A New Year

A New Year with the New Tax Law

 

It is true that many givers will no longer be able to itemize their charitable contributions to our churches, but I believe that people will continue to give. According to research by Crescendo, charitable estate gifts have continued even as the estate tax exemptions have risen. The reason is that people’s primary motivation for giving is to leave a legacy and support what they love.

 

The ministry of the church has not changed. The desire to bring new people into a relationship with Jesus Christ has not changed. Care for those in need in our communities and around the world has not changed. We are still called to be a light to all the world.

 

There are still some tax-wise ways to give. Those confronted with mandatory IRA distributions can still roll them over directly to the church and exclude them from income. Gifts of appreciated securities may still be given to the church, while avoiding capital gains taxes. In each case, the donor should consult an accountant or financial advisor in making these decisions.

 

We are called to celebrate new beginnings in this season of Christ’s light. Tell the stories of light, and people will respond in generosity.


Company Is Coming

Company Is Coming

 

This time of year many are expecting company. This means cleaning the house, getting the beds and bath ready for guests, and doing some kind of extra touch that says, “We are glad you are.” Company is probably coming to many of our churches for special Advent and Christmas services. What are you doing in your churches to prepare for guests?

 

Is the space clean, especially the restrooms? Is the entrance door obvious, or do you need someone outside to direct guests to the entrance? Will you guide guests to their seats, or will you hope that they do not sit in Aunt Sara’s special seat and get asked to move? Will the order of worship in the bulletin make sense to someone unfamiliar with the church? Pastors, be sure to introduce yourself at the beginning of the service. Guest may not know who you are.

 

If an offering is received, be sure to explain its purpose and allow guests to feel free to give or not to give. Christmas Eve Communion services are wonderful experiences, but be sure to explain what it is and how it is served. Do not assume that everyone knows what to do.

 

Finally, make sure that your company is invited back. And please do not say anything about Christmas and Easter visitors.


“Giving to Religion”

Lake Institute on Faith and Giving Releases “Giving to Religion”

 

The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy with support from Giving USA Foundation released its latest report on religious giving last month.  The report tracks more than 9,000 individuals’ and families’ giving. Here are some of the highlights:

 

  1. People who are religious are more likely to make a charitable contribution of any kind.
  2. The percentage of people giving to religious congregations is declining, but they are giving at steady rates.
  3. People who attend regularly give more regularly and make larger gifts.
  4. Giving to religion increases with a donor’s rise in income, but decreases as a share of overall income.
  5. Contrary to popular belief, younger generations do give to religion.

 

You may order to entire report at https://store.givingusa.org/collections/2017-products.


The End of the Year

The End Is Near

 

Yes, the end of the current fiscal year for churches is near. What are you doing to end strong? Did you plan a special offering? Have you mailed out giving statements updated through October, so that folks are reminded about where they are in their giving? Have you reminded your members that they may give appreciated securities to the church and avoid paying capital gains? Or they may wish to direct their mandatory IRA withdrawals to the church. This avoids taxes, but you cannot use your IRA withdrawal to pay your pledge, nor can you get a charitable deduction.

 

If your church does not have their own brokerage account, the Foundation provides the service at cost for you.  If you need some “End of the Year” themes to use in bulletins, letters, etc., you may find them on our web site: www.ms-umf.org. Simply click on services and then on resources to find the materials.

 

Do not delay, because the end is near.


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Sing to God a thanksgiving hymn, play music on your instruments to God, Who fills the sky with clouds, preparing rain for the earth, Then turning the mountains green with grass, feeding both cattle and crows.  Psalm 147:7-9  The Message (MSG)

Your Foundation staff thanks you for allowing us to partner with you in making disciples of Jesus Christ. Your investment in the Foundation allows us to work with newly commissioned clergy, create cultures of generosity in congregations, and bring fresh ideas to spiritual leaders. Endowments created by you fund over 100 scholarships for college and seminary students from Mississippi United Methodist Churches.

You make a difference! So we give thanks to God, who provides the resources for making disciples. May you be blessed this Thanksgiving.


Special Offerings

Special Offerings

 

Thanksgiving is almost here with Advent and Christmas arriving soon. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of receiving a special offering for these days and seasons.  People have a strong desire to give in November and December. The vast majority of folks are not going to take money out of their regular giving for a special offering. Most will give additional funds as they are able. But they will not give, if they are not given the opportunity.

 

Yes, you are correct about everybody asking for money this time of year. That is because everyone knows that people are more receptive to an invitation to give during the Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas Seasons. Do not use the excuse that the church should not be on the list of inviting folks to give because everyone else is asking. Be prepared to invite your folks to give to a special need in the church or budget needs.

