Whose Offering Plate Is It?: New Strategies for Financial Stewardship

Overview

In Not Your Parents' Offering Plate, Clif Christopher challenged churches and pastors to take a lesson from the leaders of not-for-profit organizations: if you want people to give to your church, first offer them a compelling vision of the good that their giving will accomplish. The book encouraged an entire culture change for many in the Christian community in how they viewed the offering plate. It also unleashed a barrage of questions on specifically how to createthis new culture while maintaining the ...

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Whose Offering Plate Is It?: New Strategies for Financial Stewardship

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Overview

In Not Your Parents' Offering Plate, Clif Christopher challenged churches and pastors to take a lesson from the leaders of not-for-profit organizations: if you want people to give to your church, first offer them a compelling vision of the good that their giving will accomplish. The book encouraged an entire culture change for many in the Christian community in how they viewed the offering plate. It also unleashed a barrage of questions on specifically how to createthis new culture while maintaining the foundations of one's faith tradition and mission.

In this sequel, Christopher responds to these questions in the same forthright manner that he originally laid forth his propositions. He offers simple, strategic advice on such difficult questions as:

“Exactly how do I go about gaining access to the donor records when my church has prohibited it for a hundred years?”

“How do I explain a meeting with just those who are strong givers without alienating those who are not?”

“How can we advocate online giving without encouraging some to abuse their credit cards?”

“What should letters to different giving constituencies look like?”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426710131
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2010
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 429,401
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Clif Christopher, MDiv, CFRE, is the CEO of the Horizons Stewardship Company. He is a certified church growth consultant and has earned the coveted title CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive). Christopher founded the Horizons Stewardship Company in 1992 following a challenging and rewarding career in pastoral ministry. Since founding Horizons, he has led consultations in more than 400 churches, conferences, synods, and dioceses in all phases of building, finance, and church growth. For the last 10 years, Christopher has secured more than $500 million for his clients. He has worked in more than 32 states and is a frequent speaker at stewardship seminars around the country. He is the author of several books including Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate, which was published by Abingdon Press. Christopher has been an ordained minister of The United Methodist Church since 1975. He is a graduate of Hendrix College and Emory University. Christopher and his wife have four children. He lives in Cabot, Arkansas.
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Read an Excerpt

Whose Offering Plate Is It?


By J. Clif Christopher

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2010 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-2984-3



CHAPTER 1

How Did We Get in This Mess?


Dr. Christopher, I have been listening to you for three hours and you have me convinced and also terribly troubled. I am a third-generation pastor. My father and my grandfather were both pastors. They were some of the finest men that I ever knew. They loved Christ, and they loved the church. I knew well many of their contemporaries, and they also were extremely fine Christian people with a desire to save souls and grow the church. They, however, were a part of the generation that has left me with a church that receives a much lower percentage of income from its members than they received. Where did they go wrong? How did we get in this mess?

I would hate to say that the grandfather and father of this pastor were all to blame for where we find ourselves today. I would never judge them or others of their generation on the commitment of their hearts or their love of the church. They operated on what they knew with the best that they knew and perhaps wondered why things did not go better. I would also point out that previous generations had their demons to fight. They were also not left with a perfect world or a perfect church, and I am sure they were trying to make adjustments in their own time with many of the changes that were called for.

The generations who led the church prior to the current one led us through the civil rights era, Vietnam protests, and the assassinations of a president, presidential candidate, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They fought through issues on women's rights, ecumenism, charismata, and Vatican II. They led the church as a president resigned and the cold war raged. Contemporary worship, the power of the Spirit, and Mormonism were hotly debated. That generation had its share of problems with a mixture of successes and failures. They are not the issue. We are the issue. This is our time! It will do us little good to look back and shame those who came before. We can affect only the future from the present. So let us concentrate on what we must do now so as to not exacerbate the problem, particularly when it comes to Christian financial stewardship.


WE CANNOT RELY on what was said or done yesterday and expect it to be effective today.


