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6 Giving Pockets

by Tim Isbell

There are 6 giving pockets distributed throughout most churches. Each pocket holds money earmarked, often sub-consciously, for particular needs/ministries. Each parishioner has some of the 6; those with the "gift of giving" have several. Parishioners like their church vision to extend to some of their broader interests. So when you open an opportunity to donate through the local church they probably will. But if money dwells in their pockets too long they are likely to look for another channel to donate to that need/ministry.

Assuming your church has a meaningful ministry in these 6 areas, every few months or so it makes sense to open an offering to fund one of them. Sometimes it's a significant, polished appeal; many times it's just a note in the worship folder or newsletter. When parishioners notice a clean "ask" for donations that fit one of their pockets, they give generously. Especially the "givers." As this happens, it encourages the whole church.

The 6 giving pockets:

It's worth putting this list on your smartphone or anyplace where you will see it every few months. When you do, ask yourself if it's time to receive an offering in one of these areas. 
  1. Operations (The ongoing, regular local church expenses, including it's general denominational obligations. Yes, believe it or not - most regular church attendees realize it costs money to keep the church operating and they will reach into their pockets for it.)
  2. Local Compassion (This pocket exists to meet the needs of under-resourced people living within a 30-60 minute drive from the church, whether they are part of your church or not.)
  3. World Missions (Including Global Compassion needs)
  4. Education (Christian education - which includes helping your pastor pay off his/her seminary debt! Also, education in the broader sense of scholarships for students inside or outside the church so that they can fulfill the vocational assignment God has for them.)
  5. Capital Improvements/Major repairs (Even if you have enough money from operating funds to pay for a major repair, it still makes sense to invite parishioners to contribute to specific, large ones.)
  6. Evangelism (Outreach to unchurched people in your region, including funding new church plants.)


Many people have a Local Compassion pocket. They may not know it, or how much is in it at any given time. But they have it. The way you know they have it is nearly every time there's a Local Compassion offering they contribute. If you don't offer them an opportunity to give from that pocket, the money just stays in there or they'll give it through some other channel.

Others have a pocket containing money for a building project. They're not going to give it to anything else. But when you lift up a need for a new building, a major repair, or even a land purchase they will reach in that pocket and donate.

Still others have an evangelism pocket, whether they like the E word or not. When these people see an opportunity to invest in sharing the Good News with unchurched people in their region, or an opportunity to invest in an outreach ministry to another cultural group or demographic, they'll reach into their Evangelism pocket and donate.

And, of course, many churches recognize the importance of World Missions pockets. Some traditions are over-focused on this pocket to the extent that it squeezes out the other pockets. Hearing about one missions offering after another irritates parishioners with money sitting in other pockets. It's important to keep a balance among the pockets. I don't mean each pocket needs the same amount of attention. But give some strategic thinking about how often to appeal to each pocket.

Here's another thing I've learned about givers. 

They want church leaders to expose them to good giving opportunities, so long as we don't do it in a guilt-producing way. Givers do not want us to say "no" for them. A few times I've asked givers about this and invariably they said NOT to buffer them from real needs and Kingdom investment opportunities. Instead, they encouraged me to make the "ask" and let them decide if this is one they will support or not. They cautioned me that they won't choose to give to everything I bring to them, but in the same conversation they told me "but don't stop bringing needs and opportunities to my attention. I want to hear about them."

If your congregation is offended when you bring up money, the solution is not to stop bringing up money. It's to learn how to properly "ask" for money. Givers, especially, want to hear clean requests to invest in the Alternate Kingdom. They will respond. Generously, Joyfully. Really. And as the rest of the congregation sees their response, the whole church becomes joyfully generous. This is how God uses givers to bless the whole church.

One last observation: the secular world is catching on to this sort of thing. It's even using it to generate money to start many new companies. It's called crowdfunding. It's been happening in good churches for centuries - but I think it could happen more often.

Here's the bottom line: All churches have these 6 giving pockets containing money, just waiting for leaders to make a good, clean "ask."



For other resources regarding finances around a local church, see Tithes & Offerings and Money Sermons. To learn about or to subscribe to RSS or email feeds from this site, go to IsbellOnline News.