stewardship

“Churches; is your vision too big for people to give to?” Huh?

A long time pastor friend sent me an audio clip from NPR on what causes the brain to compel someone to give or not to give to a certain cause.

I found the 4 minute clip absolutely fascinating.  I think you will too.

I ask the question: Is your vision too big for people to give to?  I never thought I would ask that question.

Why Your Brain Wants To Help One Child In Need — But Not Millions

Pastors; Are your people willing to grow in their giving?

If you are a pastor how would you answer the question “Are your people willing to grow in their giving?”  If you are a lay person how do you think your pastor would respond?

I have asked this question many times over the past 13 years and the typical response is something along the lines of “I don’t know.  We have some families growing in their giving each year but I don’t know if all of the families in our church are willing or capable of growing in their giving.”

What I usually find after digging in a little deeper is the simple fact that most pastors have never intentionally asked their people the question “Will You Grow?”

So, my question for pastors and church leaders today is “When will you ask your people if they are willing to grow in their giving?”  One thing I know for sure; they will not grow in their giving unless you invite them to do so.

Church Debt Epidemic

Is there really a church debt epidemic?

Epidemic means to affect a disproportionately large area or group.  So, is there a church debt epidemic?  Unfortunately I have to say yes and unfortunately I find it to be the case in the more established and traditional denominations.  Why?

There is no short answer and I’m sure the answer varies from region to region but I can trace it back to the 10 year time period from 1998 – 2008.  Churches were no different than the secular housing industry.  Money was cheap and it was easy to get your hands on.  Churches in rapidly growing areas such as metro Atlanta experienced growth in attendance and felt compelled to address their facilities needs due to the increase in people attending their church.

Unfortunately many of those churches planned as if the growth would continue on forever.  Over speculation on rising attendance led to the over building of church campuses.  Many of which today are somewhat empty shells of where they were in the mid 2000’s.

So here we are.  Enough of why we are where we are.  The reasons why really do not help us address the problem and help churches figure out a way to address the debt and get out from underneath the gorilla that is standing on them and holding them back from being the shining light God intended them to be.

I feel burdened to figure out a way to help churches who are in this situation.  As a consultant who ran capital campaigns for churches during this time I now feel a sense of urgency to help churches address their debt situations.  The difficulty is that addressing debt is not any more enjoyable in the church than it is in our personal lives.

It takes:

  • Vision beyond the debt – People will give to vision.  They are not very excited about debt.  What ministries and mission work is the debt keeping us from doing?  How would things be different if the debt were gone?  What is the “Golden Tomorrow?”
  • Planning beyond tomorrow – There is not a short term solution.  What are the steps?  How long will it take?  How will we get there?  Who will lead the charge?
  • Diligence beyond belief – Again, there is not a short term solution; nor is it easy.  The Pastor and leaders must be patient and persistent.  There MUST be consensus from the leaders that this is the course we are taking and we will not veer from it until the plan is complete.

Is your church in debt?  How much?  How are you handling the debt?  Is the debt crippling or is it manageable?  What is your solution?

If your church is in debt who knows about it?  Does anyone outside of the Finance Team and Senior Leadership Team know?  When will you begin the conversation?  What will the conversation be with the congregation?  Transparency is key to addressing the problem.

I’d love to learn from you.

Pastors; what is your church’s Generosity Potential?

It is hard to believe I am already looking at dates in the fall for business and personal schedules.  It seems like just yesterday that I was walking 4 miles to my house in the snow during Snowpocalypse 2014 in Atlanta!  The race is now on to get everything in before school gets out.  Right?

Most churches try to have some type of fall schedule on paper before everyone breaks for the summer.  Many churches have an annual fall stewardship emphasis.  Are you one of those churches?  Have you made preliminary plans for the your church’s generosity focus this fall?  Have you set goals for what you hope to accomplish during the fall emphasis on giving.

At Generis we believe that numbers have a story to tell.  Numbers do not tell the entire story but they have a unique story to tell within every church.  I have learned what numbers have to say in the context of the local church.  A person’s giving is a key indicator of their commitment to God and to the local church.  We feel it is important to look at the numbers and uncover what story they are telling about each church.

What story are the numbers telling about your church?

Generis has created a tool to help you get started analyzing the numbers of your church.  We call it the Generosity Potential Assessment or GPA.  It is a great way to begin the process of uncovering the story the numbers are telling in your church.

