An interview with Mark DeVries and Rob Dyer
How do we cultivate generosity in a season of uncertainty? Mark DeVries, Founder and President of Ministry Architects, and Rob Dyer, Senior Pastor at First United Presbyterian Church of Belleville, IL, recently discussed what it looks like to cultivate generosity during Covid-19.
Mark: So Rob, tell me, how’s it going? This season of not meeting face to face. What’s it looking like from a generosity perspective from your congregation?
Rob: Well, we’re very blessed in our congregation. We’ve been able to cultivate a spirit of generosity over the years. I think a lot of what we’re seeing in our churches is the fruit of the vine that we’ve been growing for years. Because we’ve broken from the usual pattern. Now it has to be an intentional give. And so I think that’s disrupted. At our church, we’ve been blessed to constantly talk about this work that we’re doing together. We remind people of that. It’s their church, their mission, their ministry. They want to see it continue. So there’s a lot of communication that has to happen to keep that going. We’re seeing giving higher than this time last year.
Mark: Your giving is higher?
Rob: Yes. I think in the midst of this, people want to do something. They want a response. They want to give their offering to God through their church and see the church multiply the blessings. They trust that the church will do good work and enable them to be a part of the good work God’s doing through us. I think what we’ve been able to do successfully is communicate what’s going on at the church, saying, “This is what we still intend on doing, you’re still a part of it, let’s go.” When people look across the landscape of where their offerings and gifts to God can go they don’t just naturally choose the church like they used to. They think, “I want to have an impact out there as part of my faith, and I don’t think I need to do that through the church.” In fact some people think their church is not the best way to make an impact. That’s an unfortunate trend happening across America.
Mark: Do you think that your church is unusual with seeing your giving increase? What are you seeing in other churches?
Rob: I’m seeing the giving go in every direction. When I try to look for the pattern I just come back to what I said earlier. We’re seeing the fruit from the vines that we’ve been growing. Where I’m seeing decline is at the churches where stewardship means once a year, we print off the budget, send a letter asking if they can give a little more so we don’t close the church, and then everybody gives the same amount or a few people up it a bit. Giving is so much not about a budget. It’s about a vision, a ministry, and a purpose. It’s about inviting people into something and letting them prayerfully respond. That’s something resonating more and more as our outside culture is shifting us in terms of giving.
Mark: How would you respond to pushing for pledges and giving as we navigate online worship?
Rob: I think the biggest thing is making sure people know how to give and making sure people know the ministry of the church is continuing. It’s all in the way you present it to them. You need to make sure they know they can still give and that there’s something still worth giving to. The building is closed, but the church isn’t closed.
Mark: What’s one last thing you would share?
Rob: I would say that if you’re the type of church that does a fall stewardship campaign, you should have already started. I don’t mean now’s the time to send the letters or send the excel spreadsheet of the future budget. What I mean is make sure that you’re communicating the ministry impact that you’re having, make sure to demonstrate the impact that God has called your church into. Then trust the Holy Spirit – we’re not trying to just grab money out of people’s pockets. We’re trying to give people the opportunity to participate in what God is doing. By the way it’s not their money anyway, it’s God’s money. They’re just stewards of it.
This interview originally appeared on the Facebook Live: Cultivating Generosity in a Season of Uncertainty. Watch the interview in its entirety here.
Mark is the founder and president of Ministry Architects, the co-founder of Ministry Incubators and the Center for Youth Ministry Training, and the founder of Justice Industries. Mark is the author of a number of books, including Sustainable Youth Ministry and Family-Based Youth Ministry, and the co-author of Sustainable Children’s Ministry and Sustainable Young Adult Ministry. Mark and Susan have been married since 1979 and make their home in Nashville, TN.
Reverend Rob Dyer is Senior Pastor at First United Presbyterian Church of Belleville, IL. He has been a speaker for conferences, employee seminars, volunteer appreciation events, community rallies, prayer breakfasts, and more. Rob lives in Belleville, IL with his brilliant and supportive wife, Sarah, and their four children.