First, we must not make the mistake of General Motors. We cannot rely on what was said or done yesterday and expect it to be effective today. Just because it was right or righteous before does not necessarily make it the best course of action today. It used to be that all a mainline Protestant church had to do to grow was put a sign up in the yard announcing its presence. Not anymore. Today that church must show that it is worthy of someone getting out of bed on Sunday morning and attending. It must prove to the inquirer that one's presence there is beneficial to his or her life as compared to attending a soccer game with a child or just clicking the remote to catch Rev. Smiley and his 200-piece orchestra. Your grandfather did not have to contend with those kinds of competition.


NOW, YOU MUST not only encourage generous giving but also sell people on the fact that the place to be most generous is "God's Place."


All Reverend Grandfather had to do to raise money for his church was pass the plate on Sunday morning and urge his people to be givers instead of hoarders. He never had to convince them that the church was the best place to give because in many instances it was the only place to give. Now, you must not only encourage generous giving but also sell people on the fact that the place to be most generous is "God's Place." It is a new day and requires a new message.

There is a very good possibility that your grandfather and you received the same training in stewardship and fundraising. That is, none! Pastors have often complained to me as I teach that they had no formal education in financial stewardship or fundraising, yet when they got into a church they found it was fundamental to their success. I conducted a confidential survey among about one thousand of these pastors and, indeed, 85 percent reported having no training whatsoever.

It was almost as if the seminaries assumed that monies would easily flow to the church if they would just teach their students how to preach and teach and visit. When I look at those same schools I notice that all of them have fundraising departments. They all expect the president to fundraise. They know that they must compete for funds with other schools, nonprofits, and yes, the very churches they are educating students for. Why would they not realize that those students need to be trained to do the same thing? To prevent this mess from going forward we need our professional training schools to professionally train our pastors in this vital and always necessary task of securing funds for ministry.

You and your grandfather probably both look at those you are raising funds from as "members." Most churches refer to those who have pledged some sort of allegiance to it as members. This can lead to a mind-set that is dangerous. Some people see their "membership" as entitling them to some service. People are members of country clubs or airline clubs or fraternity groups. Membership in each entitles one to certain amenities and perks. These same members can often be "made" to contribute to something with an assessment or dues to maintain membership. A country club I once belonged to decided to build a new swimming pool, and I was sent a letter telling me what my assessment was for such a project. No need to fundraise here. Members understood they had certain obligations, but they would benefit from getting to enjoy the new pool. That approach is not likely to work with your church "members."


DONORS GIVE A lot more when they feel they are getting a lot back.


For us to change the way things are, pastors and church leaders today must begin to see their "members" as "donors." Donors have a choice in what to give, when to give, and why to give. For us to pretend otherwise is foolish. These donors give a whole lot more when they feel they are getting a whole lot back. What they want is results. They want to know that from their contributions the world is being changed. They want to know that lives are being positively affected and that their gifts made a difference. If you can work on this mind-set, you will have a chance to leave a different future for your son or daughter.

CHAPTER 2

Do We Really Have to Compete?


This whole idea of competing just does not seem right to me. I did not go to seminary to compete with other people doing good work. I want to work with them, not compete against them. Yes, I want to keep my church going and make it even stronger, but I don't want to compete.

The biggest transformation we have to make, it seems to me, is to learn to compete for the charitable dollar. We are consistently losing market share (a percentage of charitable dollars given), and one of the biggest reasons is that we are not making our case in a way that is convincing to the people who have dollars to give. So who loses here? I argue that the church is worth making a case for and what we do is unique among all other nonprofits. We have to learn to fight for the church with convincing cases, or we will soon find ourselves without a church.


NOT-FOR-PROFIT organizations are not the church. They do not have the mission of the church.


This is not to say that we have to say bad things about wonderful nonprofit institutions. We should not. They are often highly effective in their area of specialization, and in many instances are doing work that our Lord wants done. No, we must help them and praise them and cooperate with them. But they are not the church. They do not have the mission of the church. So while we praise what they do we must be ready to share our stories as well and make our case as forcefully as they make theirs so donors will hopefully help us both.

