e-giving

Offering Tip – “Receive” the offering

Tithing – Step 3 – Educate

Teaching tithing in church can prove to be a challenge.  At Generis we want to normalize that conversation.  I started a short series called 3 steps to teaching tithing and I would encourage you to read the initial post  Evaluate post and Formulate post.

The final step in the process is to educate your people on your church’s stance on tithing.  This is when it get can get scary, difficult, challenging, etc.  It is one thing to sit behind closed doors with your close friends and advisers and talk about how important it is for our church to have a clear stance on tithing.  It is also fairly easy to sit in a staff meeting and formulate a plan to implement a clear communication strategy surrounding tithing.  Your staff comes up with plans for big initiatives all the time right?

However, many churches find launching this type of initiative to be more challenging than most.  Here are some things to expect when you begin to educate your congregation on your church’s stance on tithing:

  • Attacks from the enemy.  You have now crossed lines; enemy lines.  Deception surrounding giving back to God is one of the top weapons the enemy uses against us.  Pastors are on the front lines so who do you think the enemy is going to attack first?
  • Push back from the congregation.  Once again, you have crossed lines.  “Pastor, it is ok to talk to me about sin, heaven, hell, forgiveness, adultery and even sex.  But you have gone too far trying to tell me about tithing and that I should be giving back to God.  You have gone to meddling.”  These types of comments will not only come from people who are ‘sort of’ involved at the church.  Some of your 20% will bark.  In the words of one of my colleagues “A hit dog hollers.”
  • Questions.  If you have not spent much time in the past discussing tithing and generosity you will receive questions once you begin the discussion.  Some will be quite simple; “Why are we talking about money now?  We never have before.”  “Where did this emphasis come from?  What is the genesis of it?”  “Are we getting ready to have a capital campaign?”  Unfortunately some of the other questions could be on the negative side. (See the previous bullet point)
  • Departures.  Yep.  Some people will leave your church seeking a church with a pastor that “doesn’t talk about money all the time.”  Guess what?  They will find that church.
  • Increased immediate giving.  Yep.  Giving will go up; probably that Sunday.  If not that Sunday, definitely on the second Sunday.  Why?  Because you are sharing biblical truths.  Christians respond to biblical truths.  
  • Increased sustained giving.  If you will work the entire plan you and your leaders formulated you will see giving increase and remain at higher levels.  “Will giving continue to rise?”  Yes, as long as you work the plan.  
  • Spiritual growth.  You will grow closer to God and so will your people.  That’s a good thing right?
  • Financial freedom.  If you will ‘normalize the conversation about generosity’ your church will eventually be free of the shackles that often prohibit churches from achieving their God-inspired vision.  

Would you like to achieve ALL of the aspects of the God-inspired vision for the church you serve?  Implement the plan.

I will ask the question one more time.  Am I over simplifying this?  Apparently all of the readers either agree with everything I say or think I have lost my mind.  I’d love to hear from you.

5 steps to increase end of year giving

It is that time of year in the non-profit world where everyone is talking about end of year giving.

If you are a church leader then you should too.  It is not uncommon for churches to receive in excess of 25% of their total annual giving in December.  With that in mind does your church have an end of year giving plan?  Here are some basic steps to increase giving for the people who would like to give to your church.

  1. Make your people aware of the accomplishments in mission and ministry for 2013 and celebrate them.  You can do this in worship, video, website, email, letter, Facebook or better yet; all of them.
  2. Send an end of year giving letter to thank the people for their giving thus far in 2013 and to encourage them to consider an end of year gift.  Be sure to include the schedule for the church office during the final days of December.
  3. Email the same letter you mail or consider a video version of the same content included in the letter.  This could be a 2-3 minute video from the pastor.
  4. Make sure your people are aware of the electronic giving options your church has.
  5. Include end of year giving language in the Sunday worship bulletin/guide and in the worship announcements on December 15, 22, and 29.  If you don’t remind them they will forget.

This may seem like a lot to do but the ROI could be substantial.

If you would like a guide for an end of year letter please comment below and/or email me and I will provide it for you and make myself available for questions.  alan@generis.com

“To tithe or not to tithe”

One of the most overused, misused, and misunderstood words in the church world is the word tithe.

Webster defines tithe as a noun and a verb:

noun: an amount of money that a person gives to a church which is usually equal to 1/10 of that person’s income

transitive verb:  to pay or give a tenth part of especially for the support of the church
What do people really mean when they say “I tithe.”
  • Does that mean they give 10% of their income to their church or does it mean they give regularly to their church?
  • Do they give more than 10% or less than 10%?
  • Do they give on gross income or net?
Over the next several posts I plan to address the problem of today’s interpretation of the word tithe?  I will have several guests weigh in on the topic and offer their perspectives.  My desire is to begin a conversation as I want to learn from you.
In the meantime I’d love to know what you think about the word tithe?  What does tithe mean to you?