 

Do not guilt them into giving, nor talk about how much the church needs the money. Rather, focus on the giver’s need to give in response to God’s generosity and love.  Use specific envelopes or other tools for folks to respond. Just give people the opportunity and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest.


#GivingTuesday Is November 28

Giving Tuesday is a wonderful opportunity to encourage persons in your circle of influence to give to a United Methodist cause through the Advance. You do not even need to mention the Advance, but simply share the project and how to give.

 

Giving Tuesday is a global movement designed to balance the spending of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with charitable giving. It is an excellent opportunity for the church to help focus that giving through the Advance. All kinds of ideas and support can be found at www.umcgivingtuesday.org. Choose a project you wish to support and invite your friends to give.  You can even invite giving by using your social media platforms with hashtag, #GivingTuesday.

 

The UMC Giving Tuesday site suggests taking a “selfless selfie” by holding up a sign with a UMC #GivingTuesday graphic. You write, “Please join me in supporting _____________. You can even list the number of an Advance project along with how to give. It means that you need to look at the Advance website and pick a project that inspires you. Then let #GivingTuesday assist you in raising funds.

 

If you are looking for End of the Year Giving templates, you can find them on our website: www.ms-umf.org. Look for the resource tab under services.


For All the Saints

For All the Saints

 

Today, November 1, is All Saints Day. This is day to honor those who have gone before us in the faith. I realize that most congregations will celebrate this day Sunday, November 5. What a special time to give thanks to God for the lives of our brothers and sisters in the faith, who now rest from their labors. We give thanks to God for the sacrifices these men and women made to establish and support our congregations.

 

We often find ourselves taking for granted the very places where we gather for worship. We neglect the people, who had a vision to create a community of faith, and then gave of themselves to make it happen. These saints gave generously for the sake of the kingdom of God.

 

The founding generations of our churches reached out into their communities to invite and disciple new believers. These saints were willing to engage new methods to reach new people in their day and time. Founding generations gave their time and resources to support pastoral leadership and construct places of worship. Founding generations lived out their faith in such a way that it made a lasting impact in their communities. Now it is our moment as the saints of the church to model generosity and faith for new generations.

 

How are we reaching out into our communities to invite and develop new disciples? What is the measure of our generosity?


Holy Day Offerings

Holy Day Offerings

 

Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas are quickly approaching. Now is the best time to think about special offerings for these days and seasons. The Sunday before Thanksgiving will be a perfect time to receive a special offering expressing gratitude for all that God has done for us. It will require advertising the offering for two to three weeks before receiving the special gifts. A set of Thanksgiving offering envelopes mailed to the congregation or available in the sanctuary is helpful.

 

You will need to decide about the purpose of the offering. Will it be used for budget needs, a special need in the congregation, mission shares or projects in the community? If you need money for operating expenses, do not feel guilty about the offering simply going to the general account. Emphasize the opportunity for people to express their gratitude to God for all the wonderful blessings of life. Do not talk about how the church needs the money. If the offering is for a special need, lift that up to the congregation.

 

The same process can be used for Advent or Christmas. There are several calendars for Advent that invite persons to set aside an amount of money daily. Coin folders are great for children, but not for adults. You may purchase offering boxes or create your own for the offering. Or you may focus on bringing an offering for the Christ Child at Christmas Eve or the Christmas Sunday Service.

 

Folks, leaders of the church do not need to protect their members’ pocketbooks. They will do that on their own. Special offerings are a way to allow persons to express their faith during special seasons and days of the year.


Giving Tuesday, November 28

Giving Tuesday Is Coming November 28

Giving Tuesday is now entering its sixth year. It was created as a day to give to non-profits in the midst of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. It provides a perfect time for churches to lift up the work of the United Methodist Church throughout the world through the Advance.

The Advance is the mission arm of the church that encourages additional giving to missions. If you can think of a project, you will probably find it at www.advancinghope.org. Click through to mission giving. By making a gift through the Advance, 100% of the funds go to the chosen project. This may be done by churches, Sunday School Classes, or individuals. Last year more than 2,550 persons in 19 countries contributed a total of $853,909.78 to United Methodist mission projects and missionary support through the 2016 UMC #GivingTuesday campaign.

I know that many people focus on giving to children at this time of year. That are numerous projects that directly impact children living in poverty in other parts of the world. You can be a part of providing school uniforms, additional nutrition and a Christmas program. The list goes on and on.

Go to www.umcmission.org/giving-tuesday for more information.