Jeff Anderson is a veteran in church communications, consulting in the area of financial giving. He’s the author of a new book, Plastic Donuts: A Fresh Perspective on Gifts. This book is written for believers, but also helps church leadership communicate about financial giving in a fresh way. This is a foundational and crucial topic, yet one of the most abused and misunderstood.
This is not your usual “give more, give now” message. Jeff has worked with churches for nearly two decades, as elder in his own church, as vice president of generosity initiatives with Crown Financial Ministries and currently as leader of AcceptableGift.org.
Why did you write Plastic Donuts?
Jeff: Everyone enjoys a fresh perspective or a different view. Plastic Donuts presents a new look at an age-old church subject—giving. And an often overlooked term in scripture—an “acceptable gift”. The book allowed me to answer for others some of the very questions about giving I have had in my own Christian journey.
So what is an “acceptable gift”?
Jeff: An acceptable gift is the kind of gift that pleases God. In the Bible, the word “acceptable” means pleasing or even delightful. Often we look at giving from the perspective of the receiver—how does our gift impact the church, the poor or missions. This view is certainly needed. But the acceptable gift is about seeing our gifts from God’s perspective. This view is especially needed.
What’s up with the title?
Jeff: The plastic donut is an object—or a gift—that I received from my 18-month old daughter, Autumn. When Autumn handed me the donut, I reacted with great joy. Sensing the pleasure in my reaction, Autumn squealed in delight. I was enamored with her presence and her gift and she was equally thrilled seeing her daddy’s enjoyment. This simple gift exchange set in motion a touching—OK, maybe even silly—encounter that I believe God desires with us. The plastic donut was simply a tool connecting a child to father, much like how our gifts today can connect us to God.
From a church communications standpoint, what do you see in most churches?
Jeff Anderson: What I see most is no communication at all. That’s a problem since giving is such a core theme throughout scripture. We see as early as Cain and Abel that God is very interested in our gifts—before there were any poor or needy people.
For churches that do communicate on giving, often the message is weighted towards the need for tithes and offerings to fund church budgets and vision. While this is certainly appropriate and needed, it alone is an imbalanced message.
What can they do to communicate more effectively?
Jeff: Churches need to communicate more about giving as a pathway to God’s heart. People need to know God desires their gifts as a way to further his bond and connection with his children—just like my plastic donut interaction with Autumn. For churches that can show giving is for helping people advance their relationship with God more than just meeting the needs of the church, their people will take the subject more seriously.
Do you have any practical suggestions to help churches with their communications?
Jeff: There are key items I call the three “P’s.” When churches have them, a vibrant giving culture is possible.
First, every church needs a giving philosophy. What does church leadership really believe about giving? What’s their doctrinal position on matters like the tithe, freewill giving, church giving, etc.? Do they have a stated position? Is leadership in agreement with the giving philosophy or are views varied and fragmented?
Secondly, pastors must communicate their giving philosophy—desirably from the pulpit. Do they preach on it regularly? Are the belief elements written in church materials, websites, etc.? Do they celebrate and highlight their beliefs through stories and testimonies?
Other than the important role a senior pastor plays in communicating about financial giving, what can communication directors and other church staff do to foster a healthy giving culture?
Jeff: That’s where the third “P” can be a team effort. What are the church practices that help people give in line with the church philosophy? How do they facilitate collection practices (online giving, plate passing, boxes in the back of the sanctuary, annual pledge campaigns, announcements, etc.) Do they offer education classes to help members apply stewardship and giving principles? Do they communicate through donor statements and gift reports on a regular basis? Take a fresh look at what your actions communicate.