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About the Author
Dr. McKenzie passionately believes generosity is ultimately a question of faith development and discipleship. He is a Sr. Vice President and Partner with Horizons Stewardship As a national workshop leader and conference speaker, he teaches generosity as “grounded in gratitude, revealed in prayer and lived in faith.” He holds degrees from Messiah College and United Theological Seminary. His Ph.D. is in spiritual formation from Duquesne University. He lives in York, Pennsylvania. Scott is the co-author of Climb Higher: Reaching New Heights in Giving and Discipleship and Bounty: Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church. Scott is the author of Generosity Rising: Lead a Stewardship Revolution in Your Church. He is co-author of the soon to be released book, Generosity Challenge.
Read an Excerpt
Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church
By Kristine Miller
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Invite God into the Mix
Stewardship is a journey that is grounded in gratitude, revealed in prayer, lived in faith.
Kristine Miller and Scott McKenzie
Churches that want to experience the bounty of generous giving must redefine the concept of stewardship. Bounty envisions stewardship as grounded in gratitude, revealed in prayer, and lived in faith. Each of these vital elements of stewardship is necessary for growing faithful and generous stewards in your church.
The first step on the journey is a return to our roots, where we reemphasize the main difference between secular and church fundraising. While there is much to be learned from secular, nonprofit fundraising models, we should never forget who we are as the church. We are God's people engaged in doing God's work. Real bounty, real generosity occurs when we are mindful of our most vital partner on the journey: God. Church members with experience in nonprofit fundraising often say to us, "Look, can't we just tell people what we need them to give?" As tempting as that might seem, stewardship is not about what we want people to give, but about what God wants his people to give. And truthfully, God's number is always higher than any number a consultant or fundraiser might suggest.
Brenda was a beloved member of her congregation and the person who was the first to volunteer for any task. When her church began its capital campaign, Brenda was the first to jump in and begin to consider the amount of her gift. Not a person of great wealth, but living comfortably, Brenda was considering a $15,000 contribution, which she felt was reasonable and appropriate for her circumstances. However, over the course of the campaign, Brenda was encouraged to consider the concept of gratitude. She began to think about how she had been blessed by God. Now a widow, Brenda had been married to the love of her life for more than fifty years. She had a lovely home where her three grandchildren often visited and was a part of a vibrant Christian community. Her life was full, and her heart became filled with gratitude. As a result, Brenda's gift increased to $25,000. Brenda was pleased and comfortable with this new amount as well. Then Brenda did something she had never done before. She began to pray about her giving, asking God, "What would you have me do?" Looking back, Brenda said, "Be careful if you pray that prayer, because God will answer. And the answer almost always takes you out of your comfort zone." Brenda ended up giving $40,000, a gift that required much faith and was not necessarily all that comfortable, but she felt it was what God had called her to do.
Brenda invited God into the mix, and the result was bountiful generosity and a changed heart. Yes, Brenda could have been told what to give, and she might have given it, but in the end it would not have changed her heart or her relationship with God. Inviting God into the mix begins with a fundamental shift in how we look at our possessions, the world, and ourselves. Henri Nouwen expresses this in The Spirituality of Fundraising by saying, "Fundraising is ... always a call to conversion.... To be converted means to experience a shift in how we see and think and act."
Indeed, Brenda experienced conversion. What if our stewardship campaigns were not about balancing budgets, but rather about shifting hearts toward God? How can we change the way we approach stewardship and help people experience a conversion leading to bountiful giving? The conversion Brenda experienced was the result of a stewardship journey based on gratitude, prayer, and faith.
Inviting God into the Mix through Gratitude
Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.
A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California in Davis and a researcher in the psychology of gratitude, says:
Herein lies the energizing and motivating quality to gratitude. It is a positive state of mind that gives rise to the passing on of the gift through positive action. As such, gratitude serves as a key link in the dynamic between receiving and giving. It is not only a response to kindnesses received, but it is also a motivator of future benevolent actions on the part of the recipient.
