Your Investors

Horizons Stewardship published an article by Mick Tune last month about investors.  He begins, “Think of me as a potential venture capitalist for your organization, or as a mission capitalist for your vision. I am not looking to make money back, but I am looking for a real return on my investment. I love my church and all, but you are not the only Godly gig around.”

 

What vision/mission is your church or ministry proposing for funding from potential investors?  By potential investors, I am referring to persons who put money in the offering plate every Sunday or send money to you monthly or quarterly.  How are you telling your story of making a difference in your community? Investors are looking for a return on investment. In ministry, the only return is changed lives.

 

Investors have many choices, when it comes to where their money goes. The church and ministry organizations can no longer just sit around and expect people to give. Our message and invitation to invest must be clear and compelling.


People of Faith Do Not Automatically Give

Many leaders in churches are Boomers, who think about giving to the church in the world of the Builder Generation. The Builders are more faithful in attending and in giving to the institutional church. The Builders generally did not need encouragement to give. But the Builders are disappearing from our churches because of death. And Boomers have not really learned or taught their generations and others about the spiritual discipline of giving. Thom Rainer had some reflections on this recently.

Rainer reminds us that Boomers and Gen X have high incomes, but do not give consistently or generously to the church. Millennials give, but they do not have the financial resources to give large amounts. The problem is that Builders are being replaced with Millennials. So the shift is from more generous to less generous givers. And there is more.

Millennials are more inclined to give to purposes rather than organizations. Churches must demonstrate how the funds are going to be used for a meaningful purpose. It is not enough to say, “Give to the church.” It needs to become give to the church so that we can continue to feed the hungry on Sunday afternoon, etc.

Folks, if we really expect our churches to be effective expressions of God’s Kingdom, it will require us to teach biblical generosity. It is not going to happen, if we do not engage in the process. Sitting around on our hands is not going to get it done.


Opportunity to Give

Easter is quickly approaching. This is an excellent time to receive a special Easter Offering. The use of the funds will depend upon your financial circumstances and goals for ministry. You may wish to simply invite people to make a gift for Easter. The money would then be available for the most pressing financial need. Or you may wish to connect the offering to a special church project.

The special project may be updating a part of the building, children’s ministry, youth ministry or senior adult ministry. It may be time for new stoles for the choir or new choir robes. Maybe you need some new paraments or offering plates.  It might be that you wish to support a mission group or Advance Special. I think you get the idea.

Be sure to have a special envelope for folks to use for the offering. People, who wish to give will give. But if you do not ask, no one will give.


Lenten Disciplines

One of the most talked about disciplines for Lent is that of fasting. People often choose to give up sweets, chocolate, soft drinks, etc. I suggest that we might also want to think about a fast from stuff for a portion of Lent.

In The 7 Experiment, staging your own mutiny against excess, Jen Hatmaker addresses possessions.  She specifically invites the reader to think about a couple of questions:
“How can you cultivate a sense of God’s presence in your home?”
“What can you do differently to be sure possessions don’t steer your heart?”

Hatmaker suggests the reader find a way to give away at least 7 things a day for seven days as a sign of freedom from possessions. The seven for one day may be items from one room or the whole house.  The seven could be kitchen items, home accessories, furniture or linens.  Clothes are a great way to produce seven items.

The whole idea is to realize that we do have a lot of stuff and that stuff does not equal worth and value.


Generosity Begins with Beginning

As a pastor I heard many people over the years say, “When I am in a better financial place in life, I will begin to tithe.”  What they were really saying is that they will begin to give. Tithing is generally considered to be 10% of one’s income. These folks usually were giving nothing or less than $200 per year.  The problem is that these folks never seem to reach some kind of financial mark in life to begin generosity. So many people make the mistake of equating generosity with the level of one’s financial resources.

Many believe they will give more when they have more. The problem is that a failure to be generous with a small income will never result in becoming generous with a larger income. Generosity is about making a conscious decision through the power of the Holy Spirit to give freely and sacrificially of one’s financial resources. It is not about the level of one’s financial resources. Generosity is about being generous.

Generosity really does begin with being generous.


Expressing Love

Today, we will see lots of red hearts and ash crosses on foreheads. Valentine’s Day is a great day for florists, restaurants, jewelers and candy makers. Today is also Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. On this day we are invited to give freely of cards, candy, jewels, etc. in order to express our love to another. We also begin to engage in spiritual disciplines as an expression of love for Jesus.

I remember many years ago that our children were in a school system that allowed florists to deliver items to students in classrooms on Valentine’s Day. You should have seen how many balloons and stuffed animals filled cars and buses at the end of the day. I guess we were bad parents, because we did not send balloons or stuffed animals to our children at school.  What we did notice over the next two or three years that it became a contest to see which children would get the most balloons and stuffed animals. Thankfully, the school ended the practice because it just disrupted the whole day. It is so easy to equate stuff with love.

This is a day that many will renounce eating chocolates and eating out as a spiritual discipline. What a confusing day of emotions for us all.  We give out of love and deny out of love. We acquire more and let go of more. What a perfect way to begin discerning the place of money and stuff in our life of faith.


Tell the Stories of Faith

Tell the Stories of Faith

 

Folks, we just need to get better at telling our stories. I know Jesus talked about not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing, but we need to celebrate what we are doing as a faith community. People need to hear how their investment of prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness is making a difference.  We need to tell our stories because others are telling stories of their accomplishments.

 

Various hospitals are telling about changing and saving lives. Colleges and universities communicate about their facilities and students. Even dog shelters are telling their stories. I love animals, but I believe that connecting people to Jesus is more important. Yet, we just seem to assume that people are going to give because they are supposed to give. That world is going away quickly.

 

Right now is the time to craft your stories as a bulletin insert, a video or a witness for worship. Look at what you are doing for children, youth or older adults. Find out about the work of the church in Mississippi and around the world. If you do not have any stories to tell, it may be time to fall in love with Jesus again as the church.

 


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.