If you would like to know your church’s generosity potential you can get started here.  Please let me know what you find out.  I’d love to have a conversation with you to discuss the findings.

Offering Tip – “Receive” the offering

Offering Tip – Connect Church Vision and Life Change

Connecting Your Vision and Life Change from Alan Wildes on Vimeo.

Pastors, how do you prepare for ‘rain delays?’

I love baseball and all of its’ nuances and cliches.  A line that I have used over the years is “If I could control the weather I would be a rich man.”  Rain and bad weather are as much a part of baseball as home runs and ERA’s.Charlie Brown rain delay

Coaches and Managers can’t control the weather.  In today’s world Doppler Radar certainly makes it easier to predict the weather but the good coaches and managers do not trust weather forecasts.  Coaches make out the line up for today’s game even if the forecast says 100% rain.  You just never know and you want to be prepared in case the umpire says “Play Ball!”

However, good coaches also have a back up plan in case the game gets rained out.Bad weather happens in churches as well.  It typically doesn’t come in the literal form of rain (unless you have a leaky roof) but it definitely ‘rains’ in the life of a church.  Does your church have a ‘rainy day fund?’

At Generis we believe every church should have at least two months of operating expenses in the bank.  The predictable ‘rainy season of summer’ is coming in every church.  You need to have the rainy day fund so you do not have to ask the congregation for more giving just to meet expenses for the summer.  There are also more unpredictable ‘rainy seasons’ in the life of the church that we must be prepared for.

Here is a an example of a church who intentionally worked on their ‘rainy day fund.’

Does your church have a rainy day fund?  If so, was it difficult to get to two months expenses in savings?  If not, what is holding you back from creating that fund?

Pastors and PFP (Pitcher Fielder Practice)

As a former pitcher I didn’t particularly like PFP.  That’s where all the pitchers work on bunt coverages, covering first, beginning the 1-6-3 double play, pick off plays and run downs.  I just didn’t see the point in going over this stuff every year.  Not only every year, but two or three times a week.  Why?

I found out the answer when I became a college pitching coach and later a high school coach.  The  answer was “most pitchers don’t know how to do it!”  Either they had not been taught properly or they weren’t paying attention; probably a combination of the two.

As a player I assumed too much.  As a young coach I assumed too much. (You know what they say about the word assume?)  I quickly learned as a maturing coach that I had to teach the basics, practice the basics, and reinforce the basics of fielding for pitchers.

As a generosity coach I have found the same to be true about teaching churches and pastors about generosity.  I started out in this work assuming way too much about how generosity principles were taught in churches.  I quickly learned that pastors and leaders were not teaching ‘the basics’ to their people and I immediately asked “why not?”

The answer was the same that I found years earlier about pitchers.  Pastors and church leaders had not been taught.  They picked up some sound biblical teaching in seminary about stewardship, tithing, and giving but were not necessarily given the tools of how to implement those biblical teachings.

So, here are the basics of generosity in churches; PTC instead of PFP.  PTC = Preach, Teach, Celebrate.

  • Preach it.  Use the biblical learning from seminary to share with your people what God’s word has to say about giving.  Don’t shy away from it.  Don’t worry about what the emails will look like on Monday morning.  Jesus taught about money and managing resources more than anything else.
  • Teach it.  Small groups and Sunday School classes need to study generosity.  They can have a sermon based study on it or utilize some of the wonderful studies that are out there on generosity.  Regardless of the format, implement a study on generosity in your small group/Sunday school settings at least once every two years.
  • Celebrate it.  You cultivate what you celebrate.  Life change happens every day in the lives of the people who attend your church.  Do you have systems in place to collect those stories?  Do you publically tell those stories?  Do you tie in generosity with the telling of those stories?  Everyone loves a good story.  I would encourage you to begin looking for them and then telling them in worship.  Generosity begets generosity.

Whether it is spring training or the World Series, teams do PFP to keep their pitchers sharp.  Churches might take note and do PTC to keep their people generous.

Does your church preach, teach and celebrate generosity?  If so, please share.

Best laid plans…..

I was watching a spring training game last night.  The Braves were playing the Mets.  Chris Medlen was the pitcher for the Braves.  Medlen has emerged as the ‘ace’ of the Braves staff going into this season.  In fact, he was named the opening day starter last week by the manager.  He was going to be the opening day starter until Sunday afternoon.