The other day I was visiting with a key donor of a church along with the pastor. The pastor was asking the donor if she would be willing to serve in a very significant capacity in an upcoming campaign for their church. I fully expected the woman to say yes. She was an elected leader in the church and was the third highest donor, giving a high five-figure contribution to the operating budget each year. She was, it seemed to me on paper, an ideal candidate for the position.


"I MUST SEE THAT my money is going to be used wisely, as God calls me to do," she said. "Is our church the best place for me to give?"


He began the conversation by bragging on her to me and then he asked her if she would be willing to consider service in this capacity. I then followed up by explaining to her what the position entailed and after about ten minutes I shut up waiting to hear her enthusiastic "Of course!" Instead, I got an answer I totally did not expect.

She looked at her pastor and said, "I am concerned about our church. For the last several years we have not grown, and I see fewer and fewer young people. I think you are a fine man, but I am beginning to wonder if supporting this church is good stewardship. Lately, I have been looking into giving more support to World Vision and Oxfam. Pastor, do you really believe that our church is a better place for my money than they are? I must see that my money is going to be used wisely, as God calls me to do. Is our church the best place for me to give? That is what I need answered because if it is not then I could not serve with integrity in the area you want me to."

The pastor, who is a very nice man, was stunned. I could see on his face that he was shocked by the request to justify to the woman why she should choose his church for her offerings. He stumbled around a bit and then turned to me to help him out. There really was nothing a person in my position could say, however. It was not my church, and I was not a leader in it. I was just a consultant. She already knew that I would play little or no role in whether this church eventually moved forward or not. I vainly tried to put a good face on what we were trying to do, but in the end she turned us down. What she ultimately decides to do with her gift will be determined by how well the church can compete for it as a place that changes lives over other very good causes.

People need to hear our life-changing stories and be helped to understand how their dollars are creating positive change in the lives of people in ways that other institutions could not do. If we want to argue that we are a great place for people to feed the hungry, then World Vision and Oxfam will beat us every day because they are experts at feeding the underprivileged. We, however, are the one place whose mission it is to bring people into life-changing relationships with Jesus Christ. Share with people how this place helps bring the power of the Holy Spirit into broken and grief-stricken lives. Point out how those who were without direction came to find that direction and a new life through the church. Compete on that field, and you will be chosen.


WE ARE THE ONE place whose mission it is to bring people into life-changing relationships with Jesus Christ.


The persons in our pews are asking, "Why should I choose the church over World Vision or Oxfam or the Boy Scouts or the university or the hospital?" We must be prepared on a daily basis to boldly answer the question, and if we find we cannot easily do it, then we must get busy changing our church. As the builder generation dies off and is replaced by the much more discerning boomers and Gen Xers, we are going to find ourselves facing that very question.


TELL ME HOW YOU are changing lives and making the world a better place to live. Tell me how the dollar I give you is going to make a difference.


If you believe your church is truly worth supporting then be prepared to make your case to me. You do not have to say one bad thing about other places; just make sure you have a case to make about your place. Tell me how you are changing lives and making the world a better place to live. Tell me how the dollar I give you is going to make a difference. This is what I mean by compete.

Think about it. In any given week I am receiving material in the mail that tells me how the YMCA or Boys Club is changing young delinquents into responsible young people. I am getting information emphasizing the number of newborn babies saved by new technology from Children's Hospital. I am getting newsletters telling me how several of my college's recent graduates are making a real difference in society. The Red Cross is telling me how many people got pints of blood and how many are being fed after a recent hurricane. The Salvation Army is letting me know how an alcoholic is now sober and a homeless woman now has a home, all from that dollar dropped in the red kettle. Then you come along and tell me that the budget is going to increase by 4 percent this year, and you really hope I will increase my giving because not only do we need that 4 percent, but we were 5 percent short this year and really need at least 9 percent. Your goal is a balanced budget while their goal is to change and save lives. Who do you think I will want to support?