What a baboon taught me about stewardship

I am in the middle of campaigns with a few churches this spring.  They are all entering the ‘public phase’ where the entire congregation becomes aware of the project and the commitment conversation begins.

I provide resources for the pastors and leaders to help them teach the subject of generosity to their people.  One resource I provide is a piece written by my colleague Don Linscott.  Don is one of the founders of Generis and his writing and communication skills are superb.  I thought I would allow you to read this wonderful story about generosity from Don.  Enjoy!

What a Baboon Taught Me About Stewardship

by Don Linscott

A television documentary on animal life in Africa was demonstrating how the natives of Africa have learned to find water during the dry season. A native would first locate a colony of baboons. Sure that the baboons were watching, the African dug a small hole in a dirt embankment. He then placed a handful of fruit inside. Baboons, it seems, are incurably curious, so as soon as the native returned into the jungle, one baboon quickly approached the hole. Seeing the fruit inside, the baboon stuck his hand in the hole and grasped the tasty morsel. The African hunter had skillfully carved the hole just large enough to allow the animal’s hand to enter but, when clasped around the fruit, the hand could not be withdrawn.

The native then returned from the concealment of the forest with a small rope in his hands. Amazingly, as the man approached, the baboon shrieked in terror, but refused to release the fruit and run for its life. I found myself moving to the edge of my chair as this drama intensified. I wanted to shout to the baboon, “Let go and run for your life!” But, alas, the native casually strolled up to the panic-stricken animal, laid the noose over the animal’s neck, and pulled him away. The animal was then tied to a tree, given salt, and held captive for a couple of days without water. As soon as it was released, the baboon made a bee line for its secret waterhole. The native simply followed the thirst-driven animal and found the water he would never have found without the animal’s unwitting assistance.

As I watched this drama unfold, I was impressed with the hunter’s wisdom, humored by the comical simplicity of it, but mortified to see myself in the story. I thought, “This is not a story about a baboon and water; this is a story about me and the foolishness of my own behavior!” How often have I, as the rational and intelligent being that God made me to be, performed precisely the same behavior as the baboon? Adam and Eve lost the garden for one bite. Esau sold his birthright for one meal. Samson traded his special gift of strength for a woman.

How easily have I been overcome with the enticement of a fist full of fruit! What a price tag is attached to selfish attitudes and action.

In the long run, a lifestyle of “getting” and “grabbing” is exceedingly more costly than a life of “giving.” I had wanted to warn the baboon, “Let go!” and yet, how often have I, myself, failed to accept the same advice?

The BIG Easter Offering Give Away – Communicate, communicate, communicate!

If you are just joining the conversation today I am trying to help churches go through the steps to ensure that this year’s Easter offering is special and larger than ever.  Sounds like a great idea huh?  Here’s the catch though; we are then going to give the entire offering away.

You probably will want to start at the beginning of the series so this post will make more sense.  Start here.

Here’s where we are in the process:

  • You’ve made the decision to go down the road of giving the Easter offering away.
  • You’ve chosen the ministry that will be the recipient of the offering.
  • You have passionate buy in from the senior leader and the leadership team of the church. (including the finance team)
  • You have your first written piece printed and you are ready to tell your leaders.  We want the leaders to know what is going on first before we tell the entire congregation.
  • You have publicized the Easter offering BIG Giveaway to the congregation in worship (after you have told the leaders in writing)

Now what?

We have to keep communicating.

  • Regardless of what Sunday you choose to make the initial announcement you will need to mention the BIG Giveaway in every worship service until the Easter service.
    • We can’t let a Sunday go by where we do not mention the BIG Giveaway.
      • You can be light with it
      • Serious about it
      • Make an oral announcement
      • Have a video announcement
      • Invite a representative from the organization who will be receiving the offering to come and speak
      • Put it in the bulletin/worship piece
      • Have live testimonies from people in your congregation who have been affected by the ministry (volunteer or recipient)
    • You get the picture right?  You can’t let up but you can’t be obnoxious either.  There will be many people on every Sunday who have no idea what you are talking about so you have to keep introducing the concept and the ministry to receive the offering.
    • However, you have many in the congregation who are there EVERY Sunday and they will grow tired of the constant communication if you are not creative.
    • Remember that the people who are there EVERY Sunday will probably be the ones who give the most money to the offering.  SO BE CREATIVE!!!!!!!
    • Mix up the speakers who talk from the pulpit/stage about the offering.  Please don’t let it be the same person every week.  Please make sure the person is excited about the offering!

