(to the pastors)
If the congregation is not generous, it may be because you* aren’t sharing the gospel with them.
A biblical way to motivate people to give is to repeatedly show them how much they’ve been given, and how great the needs are elsewhere. A person who understands the gospel, that Jesus Paid it All, is far more likely to give, out of a sense of gratitude. A gospel-perspective on money shows you that Jesus is the treasure of the Christian life, and having HIM melts away a need for more money, more possessions, and more power. Jesus is the blessing of the gospel, not (necessarily) financial well-being. The gospel makes generous people out of selfish people.
But as pastors, when you moan about not having enough money, it looks to the watching world like you are en route to becoming Creflo Dollar, with his Rolls Royce and penthouse apartments. It looks like you care more about the money than the mission. Yes, money is important, and many churches don’t talk about it enough. Money is a mega-theme running throughout the Bible. But the gospel is THE theme of the Bible.
You should talk about the gospel more than you talk about the dollars. Every time I bring someone to church they should hear about the costly death of Jesus. If the sermon is from Nehemiah, I should hear about the costly death of Jesus, and Him resurrected. If the song is about how good it is to praise the name of Jesus, the worship leader should point out that apart from his death and resurrection, all of our praises would be filthy rags. The gospel, that we are wretched sinners saved by an unmatched, righteous, perfect King of kings ought to be the first thing people think about when they leave the service. It ought to be tied into every component of the service, from the children’s choir to the handbells to the baptisms. All of it needs to be tied back to the cross, where Jesus was as generous as humanly possible (and more).
Every time you ask for money (which you should), it ought to be an appeal that is drenched in the gospel. Pastors, you should not want the 10% of someone who you know thinks they are earning God’s favor, or unleashing blessings from God, because that means they’ve missed the blessing of the cross.
*I’ve used the term “you” throughout because this is specifically a note to pastors, as opposed to those of us in non-pastoral ministry. The same principles apply to us, and by God’s grace, I’ve begun to see how unbiblical even my own heart has been in the (recent) past toward fund-raising. It’s my prayer that, going forward, all of those of us who make our living from sharing the gospel would keep in mind that we need not panic and manipulate. God will provide. The gospel is the power of God.