To create and cultivate a culture of gratitude in your church, the first task is to help people realize the many blessings they have received from God. Instead of distributing spreadsheets, line-item budgets, and then pledge cards, you should begin by distributing gratitude cards. Before asking for a single dollar or pledge, ask people, "How have you been blessed? What are the gifts in your life for which you are grateful to God?" You need to find a variety of ways to creatively and intentionally invite people to remember, reflect, and respond with gratitude. For example, Tyler Weig of Des Moines, Iowa, caused a chain reaction resulting in an overflowing of gratitude and generosity. Tyler decided to donate a kidney to whoever could use it. His incredible act of altruism started a chain of events that resulted in five families being forever changed. The lucky recipient of Tyler's kidney was Lance Beyer. His wife was an incompatible donor for Lance, but her kidney went to another patient in need. This continued until five people, with a total of twelve years on the transplant waiting list, ended up with healthy kidneys and lives free from dialysis. One of the men wanted to help a friend but wasn't compatible, so he gave his kidney to a complete stranger. He said he made the sacrifice because "it's kind of what you do. You've got two ... share your spare." A grateful heart has no choice but to overflow with generosity.
Inviting God into the Mix through Prayer
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.
Inviting God into the stewardship mix begins with expressions of gratitude and then requires an invitation to a deeper life of prayer and openness to the spirit of God. Let's return to our story of Brenda. Brenda began her journey with gratitude. Then Brenda began to ask a very scary but potentially life-changing question: "God, what would you have me do?" Brenda invited God into the mix through a willingness to be open to the leading of God's spirit. Brenda would say her giving and her life were radically changed.
If gratitude reminds us of our blessings and their ultimate source, prayer is our willingness to allow those resources to be used by God. In fact, we believe willingness is the secret to spiritual growth and the key to truly bountiful, generous giving. Unfortunately, in our culture, people are more likely to project an attitude of self-accomplishment than cite divine providence, and this carries over into the church. It's easy to believe that good fortune is of our own doing rather than a result of God's blessings.
Mark liked to maintain control of every aspect of his life. During his church's stewardship campaign, Mark decided he would give, but only sparingly. After all, Mark had many reasons not to contribute. He and his wife were completely remodeling their home and planning several international vacations. At the same time, they were paying college tuition for both children. Mark knew what he could afford to give, and no one, not even God, was going to move him off that amount. To Mark's credit, even in the midst of his willfulness, he began the journey, taking into account his many blessings. His children had attended youth group, had been on mission trips, and were well on their way to being incredible people of faith. Mark then remembered how the pastor and church had stood beside him as he struggled through the slow and lingering death of his father from Alzheimer's.
Mark was a dedicated runner, and he often used his training time for prayer and reflection. As Mark ran and prayed, something began to change. Pretty soon, the house that "needed" remodeling was okay the way it was. Suddenly, the next big trip he and his wife had planned didn't seem quite so important. Mark's dream of retiring at fifty was put on hold. As a consequence, Mark and his wife ended up more than tripling their gift to the church. Not long after these radical decisions, Mark's wife related this comment to her church family with a laugh: "I've asked Mark to quit running. We can't afford any more prayer runs!" Mark had gone on the journey from willfulness to willingness through gratitude and prayer. Mark took a great risk and invited God into the mix.
The opposite of being willful is being will-less. A will-less person is someone who says, "I can't give. I've surrendered to the financial constraints of my life, and I can't give." Since the economic recession of 2008, we have seen more people surrender to the spirit of will-lessness. In the last several years, we have heard countless people lay out an entire litany of reasons why they can't give. Truthfully, most are legitimate. These reasons include job loss, cuts in pay, having to support adult children, and high health-care costs. Yet there are also faithful individuals in our churches who follow God's leading rather than their own.
For example, Charlotte had every reason in the world to be will-less, to surrender to her circumstances and say, "I can't give." Charlotte was an elderly long-time church member who was on a fixed income. She had been careful with her finances over the years and now lived a comfortable life. Charlotte was also a committed tither. Unfortunately, when Charlotte became the victim of a scam, she lost most of her money. She ended up having to declare bankruptcy. Most anyone in a similar circumstance would have decreased giving to the church—but not Charlotte. Charlotte actually went before her bankruptcy judge to ask permission to continue her current pledge to her church. As Charlotte told her story, she radiated peace, joy, and hope instead of a spirit of fear, anxiety, and will-lessness. Charlotte invited God into the mix, and the result was bounty and generosity.
Inviting God into the Mix through Faith
Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Gratitude and prayer are mere spiritual platitudes if they are not combined with the phrase lived in faith. Bountiful, generous giving will occur only when pastors and leaders are willing to model what it means to live and give in faith. Only a leader who is modeling faithful living and bountiful giving has the right to challenge others to step out and join him or her. When looking at a church's giving list, we are amazed at how often those who serve in financial and administrative leadership positions are nowhere to be found. If our leaders are giving at token levels, why should we expect anything different from the people sitting in the pews? Does our giving reflect gratitude and prayer? Does our giving reflect faith and a willingness to stretch and step out of our comfort zone?