Every week when you make the announcement you have to tell the people that we are making a conscious decision to do 52 weeks’ worth of ministry on 51 weeks’ worth of giving.

There is more to come on how to communicate the offering. Stay tuned.

Is this the way you normally communicate big initiatives?  I’d love to hear ideas about communicating.  Start a conversation below on communication ideas.

Easter offering 2013 – The BIG give away

If you are just joining the conversation today I am trying to help churches go through the steps to ensure that this year’s Easter offering will be special and larger than ever.  Sounds like a great idea huh?  (If you want to start from the beginning look over to the right at the Recent Posts and you can get started.)

Here’s the catch; we are then going to give the entire offering away.  (If you are on a church finance team you probably just passed out.  Hopefully you will keep reading when you regain consciousness.)

Here’s where we are in the process:

  • You’ve made the decision to go down the road of giving the Easter offering away.
  • You’ve chosen the ministry that will be the recipient of the offering.
  • You have passionate buy in from the senior leader and the leadership team of the church. (including the finance team)

Now what?

It is time to roll out the communication plan.

  • Step 1.  Prepare a written explanation of what we are doing and why we are doing it.  Distribute this document (preferably a nice printed piece/not just a letter) to the leaders of your church; elders, deacons, committee chairs, committee members, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, choir members, praise band members, children’s volunteers, youth volunteers, parking lot volunteers, coffee shop volunteers, etc.
    1. Give your leaders a little ‘inside scoop’ so they can begin being ambassadors for the Big Easter Give Away.
    2. Ash Wednesday is the perfect launch date for the Big Easter Give Away.  February 13 is Ash Wednesday which signifies the beginning of Lent.
    3. Send by mail on Monday, February 11 and by email on February 13.
    4. Remember:  just send it to the leaders.
  • Step 2.  Sunday, February 17.
    1. Have the written document available in the bulletin or worship guide.
    2. Make an announcement in worship prior to the offering being received.  Don’t miss the timing of the announcement.  The senior leader needs to make the announcement just prior to the offering time.  Discuss the Big Easter Give Away and explain that we will be giving the entire offering away to “ABC ministry”.  2013’s budget will be built on 51 weeks’ worth of offerings.  RESIST the temptation to ask people to increase their giving over the next few weeks to make up for the operational dollars we will miss from the Easter offering that we are giving away.  This type of thinking is from a scarcity mindset and not an abundance mindset.
    3. Be sure that you include language about the Big Easter Give Away in the zip code mailer you will be doing to invite people to attend on Easter Sunday.  (You will be doing a zip code mailer right?)
      • Give them something to think about when you send that mailer.  Liven it up.  Create a sense that something will happen beyond the wonderfulness of the Easter service.

Ok, there are your first steps.

You in?

Let’s get started.

More to come.

THE question; “Is it worth it?”

This year’s Easter offering is going to be different for many churches because they are going to do what I am suggesting; Give the ENTIRE offering away!

Read my previous posts on this for context and to make sure that I am not crazy.  January 29 post.  January 30 post.

So as the senior leader of the church or a lay leader of the church you think this is a good idea and you want to do it.  What are the next steps?

Brainstorm about where you would like to see the offering go.

  • What ministry would benefit from the offering the most?
  • Should it be a local ministry?
  • Should it be a ministry in our church?
  • Should it be a nationally recognized organization?

Here’s a check list you should utilize when determining where the offering should go.  Make sure:

  1. You choose ONE ministry.  The temptation will be to spread the money around to various ministries to avoid conflict in the congregation and hurting feelings.  If you are worried about conflict and hurting feelings then please do not try to do this offering.  You have bigger fish to fry.
  2. The ministry’s mission is easy to explain and understand.  The less moving parts the better.
  3. The ministry will affect lives of people outside the walls of your church.  People visiting your church will not want to give to something that is going to benefit the people who are members of the church.  (That’s the main reason they don’t want to give in the first place.)
  4. The ministry’s mission has broad appeal.  For example; children’s ministries appeal to people from all generations as do ministries that help build fresh water wells around the globe.
  5. The ministry you choose lines up with your church’s vision and mission statement.  Stay on point.
  6. The ministry is not controversial.  I completely embrace the idea of getting our people out of their comfort zones.  However, this is not the time or the place.