ONE GROUP'S GOAL is a balanced budget while the other group's goal is to change and save lives. Who do you think I want to support?


Yes, I understand that competition is not an easy concept for many a pastor or lay leader. But it better become more a part of our lives, or we will soon find ourselves far behind in the need for dollars. Even though people may still find food and shelter and healing through those other nonprofits, they will not come to know the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ. That is a case worth making!

CHAPTER 3

How Do I Come Up with All These Stories?


You argue that we have to tell our stories of changing lives each week. That is 52 stories. How do I come up with these stories?

In my earlier book I shared how nonprofits are keenly aware of the number one reason why individuals choose to make a gift to an institution. It is their belief in the mission of that institution. It is their conviction that this particular place really is performing a mission that I, the donor, value and want to support. It almost always involves changing lives in some way or another. People give to homeless shelters when they see that the shelters are effectively housing the homeless and helping move many of them back into a productive life in society. They support a college when they see it graduate students and perform tasks in society that could not have been done without the college. They support a hospital when they see firsthand how lives are being saved and the sick are being made well. All of these things are what we want to see happen in our society. Since we cannot personally perform all these good works, we send money to those who are doing so.

People used to support a church just because that was one of the things "good people" did. They ate what their mother put on their plate. They had respect for their elders. They wore ties and dresses on Sunday morning and went to see Grandma afterwards. They always said "yes sir" or "no ma'am," held the door open for a lady, and only bought what was "made in America." Times have changed.

Today we live in a society that is asking why? It is not that what people used to do was bad. It may have been or may not have been. It is just that today it is challenged, and we have to be ready to defend why we believe something is correct or best. Just relying on "We've always done it this way" will not work anymore.


SHARE SPECIFICALLY how a life has been changed directly from a relationship with your church. Share how the world has been made just a little bit better because you are in business.


Most of our churches are still relying on history to fund their present ministries. They just tell people what money they need and then when they do not get it they bring down a hailstorm of guilt to try and get them to fork it over. It has not been working very well for the last fifty years, but we still keep trying the same old thing.

The church must start sharing in the same way that all nonprofits do. Take your basic mission and then share experiences or stories that show you are doing exactly what people have been funding you to do. Share specifically how a life has been changed directly from a relationship with your church. Share how the world has been made just a little bit better because you are in business.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Whose Offering Plate Is It? by J. Clif Christopher. Copyright © 2010 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

1 How Did We Get in This Mess? 1

2 Do We Really Have to Compete? 7

3 How Do I Come Up with All These Stories? 15

4 How Can I Peek? 21

5 Won't It Hurt My Eyes or My Heart? 27

6 What Do I Look for When I Look? 35

7 What Did You Mean About Lay Leaders Having Access to Giving Records? 41

8 Do We Tell When Things Are Bad? 47

9 What Do Those Letters Look Like? 61

10 How Do I Ask for Capital When I Am Not in a Capital Campaign? 79

11 Is There an Annual Campaign Program You Like? 87

12 Can You Tell Me How to Ask for a Planned Gift? 95

13 What Do You Do in a Bad Economy? 103

14 Will You Talk to My Spouse? 115

15 Aren't Sex and Money Taboo in Public? 119

16 How Do I Get the Right Leaders in the Right Places? 129

17 Can You Just Make It Simple for Me? 139

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First Chapter

Whose Offering Plate Is It?

New Strategies for Financial Stewardship
By J. Clif Christopher

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2010 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4267-1013-1


Chapter One

How Did We Get in This Mess?

Dr. Christopher, I have been listening to you for three hours and you have me convinced and also terribly troubled. I am a third-generation pastor. My father and my grandfather were both pastors. They were some of the finest men that I ever knew. They loved Christ, and they loved the church. I knew well many of their contemporaries, and they also were extremely fine Christian people with a desire to save souls and grow the church. They, however, were a part of the generation that has left me with a church that receives a much lower percentage of income from its members than they received. Where did they go wrong? How did we get in this mess?

