By Chris Willard with Warren Bird
You never know what happens with couples on those car rides home after a church pastor or other leader has just presented their latest inspiring talk on financial giving.
God may have moved one or both partners in the couple to take a step toward generosity, and they would love to talk about it with their spouse. But how do you broach a subject as sensitive as money? Having a talk about sex might be easier!
“As pastors, sometimes we think if we can just motivate people to give, then we’ve given them what they need,” says Clay Smith, Senior Pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter, SC. “But having this conversation is a skill that usually needs more than motivation. People need a place to start.”
So Clay wrote a great blog with some tips on helping couples have productive, faith-moving conversations about giving. We discussed some of this blog along with other wisdom from Clay in our latest Generosity Podcast.
Somebody Must Go First
Somebody must swallow hard and start the talk. Clay says this is a great place for husbands to step up and lead with, “I felt like God spoke to me in the message today and I would like to talk about that.” But it’s certainly OK if the wife breaks the ice, and often the likelier option since they bring up about 80% of marriage issues, according to relationship experts.
Clay says whoever wants to get the ball rolling can start the conversation with something like this: “I sense God is saying something to me. I noticed during the service that you were engaged, and I wondered if we could talk about it.”
Don’t Reach a Conclusion Yet
This is the stage in the conversation when a couple explores options about what God might be leading them toward. Maybe it’s going from giving nothing to $20 a week. Maybe it’s moving toward tithing 10%, or going beyond to give generously. The key here is not to rush to a solution too quickly.
“It’s important to stick with ‘I’ statements,” Clay says. “This is what I sense God is saying. I’m not saying this is what you ought to hear from God.”
Tentatively Explore Next Steps
When both people are on the same page with what God might be saying, it’s time to identify a next step—but hold it loosely and try it on for size. See how it fits.
“The difficulty will arise when a couple doesn’t see the same next step,” Clay says. “One person might be saying ‘Let’s step all the way up to a tithe.’ And the other might be saying, ‘I just don’t see how we can afford that.’
“My best counsel to couples here is, don’t push.”
Pastors and church leaders need to especially tune into this step, and give people “relational space” to decide, Clay says. “Give them steps to move forward—wherever they are. Then people will say, ‘We might not be able to do that, but we can do this.’ “
Commit to Pray
In committing to pray, couples are seeking what God wants, and looking for confirmation. That confirmation might come in God speaking to one or both people.
Clay and his wife once thought God was asking them to give half of their parting salary from a church as a gift. But after Clay preached a message on giving, his wife felt God saying to give it all. “That’s a real mixed moment,” Clay joked. “That must have been a great sermon. But really, all of it!”
Clay says it works best if couples can set a specific timeframe to pray—say three days—to keep life from getting in the way of moving on God’s call. “A lot of times when a couple sets aside to pray about it, that becomes a way to let our fears take control,” Clay says. “We never get back to it.”
Close the Loop
This is when couples write down what they are going to do. It might be as simple as a Post-It note that reads “$100 a week.” Especially now, when people manage money virtually, there is something life-changing about putting the decision on paper. Then figure out the logistics—who’s going to pay it, what method will they use. “Decide together how it will get done,” Clay says.
And most important for pastors: When couples make a giving decision together, celebrate it!
“We discourage people when we don’t at least recognize they’ve made a step,” Clay says. That’s huge, and it deserves a follow-up letter: “We’ve noticed you’re giving, and we’re celebrating with you. Way to go!”
Andy Williams contributed to the writing of this article.
Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to www.leadnet.org.