Rethinking stewardship$93 billion was given to churches in 2005. That same year, people spent $93 billion on soft drinks and bottled water. It’s time for people of faith to create a wider framework for thinking about money. Stewardship isn’t working like it used to. It’s not just your congregation. Growing, Out of Breath, Stalled or Becoming congregations are all short on funds.

After a recent seminar during which Mike Ward, a Certified Fundraising Executive and Partner with GSB Consulting, offered many practical, doable stewardship ideas, my own bias was confirmed:

How we think about money is a big part of the shift leaders need to make if we want to fund our ministries in the future.

So first a mind shift and then a few excerpts from the seminar.

Congregational leadership needs to realize that there is a lot of money out there, even in the pockets of people in the pews, but it is not moving like it once did.

Generous givers still want to make a difference with their dollars yet they are not always convinced the church is the best value for their investment. While that may be hard to hear we need to realize that these donors want to be part of an organization that has a clear vision and values that include responding to human needs and suffering in their own neighborhood and globally as well.

They expect high integrity in the management of money; one person counting the offering after worship or worse, taking it home to “deposit” on Monday, will not cut it.

Finally, they want to feel appreciated and are looking for invitations to give that add tangible value beyond buildings.

New givers, who may enter at a lower dollar level for many reasons, won’t give unless they feel valued and connected to the purpose. The church can learn a lot from nonprofit organizations who are perfecting the art of giving. The good news is that the forecast (1) for disposable income in many communities is on the rise in the next year. The big question is, “Will this money be given to the church?” Maybe…maybe not.

Current practices in many congregations are working against us. We need a clear overall congregational purpose that includes vibrant connections to our neighborhood and the world. We also need to develop best practices in money management that build the confidence of givers. Consider if the lack of funding is indicating that it is time to evaluate the congregation’s purpose and make a strategic plan for the next two years. Finally, a plan for thanking givers is important.

Now for some information from Mike Ward.

The average Protestant gives away 2% of their income each year. A little more than half of that goes to the church. We are experiencing a generation of “pocket change donors” who have never been taught how to give. Their parents didn’t teach them about money. The Greatest Generation (now 80+ years old) gave because it was the right thing to do. They didn’t need to be asked and didn’t care about special appeals. We are still operating as if they are the only people in our pews. Now, people like to give to special projects, they need to see tangible results of their gifts. In addition:

• 20% of people in our pews give nothing to the church. There is a big opportunity here to teach.
• The majority of Christians give very little to the church, although they may give elsewhere, often because they don’t see the value in what the church is doing.
• A small minority of donors contribute most of the dollars given – top 10% of donors give 72.9% of all gifts.
• Higher income Americans don’t give a higher percentage than lower income Christians.
• The majority of the money given by Christians for religion purposes is spent in their own local community of faith – little is spent on mission, particularly outside of the US. We fail to have a vision of what God is calling us to do. We fail to “dream God-sized dreams”
• Most American Christians can afford to tithe – it would result in a lifestyle change.

A few tips:

• Have the Pastor mentor small groups of people to teach theology of giving, then
• Have members mentor each other.
• Ask for specific amounts of money.
• Treat people differently based on where they are in their stewardship journey – not better but differently. Different levels of giving can trigger different ways of thanking, encouraging, teaching, and challenging future giving.
• Get a personal coach so you can learn how to mentor your donors.
• Tell stories!