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Can you define generous?

I was recently on a Zoom call with a young pastor 2 years into leading a church plant.  We were talking about the financial situation at the church and the culture of generosity.  

The pastor asked me about writing thank you notes to givers.  I am all in on writing thank you notes to givers.  She then asked me about the content of the notes.  As she was telling me about the content she normally writes I suggested that she not thank someone for their ‘generous gift’.  She was a little puzzled.  

I recommend to pastors to not describe anyone’s gift as ‘generous’.  Every gift is not necessarily generous.  I do not feel we have the ability to determine if someone’s gift is generous.  They could have a generous spirit when giving the gift but we have no way of knowing.  

I always recommend a pastor simply say ‘thank you for your financial gift’.  You want to define the type of gift and that it is a gift.  There are other types of gifts we hope each person will give back to God through their church; time and talent.  So we want to be specific in what type of gift we are thanking them for.  By using the word gift you are acknowledging that it is a conscious choice of the giver to give.  Giving gifts of any kind is a choice and that someone has chosen to give a gift to God through your church is humbling.  We are very thankful for people who have the heart of a giver.

You may be thinking “Alan, what is wrong with saying ‘thank you for your generous gift’?  A definition of generous is  “showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected”.  I don’t think another person has the ability to determine that for someone else.  If we label all gifts as ‘generous’ then we are potentially putting a cap on people’s generosity.  Whether the gift is $50, $500, or $5,000, if we label it as generous the giver may not feel they need to grow any in their future giving.  We want people to continue to grow in their giving and continue to take the next step(s) on their giving journey.  

Now, what you can do is help everyone understand what generous means and help them use this definition to help them determine if their gift is generous or not.  I feel passionately that we all should give generously back to God through our local church because God has been unbelievably generous to each of us.  We want our gifts given back to God to reflect the impact that God’s generosity has made on each of our lives.  I can only define what is generous for me.

Let me hear from you in the comments about this.  Every time I have this conversation with someone, it tends to spark some healthy back and forth. 



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