Tonight we hold a meeting for the newly recreated Stewardship Committee. Like all churches we are in a place where our older members are moving out of their home into more expensive assisted living. At the same time we have younger families who are financially strapped. The outcome is declining revenues for the church, even when attendance, as it has here, increases. The answer to this dilemma requires a strategy and that is where Stewardship Committees come in. We’ve been looking at two books, Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate by Clif Christopher and Real Good Church by Molly Phinney Baskette. We are also reviewing the online United Church resource Called to the Church Congregational Giving Program: Salt and Light.
Several years ago I was approached by an ecumenical body of churches that wanted to create bulletin inserts to encourage church goers to think about giving. It was a stimulating assignment, one I took very seriously. After some research, prayer and creative thinking I created inserts that I attached to this blog.
The way into this conversation, it seems to me, is by way of lifestyle and mindset as one approaches how one disperses the resources and assets at one’s disposal. I remember a sermon where the preacher declared that at the end of the month one’s credit card bill reflected one’s values, you know the Bible verse, “Where your treasure is there will be your heart also.”
Of course it is not that easy. There are health care bills, educational bills, basic upkeep, and these are not necessarily a reflection of anything beyond survival. But if many of us are honest the rest of our expenses do reflect our values, what we value. Too often we do not stop, pause, and reflect on where our money goes.
Churches are hardly the only recipient of generous gifts and they may not even always be the best place to place our resources. We’ve changed a lot as a society, in the Book of Acts all of what we now call social welfare was done by the early church, supported by wealthy believers like Lydia. Even churches that do a lot of outreach do not bear responsibility as governments and some non-profits do for basic life and death expenses. Thus our giving is directed to a wide range of choices, almost all life-giving in nature. The key for a church is to frame the “ask” as that which changes lives, physically, spiritually, emotionally. If that combination of staff, building, volunteers, programs, and spirit makes a difference people will be motivated to give. If they do not other worthy organizations are likely to be the ones where people give. This is not a competition, it is offering to people the opportunity to make a difference.
We are all called to use whatever we have to make our planet, our community, our world, a better place. Those who seek to make a better world need to know how to create a narrative and design programs that do just that. The work continues…