Image

In the middle of an at bat in the middle of the third inning, Medlen walked off the field with his arm tucked down by his side.  He was met by the Braves trainer but never looked up.  He never made eye contact with anyone.  He just walked into the dugout and down the tunnel to the clubhouse.  He knew something was REALLY wrong.

That would be known as a game changer; both short term and potentially long term.

I have worked with many churches to help them with their culture of generosity.  I have been doing several Generosity Audits recently and one of the common threads I have seen is that these churches are not financially prepared for a game changing event.  Most churches live month to month and have no contingency fund.  I know that churches are not in the business of making/saving money, but churches should at least have two months of operating expenses in the bank.

How would your church handle such an experience like the Braves did on Sunday, March 9 when their opening day starter walked off the field in obvious pain?  What would happen if your sanctuary had a fire?  (I went to a church where this happened.)  Are you prepared?  What will happen this summer when the ‘summer giving swoon’ happens?  Will you be ready or will the head of the finance team have to get up on a Sunday in late July or early August and make the ‘annual summer we are behind giving appeal’?

Please know that I am a glass half full kind of guy (at least most of the time).  I’m not trying to be doom and gloom, but it is my job to ask you “Are you financially prepared under the unfortunate circumstances of a negative game changing event in your church?”

If your church is prepared, please tell me and others how well you are prepared?  How did you get to that point?  Was it difficult?  How has it affected ministry planning in your church?

Pastors: 5 methods to increase giving. #3

Pastors are always asking me “Alan, what can I do as the pastor to help increase giving in our church?”  I have many answers to that question but 5 come to mind.  Here is #3.

#1; Pastors must give and #2; they must teach if the church is to have a healthy culture of generosity.  The third thing a senior pastor must do to have a generous church is to model generosity.

In order for people to follow a leader, the people must believe the leader is willing to do what he/she is asking others to do AND they must see the leader doing what he/she is asking others to do.  The pastor must model generosity through:

  • Words
  • Actions
Words are powerful.  Senior pastors spend between 15-25 hours per week preparing 20-30 minutes of words for their sermons.  Pastors know that most of their people digest and analyze everything they say in their sermons and everywhere else.  What pastors say about generosity is probably scrutinized MORE than the words they say about any other topic.  So, pastors should choose their words wisely; especially when talking about generosity.  There are two specific areas surrounding generosity where words are paramount.
1.  Communications
  • Make sure you write/speak as if you are addressing  someone who only comes to worship one time per month and is not involved in any type of discipleship opportunity.  Leaders often times assume the audience knows more about the topic than they really do.  Don’t assume; it will typically get you into trouble.
  • Choose 3-5 key words/phrases related to generosity to use in all publications, videos, social media, and face to face speaking opportunities.  Using similar language over a long period of time helps shift the conversation toward the long term vision pertaining to the culture of generosity at the church.
2.  Celebrations
  • What you say during celebrations is key to clearly modeling that generosity is more than just money; it is life change.
  • How often you celebrate generosity, how you celebrate generosity, and what you say while celebrating generosity should always be high on the priority list of the staff and communication team.
  • Develop a plan for celebrations and work the plan; don’t ad lib.
Actions speak louder than words; an oldie and a goody.  Modeling generosity through actions speaks with more clarity and volume than any written or spoken word could ever do. Yes, giving financially is modeling generosity, but people can’t SEE that.  People need to SEE their senior pastor behaving generously.
  • If the senior pastor is asking people to volunteer on a Saturday; the senior pastor needs to be there.
  • If the senior pastor believes local, national, and global missions are important; the senior pastor needs to go on some mission trips.
  • If the senior pastor is asking for children’s Sunday school teachers; the senior pastor should teach a children’s Sunday school class a few times a year.
  • If the senior pastor values community through small groups; the senior pastor needs to be in a small group at the church.
People will not outrun the pace of the leader.  Senior pastors must model generosity through what they say and what they do.
Senior pastors,
  • What key words surrounding generosity will you begin to incorporate into everyday publications, sermons and small group opportunities?
  • How can you model generous living between now and the end of school?  Is there a special financial giving opportunity you could participate in and share the story with your people?
  • Is there a special service opportunity during Lent you could participate in and ask others to join you?
I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts.  Pastors, how have you modeled generosity in the past?