by Greg Gibbs, Auxano Director of Resourcing and Senior Lead Navigator
Back when my knees could handle it, I completed a few marathons. It was a time of great joy and accomplishment as these were done with five other guys with whom I trained and shared a lot of time. I miss those days. My knees don’t.
What I learned from long-distance running was the idea that you cannot be ready overnight for the enormous strain of 26.2 miles on one’s body. I knew that intellectually but learned it in real-time – when the many months leading up to a marathon meant disciplining my body in every possible way to overcome the unexpected obstacles that are inevitable on race day. When we needed our bodies to perform under stress, we could count on them.
Another lesson I have learned by hanging out with church leaders is that you cannot mount a last-minute training and expect great generosity from the congregation. It would be like waiting for the last day before the marathon to train.
Developing generous disciples is definitely a long run idea – a marathon of sorts. Over time and with encouragement, people will grow as we point the way. And generous churches are ready for any challenge. It reminds me of a guy I sat next to on an airplane one day that told me, “I want to be in the kind of physical shape that if someone asked me to run a half marathon tomorrow, I could do it.” Wow.
The circumstances of 2020 have revealed to many of us that we needed to start the training a while ago and did not – or did not to the degree that we wish we would have. Overnight, we expected our church “bodies” to be ready for a race that is throwing unexpected challenges our way – financially and in many other categories. We were not as ready as we would have hoped.
So, is there hope for churches who are facing a big financial challenge? Yes - there is definitely some encouraging news. First, church members continue to be supportive and gracious – people seem to be sensitive to the fact that everyone, including their church, is in an uncertain situation. For churches with industries deeply hurt by job loss, there is only so much people can do. But many congregations have stepped up in amazing ways.
Still, there is a difference between an immediate boost of support by church members in the first 60 to 90 days of the pandemic and a long run plan for generosity development in our congregations.
Rally is a two-part PDF resource, designed to address both time frames. The first section highlights what actions to consider for a short-run boost of financial fuel for the church facing the challenges of early 2020.The second is a more long-run strategic look at the features of a church creating an environment of cultivating generosity through discipleship.The second section is more about sustained generosity – a marathon mentality will last beyond the pandemic timeframe and into the “new normal” and beyond.