Monday, December 22, 2014

Beyond Fundraising: Developing a Year-Round Culture of Generosity

By David S. Bell

One of the foundational premises of Christian stewardship is that God is the owner of all. All that we have in life is a generous gift from God. Stewardship includes our care of one another, the use of natural resources, and the management of our personal property and our finances. Thus, stewardship concerns far more than just money. Yet, we often equate stewardship with the topic of money.

Stewardship is often a topic that is avoided by many church leaders. Yet, church leaders can greatly influence the understanding of money and stewardship in the life of a congregation. Generous giving is a spiritual gift that requires cultivation and growth, like any aspect of one’s Christian formation. Here are some suggestions specifically related to cultivating the stewardship of money:
  • Make prayerful decisions concerning your own family’s financial management. Practice a lifestyle that is compatible with the teaching of Jesus, not with the values of American consumerism. Model generous giving. Practice tithing or proportionate giving. Complete your own estate planning. These self-focused activities are important tasks for your own stewardship development. Moreover, the completion of these tasks will enable you to lead others more effectively.
  • Complete a money autobiography; encourage other church leaders to complete money autobiographies. Create a non-threatening small group experience for people to share and to discuss portions of these autobiographies.

  • Promote a vision of ministry that attracts people to be generous givers – most people are not motivated to give to the “survival needs” of the church, they are motivated to give because of the mission and ministry of the church.
  • Practice year-round stewardship.
  • Be intentional about focusing the offertory prayers on the joy of giving.
  • Provide a variety of educational and small group experiences that focus on topics such as: personal financial management, family budget planning, debt reduction/consolidation, and estate planning.
  • Encourage the establishment of a planned giving program for the local church. If one already exists, then cultivate persons to designate gifts to the various endowment programs.

  • Be an active leader in planning a designated time during the church year when the congregation reflects, individually and collectively, on its practice of generous giving. Often this focused time will be an appropriate time to conduct an annual financial campaign.  An annual campaign should be grounded theologically in the celebration of giving. One of the goals of this designated time is to provide people with the opportunity to experience the joy of giving.

  • Direct the Finance Committee to develop a narrative budget in addition to the detailed line-item budget. The narrative budget emphasizes the mission and vision of the church, rather than individual line items.

  • Be intentional with the Finance and/or Stewardship Committee(s) to create a variety of giving “entry points” that enable all church members and friends to support financially the ministry and mission of the church.

  • Remember that people want to know that their gifts of time, talent, prayers, and presence are making a difference in the world. Consistently provide them with examples of the impact that their gifts have made on other people.

David S. Bell is the President and Executive Director of the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. David has a keen understanding of current economic and consumer trends impacting charitable giving, which he gained through experience as a pastor, development director, and national church leader. David is Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and active member of The Alban Institute, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Christian Leadership Alliance, and the National Association of Church Business Administrators. David graduated from Drew Theological School and holds a BA in Religious Studies and Secondary Education from The College of Wooster. David and his wife, Ethel, have two children and reside in Brighton, Michigan.

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