wired for connection. From Eden forward, we have been made to build connection. We want to connect with each other, but that alone isn’t enough to find meaning and purpose. We long to be a part of a bigger story, even if we are playing a small part. Our greatest stories, movies and music call to epic narratives. When we envision ourselves in the stories we have heard, most of us think of ourselves as a central character. Few people project themselves into the story of Moses as one of the countless people who died in the slave pits of Egypt. We want to matter. We want to connect. That is a good thing and built into us.
Since this is the case, finding ways to tell people that they matter and allowing them to build connection is key to a church’s success. Heck, it is central to the story of the Gospel. Christ shows us that we matter in a significant way with the cross and then gives us belonging in that we are co-heirs with Him. Building belonging and value into people is the most important thing you can do in your church. More important than attendance, or volunteering and giving. All of those things should be something that people do as a result of feeling a sense of belonging and value from their faith community.
Communicate that people are valued. Helping people feel valued is more about our posture towards people than it is about a 3-step checklist that we can follow. It can be a hard thing to measure, but people usually instinctively know if they are valued or not. It can be really easy for churches to unintentionally make people feel like they are valuable only if they are contributing – financially or through engagement. To combat this, there are a few cultural traits that we should try to develop.
Seek people out
As leaders, we should be modeling a posture that intentionally seeks out people and engages them. This may mean we have to remember names, follow up on the thing that they mentioned being stressed about, ask engaging questions, then just listen to what they have to say.
Create an engagement culture
We need to have a culture that allows people to contribute. This can include a variety of forms of engagement, but also should include some recognition that the contribution they are making matters to the community of faith.
Live from your gifts
What I mean by this, is that you identify the unique things that someone brings to the church and let them know that you see that gift. If you tell someone that they “seem to have a passion for justice and are willing to sacrifice to protect and care for others”, it can show that you are paying attention and that you see something special in them. You might be shocked to see how they respond. Many of us are never told about the gifts others see in us.
Constantly be becoming
Most people want to become more than they are today, but this only happens if we are challenged to be more. Cast a vision for how they can contribute more, why it matters and provide the encouragement that helps them take the next step.
By starting with belonging and valuing the people in our lives and churches, we will create a transformative community. It can be a bit scary to set aside the common metrics churches use to evaluate their success and focus on these two goals. But if you do, the other factors have a way of working themselves out. When people belong, you don’t find a shortage of people willing to work in the nursery, and budgets seem less scary. For more on this topic, check out our recent e-book, Why Giving is the Least Important Thing About Your Church.