Five Ways Successful Christian Leaders Give

You probably never thought about how a visit to Chick-Fil-A can teach you a valuable leadership lesson on giving. But, that’s just what happened to me last weekend.

Last weekend on a blustery early Spring day, I had the opportunity to visit my local Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Langhorne, PA and meet its owner/operator,  Dave Heffernan. As employees and patrons scurried around serving and being served, we found a empty booth in the front of the restaurant near the registers. We were so thankful to Dave both for being very gracious with his time (his willingness to take time out of his busy Saturday afternoon to talk with us about his highly successful restaurant) and also his candor.

In talking with him, I learned that his  Chick-Fil-A restaurant is the top-performing Chick-Fil-A in this entire region. Pretty impressive, right?

So, as a student of “leadership”, I really wanted to understand what  were the keys to his leadership success. I even asked him how much of his success was based on his location versus his own leadership prowess. However, even before he answered this question I could tell that his authenticity and enthusiasm had to be important ingredients, as he oozed of them both.

As Dave shared a number of interesting facets of the business, it quickly became evident to me that his personal success and the performance of this restaurant reflect a culture of giving—just as he was modeling at that very moment in so graciously giving us his valuable time to me (a complete stranger). Though the conversation, however, he shared his own Christian faith and how he feels his faith compels him to generously give both of his time and his money.

In many ways, his narrative is just another example of the scripture come to life as this highly successful leader / entrepreneur primarily attributes his success to his obedience to biblical value of giving according to Jesus’ well known (but  seldomly practiced) admonition that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).

During the course of the week since this encouraging discussion with Dave, I have reflected more on this connection for leaders between giving and performance. And, it is confirmation of something that I have long believed. Whether you are leading a million dollar corporation, a busy ministry, or a bustling home, successful performance is about creating a “giving” culture.

As I listen to many successful entrepreneurs, regardless of their profession of faith, you clearly see the business model hinges on giving away content and/or products in order to foster trust being the business and the consumer. But, I must admit that some of the “giving” that I witness among business leaders feels disingenuous, if not downright manipulative. And, for others who do give of themselves so authentically, how can you avoid giving burnout?

So many of us already feel emotionally and spiritually overextended from giving ourselves to our spouses, guiding our children, caring for aging parents, ministering to our church congregations, and serving the needs of the community often without any meaningful support. We desire to be obedient to God’s call to give. But, many of us feel drained with little left to offer. In the face of these unrelenting demands, how can we give more?

So, to help with your own efforts in fostering a transformative culture in your business, ministry, and home, I’d like to offer five ways that Christian leaders can really master the art of giving and transform your influence.

Five Giving Practices of Successful Christian Leaders 

Healthy giving is an art that takes many forms. In marriage, for example, the art of healthy giving requires that we look for ways to support what God is doing in our spouse’s life without accepting violations to our own personal and marital boundaries. Additionally, in our ministries the art of healthy giving insists that we honor personal and family time alongside our ministry schedules.

As we capture God’s heart for healthy giving, we are better positioned to give more of ourselves. Healthy giving is a posture, aptly captured by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:6-8.

“Humble yourselves, therefore under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (NIV)

Peter’s insightful lens highlights five practices  for the Christian leader to sustain a pattern of healthy giving for a lifetime.

Practice #1: Focus on what God is doing with you 
Many of our unhealthy giving habits are a result of our worries about what others think about us. In many cases, our pride, guilt, or other negative emotion drives us to overextend ourselves and/or sustain abusive giving habits rather than saying “no.” Humbling ourselves to the Lord’s hand allows His voice rather than our emotional vicissitudes to direct our giving. By remaining attentive to the Holy Spirit our healthy giving can align with the direction and timing of what God is already doing in the receiver’s life as well as our own.

Practice #2: Wait for God’s elevation
We have an almost insatiable desire to take control of our circumstances. In many instances, our giving becomes unhealthy in our efforts to give our way to the success that we desire. Personally, I think this is what increasingly makes me feel so offended by some “giving oriented” marketing ploys. Ironically, many of us are guilty of trying to “serve” ourselves into desirable positions. When these promotions are not forthcoming, we feel victimized. Psalms 75:6-7 informs us that real promotion comes from God. Rather than seeking promotion, we embrace healthy giving as we serve with a sense of confidence that God’s will ultimately prevails.

Practice #3: Direct your anxiety towards God
We live in a culture that prioritizes receiving over giving. Givers are often seen as weak, naïve, or gullible while their servant-hearted gestures are ignored or taken for granted. Sometimes, it feels like no one cares even within our own homes.  Peter’s instruction reminds us that there are times when only God can hear your cries.  Only the Father sees and rewards every act of service that you offer. Sometimes, only He understands and shows compassion for your travail. And, it is to Him we must look for spiritual and emotional replenishment when we feel empty.

Practice #4: Maintain self-control
There is no shortage of people seeking to control our habits of giving. Who gets priority? Spouses and children want us to meet more of their physical and emotional needs. Church members want us to satisfy more of their spiritual yearnings. Employers want more of our time and energy. Much of our life stress is a direct function of the level of control that we give others over our lives. We can only achieve healthy giving habits as we allow God to direct our priorities.

Practice #5: Be watchful
We are often deceived to see our neglectful spouses, our belligerent bosses, or narcissistic church members as our enemies—willfully encroaching on our efforts at healthy giving. Peter reminds us that the real culprit is Satan who is constantly seeking ways to destroy us. We must be vigilantly alert as we seek God’s face through prayer, seeking wise counsel, and actively listening for the needs of those that God places in our care as we set and adjust our habits of healthy giving.

In the midst of our difficult leadership challenges, there is another reality—God is in control. Even when struggle and calamity interrupt our dreams, God is calling us to give ourselves away.

Your home, church, and community do need more of you during these trying times because you have an answer within you. So, be encouraged. Don’t stop giving. Rather, be wiser in the way that you give—reflecting on your own motives and that of those you lead. In each venue that you serve, there is a need for you to give in a healthier way premised on Apostle Peter’s five scriptural truths. As you do, God promises to re-invigorate your important relationships, bless your ministry, and mature your faith.

Boy, I guess I got a lot more than a Chicken Deluxe sandwich out of that visit to Chick-Fil-A.

In your own sphere of influence, what have been your own successes and challenges in trying to give authentically of yourself?