A stewardship campaign grounded in gratitude, revealed in prayer, and lived in faith will affect people not only in their giving but also in every aspect of life. A person should consider all for which he or she is grateful, prayerfully determine how God would have him or her use these blessings, and then ask, "Now what? How will I faithfully live this out?" The answer may be the filling out of a financial pledge card for the first time or increasing a current pledge. The answer may be signing up and participating in a mission trip or Bible study for the first time. Sometimes the answer may be volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless ministry. Sometimes we have seen the "Now what?" be a momentous and truly life-changing event, such as a call to ministry or a change of vocation. Big or small, any response that emerges from a grateful heart and is prayerfully determined and lived out in faith is an appropriate response—one to be celebrated and lifted up.
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1–4)
Invite God into the Mix: To-Do List
1. In worship, in small groups, or even on your website, share two- to three-minute videos or in-person gratitude talks by a variety of people of diverse ages.
2. Kick off your stewardship campaign with a Gratitude Sunday service. Following a sermon on gratitude, invite people to fill out cards on which they include all the blessings in life for which they are grateful to God. Have the children and youth complete gratitude cards the week before and post them for members to see as they arrive on Gratitude Sunday. Display the gratitude cards in a creative way. For example, one church created a gratitude tree, and the leaves of the tree were the multi-colored gratitude cards.
3. Demonstrate and practice congregational gratitude. Instead of doing follow-up calls to people who didn't make a pledge, what about making gratitude calls to people who did make a pledge? So many churches are worried about offending someone by forgetting to thank those who did give that they choose to thank no one and end up offending everyone.
4. In general, after every major congregational effort, church leaders should model expressing gratitude by calling and thanking volunteers and servants through an organized phone "thank-a-thon." Imagine the impact throughout the community if all the vacation Bible school helpers and teachers were called and personally thanked by members of the administrative board.
1. Pastors and lay leaders should model and give witness to both the need for prayer and the power of prayer to move us to more bountiful and generous giving. Imagine the impact of having someone like Mark tell his story of how the power of prayer moved him, or the effect of hearing Charlotte tell of her willingness.
2. Expect church leaders and finance leaders to be people of prayer. So often, the most important quality we look for on finance and stewardship committees is a background in finance. Make sure your church leadership is full of prayer warriors.
3. Every stewardship campaign should be an opportunity to teach and practice prayer. Why not distribute and collect prayer commitment cards at the beginning of a stewardship campaign? The card can be as simple as the following:
I promise to pray daily for:
_____ My church
_____ Our campaign
_____ My gift
4. Distribute a daily devotional guide and invite people to pray daily. Included in the appendix of this book is a sample of a twenty-one-day devotional guide used by many of our churches. During worship opportunities, have leaders refer to the chosen devotional guide and ask them to share how it has affected their walk and their giving.
5. Provide opportunities for prayer throughout your stewardship campaign. Prayer vigils, Taize services, and prayer labyrinths all have been utilized by churches as a way to invite God into the mix. Intentionally invite groups within the church to participate in these prayer activities. Invite men's and women's groups, youth groups, Sunday school classes, shut-ins, and choirs to sign up for prayer activities.
1. On a monthly basis, ask individuals who have stepped out in faith to offer a witness and testimony as to how it has changed their lives in little or big ways. Don't limit this witness to financial giving, but don't exclude financial giving, either.
2. Ask people to step out intentionally, and give them many options and specific ways to respond affirmatively. We have heard so many sermons encouraging people to step out in faith, but so many seem to stop too soon and offer no real specific challenge. Don't forget to tell people how you want them to respond to the question "Now what?"
3. From leadership staff to new members, create a culture where people are routinely asked and expected to step out of their comfort zones when they serve and give.
Excerpted from Bounty by Kristine Miller. Copyright © 2013 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.
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Table of Contents
"Chapter One": Invite God into the Mix,
"Chapter Two": Eliminate Secrecy Surrounding Money,
"Chapter Three": Set Leadership Expectations,
"Chapter Four": Tithe One On,
"Chapter Five": Stop the Insanity,
"Chapter Six": Thank. Ask. Repeat,
"Chapter Seven": Give a Word of Witness,
"Chapter Eight": Ask the Right Question,
"Chapter Nine": Make Stewardship Year Round,
"Chapter Ten": Prepare to Soar,