A few years back, when the economy was doing quite well, I almost always found loose change when I filled up with gas. It seems that in those days, it wasn't worth the effort to pick up pennies or nickels and people just left them when they were dropped. Not any more.
About a two years ago I noticed that there were fewer and fewer coins on the ground. About 18 months ago I noticed they were almost all gone and officially, in spring 2009 there wasn't any more loose lying around. Here's my prediction, when you fill up with gas (or go through a fast food drive through) and you see coins on the ground, then you'll know that the economy is back and healthy. Here's my second prediction, you really won't see those coins on the ground until about six to nine months after the economy has turned the corner.
What I'm talking about in the context of churches is this question, "When will people feel generous again?" For church economics, two things have to change:
- The economy has to turn around in a visible, tangible way. Actually, as of right now (barring a major economic or terrorist event), the global economy is making steady headway out of the mires of 2008-2009. In about 3 months (summer 2010), the US and other first world countries will be on the financially-healthy rebound. But just because things are better financially does not mean people will be charitable or generous.
- The second thing is that people have to feel financially-healthy in order to be generous. The feeling of angst that people have right now (will I have a job tomorrow?, will I have enough to pay my bills?, etc.) must be eased a lot before they will respond to church pleas to give more. Churches need to help educate members to get in a more personally financially-healthy place (Crown Ministries and Financial Peace University). When churches do that, then their members will feel more generous. It takes people about 6-9 months after the economy has turned around for them to feel charitable.
- Are you helping people get their financial house in line with God's plan for their financial house so they can be more generous faster?
- Or are you waiting till you see pennies on the ground as your indicator of when people are feeling more generous?