Once you have a ministry in mind (not a final decision) you have to tell the leadership about the idea.  If you are the senior leader you have to get buy in from your leadership team.  If you are a lay leader you have to talk to the senior leader first to get buy in and then present the idea to the leadership team.  (This is going to work best if the senior leader is excited about it and is willing to promote it.)

The million dollar question (pun intended) is “How do I get the leadership team to agree to give one weeks’ offering away when we did not budget for this?”  How can we operate the church on 51 weeks’ worth of offerings when we budgeted for 52 weeks?

This is the crux of this giving opportunity.  This is where leaders can actually live out the words of ‘we have to have faith that God will provide.’  This is where the proverbial ‘rubber meets the road.’

As a leader you have to be able to answer the question “Why do this in the first place?” with conviction and ease.  I would respond by saying:

Easter is the Sunday we have the highest attendance.  We know that many who come will probably not ever come back; or at least on a regular basis.  For many in the congregation on Easter Sunday we have one shot to show them who we are and why we exist.  ‘We are faithful followers of Christ and our mission is to spread the Gospel and show people the love of God through our words AND actions.’  It takes money to do ministry so let’s not apologize for talking about money on Easter Sunday.  In fact let’s embrace the opportunity to invite everyone on Easter Sunday to make an investment in the Kingdom through this offering.  Why should we apologize for receiving money that will directly impact lives and show the recipients that people do care and God cares about them?

Back to the 52 week budget on 51 weeks’ worth of giving.  Your church is like most families in the church.  You have enough to do what God is calling you to do.  When times get tough or our financial situation changes we make decisions that allow the money we have to be enough to do what we need to do.  All of the leaders will have to be better stewards than they already are.

THE question is not can we do it, but is it worth it?

“God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible…what a pity we plan only things we can do by ourselves.” A. W. Tozer

Questions nobody asks (out loud) in church.

  • Are we a generous church?
  • Is our church budgeting process done the way it is because it is best for our church or because this is the way we have always done it?
  • Are all of the members of our staff generous in their giving?
  • Do we have a generosity game plan that matches the vision and mission of our church?
  • Do we give as much in missions as we should?
  • Do we have the right amount of staff for a church our size?
  • If everyone in the church gave generously we wouldn’t have financial concerns.  How do we achieve this?
  • Where do we spend the money that is given?  I wish the church would be more transparent when it comes to money.
  • Is our offering time a valued part of the worship service?

Have you heard any/all of these questions at your church? 

How do you answer them? 

Do you think you should ask and answer them?

I think you should.  I would recommend getting a group of people together who would be willing and capable to ask and answer these questions.  No one likes to go to the doctor for their annual check-up.  No one likes to re-visit their personal spending budget.  No one likes to take their car in for the 100k tune-up.  We know that we should do these things for the longevity and health of our bodies, finances and vehicles, but we also know we may uncover unwanted ‘stuff’ that is either going to cost us money or sacrifice (or both).

No one likes to subject themselves to potential frustration, pain, and struggle.

However, the beginning of the year is a great time to ‘look under the hood’ at all things generosity in your church.  As the new year unfolds everyone is anticipating great things in their personal lives and in the life of the church.  Nothing is more exciting for church leaders than to have the funding needed to do the ministry they feel called to do!

Your church will have some type of leadership retreat in the month of January or  February to discuss the upcoming year.  This would be a great time to discuss a generosity audit to help your church have a generosity game plan for 2013 to help fully fund the mission.

Are you going to ask the questions?

Connect the dots: Giving causes life change

At Generis we have spent a great deal of time and energy over the past three years attempting to help churches understand how to connect giving with life change.  We are constantly encouraging churches to be on the look out for stories from the lay people and staff of their churches.

Once we find the stories it can be challenging to get the story to the masses.  There are a few methods, but probably the most powerful is video.

  1. Video allows the viewer to watch and listen at their convenience and at a time when they will focus.
  2. Video allows us to ensure the message is succinct and the story teller’s heart is truly displayed correctly.  Many are not comfortable talking in front of people and video allows them to stop and start over.
  3. Video allows the story to be told in worship but the time is controlled.  This keeps the worship schedule on track.
  4. Video is a reusable resource.  You can show it in worship on Sunday, embed it in a church wide email on Tuesday and include it in the electronic version of your newsletter that goes out later that month.  It can also be stored on the video section of your church’s generosity page.  (You have a generosity page right?)

I hope you enjoy this video from a church in the middle of their stewardship season this fall.  This church made a huge shift in their communication strategy to allow story telling to be their primary communication message.   They have significantly upgraded their video capabilities.

Let me know your thoughts on this video.  I found it quite compelling and powerful.