Skip to content

The Cycle of Contagious Generosity By Patrick Johnson

Applying the Cycle of Contagious Generosity

Budget committees, fundraising goals, and donor campaigns are probably not the top three reasons you got into ministry. But they’re real, right? Because money issues often drive ministry decisions, we try to make sense of them with a linear paradigm of “x + y = z”.

This annual giving + that mortgage = a new building

Selling resources and services + the number of buyers/customers = a few hundred potential donors

The perfectly crafted donor ask + unique donor packages for each donor segment = a successful donor campaign

But we all know that Kingdom matters are exponential, not linear. They are mysterious, not obvious. They are heart level, not head level. At GenerousChurch, we replace the linear paradigms with an exponential, mysterious, heart cycle of whole-life generosity that we believe looks like this model –

Replacing Linear Thinking with a Virtuous Cycle: Catherine’s Story

Catherine’s story is a beautiful example. She is an immigrant who has struggled, working long hours in a bread store and coping with the daily pain of a shattered hip. She lives her life close to Jesus, taking her breaks at work to pray through a list of people who need some version of God’s grace in their lives…customers, friends, church members alike. It is her ministry and joy.

Her days are lived in relationship with God.

Catherine’s friendly demeanor endears her to customers. One day, she offhandedly told her customer-friend Debbie that she was saving money for a better car because hers needed repairs. Catherine knew it would take several years to save for the car, but she was glad to have saved $5,000.

Her income is received with gratitude from God.

The next time Debbie saw Catherine, she inquired about her savings progress. Sheepishly, Catherine admitted that she had given her savings to a need at church. She wondered to Debbie,  “There was a widow in need and I gave her the $5,000. I struggled a lot when I gave that money. I feel ok, but do you think I did the right thing? I cannot give what I don’t have, so I just gave what I had.”

She releases all that she has to God for the blessing of others.

Contagious Generosity

If we just stopped there, you’d probably agree that Catherine’s gift and the widow’s mite are mirror images of the same radical, faith-filled generosity that Jesus taught. But guess what? The story doesn’t end there. Catherine’s generosity unleashed a heart level, exponential generosity cycle in others. When Debbie heard what Catherine had done, she went home and told her husband Pete to ask if they could replenish Catherine’s savings.

We might write the equation this way:

Catherine’s generosity + Debbie and Pete’s generosity = A restored car fund

Pete responded, “I think we need to buy Catherine a car.” He picked up the phone and called Scott, a friend who worked at a local dealership and could find Catherine a reliable car.

That equation might look like:

Catherine’s generosity x Debbie and Pete’s generosity = A reliable car

Scott asked whether Pete wanted a new or a used car. Pete thought, “Why would he ask that? Of course I want a used car. That’s good enough.” But considering the question for a moment, Pete responded, “I want a new car.” Scott was silent and then answered, “Whoa. I want in.” So Debbie and Pete and Scott went together to get Catherine a new car.

That equation could be:

Catherine’s generosity x Debbie and Pete’s generosity x Scott’s generosity =  A new car

When Catherine saw the car, she tearfully exclaimed, “I knew God had new cars but I didn’t know He had one for me!” No one could have predicted that Catherine’s quiet prayer breaks, warm smile, and fully surrendered heart would touch off a generosity firestorm in the community. She was just being faithful, staying close to her Heavenly Father.

Paul affirms the cycle of whole life generosity in II Corinthians 9:8. He says, “and God is able to make all grace about to you, so that in all things at all times having all that you need you will abound in every good work.”

As you read, can you see the reflection of Catherine, the widow, Debbie, Pete, and Scott in Paul’s words? It’s beautiful.

The amazing thing about the cycle of whole life generosity is that it works for individuals and for organizations. You might even say it’s contagious.

Next Steps to Encourage the Generosity Cycle

Start by finding stories and examples in your organization and contact database that have followed this model, and share them publicly.

Download the Generosity Reset ebook to learn more about how to foster the generosity cycle in your message and ministry. (link to


Patrick Johnson is founder of GenerousChurch™, a nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping leaders in churches to unleash whole-life generous disciples. For the last fourteen years, Patrick has contributed to the message of biblical generosity through organizations such as Generous Giving and The National Christian Foundation. His latest resource is entitled Overflow: A Life Refreshed by Generosity.


If you want to experience leadership development focused on excellence and based on Biblical principles, then we invite you to join us The Outcomes Conference – April 16-18 in Dallas Texas. It’s the premier training event of the year for Christ-centered nonprofit leaders. Come and experience the transforming power that is unleashed with leaders invest in each other!

Register Now and Save



What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

Upcoming Events

Check back later!