I would hate to say that the grandfather and father of this pastor were all to blame for where we find ourselves today. I would never judge them or others of their generation on the commitment of their hearts or their love of the church. They operated on what they knew with the best that they knew and perhaps wondered why things did not go better. I would also point out that previous generations had their demons to fight. They were also not left with a perfect world or a perfect church, and I am sure they were trying to make adjustments in their own time with many of the changes that were called for.

The generations who led the church prior to the current one led us through the civil rights era, Vietnam protests, and the assassinations of a president, presidential candidate, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They fought through issues on women's rights, ecumenism, charismata, and Vatican II. They led the church as a president resigned and the cold war raged. Contemporary worship, the power of the Spirit, and Mormonism were hotly debated. That generation had its share of problems with a mixture of successes and failures. They are not the issue. We are the issue. This is our time! It will do us little good to look back and shame those who came before. We can affect only the future from the present. So let us concentrate on what we must do now so as to not exacerbate the problem, particularly when it comes to Christian financial stewardship.

First, we must not make the mistake of General Motors. We cannot rely on what was said or done yesterday and expect it to be effective today. Just because it was right or righteous before does not necessarily make it the best course of action today. It used to be that all a mainline Protestant church had to do to grow was put a sign up in the yard announcing its presence. Not anymore. Today that church must show that it is worthy of someone getting out of bed on Sunday morning and attending. It must prove to the inquirer that one's presence there is beneficial to his or her life as compared to attending a soccer game with a child or just clicking the remote to catch Rev. Smiley and his 200-piece orchestra. Your grandfather did not have to contend with those kinds of competition.

All Reverend Grandfather had to do to raise money for his church was pass the plate on Sunday morning and urge his people to be givers instead of hoarders. He never had to convince them that the church was the best place to give because in many instances it was the only place to give. Now, you must not only encourage generous giving but also sell people on the fact that the place to be most generous is "God's Place." It is a new day and requires a new message.

There is a very good possibility that your grandfather and you received the same training in stewardship and fundraising. That is, none! Pastors have often complained to me as I teach that they had no formal education in financial stewardship or fundraising, yet when they got into a church they found it was fundamental to their success. I conducted a confidential survey among about one thousand of these pastors and, indeed, 85 percent reported having no training whatsoever.

It was almost as if the seminaries assumed that monies would easily flow to the church if they would just teach their students how to preach and teach and visit. When I look at those same schools I notice that all of them have fundraising departments. They all expect the president to fundraise. They know that they must compete for funds with other schools, nonprofits, and yes, the very churches they are educating students for. Why would they not realize that those students need to be trained to do the same thing? To prevent this mess from going forward we need our professional training schools to professionally train our pastors in this vital and always necessary task of securing funds for ministry.

You and your grandfather probably both look at those you are raising funds from as "members." Most churches refer to those who have pledged some sort of allegiance to it as members. This can lead to a mind-set that is dangerous. Some people see their "membership" as entitling them to some service. People are members of country clubs or airline clubs or fraternity groups. Membership in each entitles one to certain amenities and perks. These same members can often be "made" to contribute to something with an assessment or dues to maintain membership. A country club I once belonged to decided to build a new swimming pool, and I was sent a letter telling me what my assessment was for such a project. No need to fundraise here. Members understood they had certain obligations, but they would benefit from getting to enjoy the new pool. That approach is not likely to work with your church "members."

For us to change the way things are, pastors and church leaders today must begin to see their "members" as "donors." Donors have a choice in what to give, when to give, and why to give. For us to pretend otherwise is foolish. These donors give a whole lot more when they feel they are getting a whole lot back. What they want is results. They want to know that from their contributions the world is being changed. They want to know that lives are being positively affected and that their gifts made a difference. If you can work on this mind-set, you will have a chance to leave a different future for your son or daughter.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Whose Offering Plate Is It? by J. Clif Christopher Copyright © 2010 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

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