The primary source of financial resources in our churches is contributions from members. We call it stewardship. St. Francis is attributed with having said that "it is by giving that we receive." I believe that. I have experienced the gifts of giving. I try to practice giving freely in gratitude for all I have received. I have enough, I am supporting what is important to me, and it makes a difference in my life and in the lives of others.
I am especially happy to give when the need is clearly presented to me, and I am directly asked for financial support. I accommodate a number of those requests, especially if the mission of the organization touches me.
In my job in the bishop's office I frequently interact with congregations over their finances. With few exceptions congregations feel that they are financially challenged. It is my contention that for many of our congregations the financial challenges they feel could be significantly reduced by improving clarity and transparency about parish finances, making extra efforts around stewardship, and by being more direct and clear when asking for money.
Here are some numbers. The median household income in our diocese is approximately $60,000. The average pledge in the diocese in 2016 was $1840 per pledging household, which is 3.0% of $60,000.
In 2016 we had 3800 households making a financial pledge to their congregation. If the average pledge increased from 3.0% to 4.0% of household income ($600) giving would increase by $2.3 million. Average that number over our 52 congregations and you get $44,000 per congregation. That is the power of proportional giving. A biblical tithe is 10%. I am suggesting that we ask our siblings in Christ to consider the percentage of their income that is given to the Church in gratitude for God’s blessings.
I encourage you all to be very clear with your congregation on the financial condition of your church. I have found that churches run annual deficits and their members are only dimly aware of it. Members need to understand the financial picture, and feel confident in the direction of the parish. They need to believe that their money will be used to further the Jesus movement, not just to keep the lights on and the building warm.
Show folks what an increase of $10 a week in their pledge will do for the financial health of the parish. If even 20 donor families in your congregation would increase their annual pledge by $10/week the congregation would realize a $10,000 increase in annual pledge income. Ask members directly to consider increasing their pledge now. If we don't ask, we won't receive. If people don't know what the need is, they don’t have a reason to respond.
I encourage congregations to continue to work on stewardship until well after the budget is created in December. Don’t determine your pledge budget by seeing what comes in on pledge cards. Set a goal for pledge income, based on the previous few years’ experience with a challenging yet attainable goal for increased revenue in the next year. Continue to cultivate giving until the goal is reached. Also, set a goal for participation and clearly state the goal and purpose via your pledge letter and from the front of the church on Sunday. For example, consider a goal of 75% of member households pledging something. Even $10/week to start would be progress.
Express the reality of the financial situation, the vision for the congregation, and then ask, and continue to ask in creative ways until the goal is met or adjusted. It works.
- Set participation and dollar goals. Continue the stewardship program until goals are met. Goals should be challenging yet attainable.
- Be transparent and clear about the financial realities. Income Statements are supposed to be available to all members. Be honest about the financial situation and how increased participation and % giving will rectify the problem of insufficient resources.
- Vestry could model by publicly committing to increased pledges.
- Explain proportional giving. A tithe is 10%. But what about 4%? If household income is $60,000 per year that would be $2,400.
- The average pledge in the diocese was $1840 in 2016.
Electronic Giving is an important tool for funding your mission. Here are two must haves, in my opinion. I can point you to free, state of the art products for your electronic giving.
- Recurring pledge payments made through automatic bill pay through one's bank or through online giving programs
- Donate buttons on your website
If we are serious about the Jesus Movement, and about ministry in our congregation, we will respond. We need to be asked. We need to clearly know the situation. And we need to understand the difference our money will make in the lives of ourselves and of others.
If you would like to discuss this further with me do not hesitate to reach out.