One Change in Your Financial Approach that Changes Everything

Many pastors tell me they hate fundraising. I think there’s a legitimate reason for that. You see, the call of the pastor is to cast, carry, and shepherd the vision of the church. Meanwhile, it seems that the call of the fundraiser is to merely collect funds when resources are low. It can then be difficult for the call of pastor to be transformed into that of fundraiser.

I know the topic of money has a challenging history in the church, which is another reason pastors may be averse to the idea of fundraising. While we can’t change our history, understanding it can help a pastor transform his approach from fundraising to one of surplus and generosity. We can build a generous culture more closely tied to the call of the pastor and avoid establishing a culture of fundraising — which neither the pastor nor the church enjoys.

The History of the Church Fundraising Model

Here’s a brief overview of the traditional fundraising model in the church.

The first professional capital fundraising firms specifically focusing on the church can trace their roots to the 1960’s. Drawing on secular marketing influences, these firms helped churches create highly marketed, highly emotional, short-run appeals for large amounts of money (i.e. the campaign Charles Sumner created for the YMCA). These efforts for the church were very successful, and the church campaign industry began in earnest.

Fast forward to the 1980’s when church scandals involving money and impropriety took center stage. Oral Roberts told his church he would die if he didn’t raise $8 Million. Jim Bakker was accused of adultery, and conning people out of millions through his televangelist ministry. Jimmy Swaggart was accused of misappropriating funds, having affairs, and blackmail. These very public falls from grace led to church silence on money. We stopped talking about money or asking for money. We went from campaigns to scandals to silence.

By the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s, pastors like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels ushered in a new way of talking about money. They encouraged first-time visitors, or nonmembers, to let the offering plate pass them by. Even though Hybels is known for being a frugal money manager and Warren is known for his generous lifestyle, their passions for stewardship and generosity did not translate to the church. Most pastors adopted the “let offering pass” statements for newcomers, but never embraced the financial generosity plans behind the scenes of these two great churches. As a matter of fact, in many churches passing the plate is a thing of the past and the offering is now collected in a box hanging on a wall. Thus, the silence on money, in many congregations, persisted.

Meanwhile, church capital campaigns were still status quo. A positive culture around money no longer existed, yet churches produced marketed, emotional appeals for funds every three years or so.

The first 10 years of the 2000’s brought money back into the social conversation, perhaps more than it had been for quite some time. 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 market crash, the Iraq War, and other national catastrophes meant everyone was talking about the need for resources. Celebrities began stepping into the conversation with philanthropy and acts of service. Shows focusing on resources started to hit the airwaves: Oprah’s Big Give, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, American Idol Gives Back, etc. Generosity had become a national conversation, yet the church was still silent. We had simply never recovered from the scandalized 80’s. We had not redeveloped a positive culture around generosity. If we aren’t talking about money, it is difficult to talk about generosity.

Generosity in the Church Today

Today, several influential pastors have helped spur on a new conversation about generosity for the church. Rick Warren’s Peace Plan and Andy Stanley’s book Be Rich are two examples of that. Pastors like Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas and Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Oklahoma City, OK have continued to highlight the model of generosity through their churches. Quite possibly the church with the strongest financial policies, principles, and practices is Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL where Chris Hodges serves as the pastor. Yet even with these strong generosity leaders in the church, we are still very far behind the national conversation and cultural expectations of generosity. Many churches are still, by and large, running emotional, short-term capital campaigns in three year cycles while otherwise remaining silent.

The Generosity Tides are Changing

What if I told you we didn’t have to fundraise this way? What if I told you there was another path to resource vision? It can be tempting to recreate your previous year’s budget with an increase of 5-10% each year, it can be tempting to rely on capital campaigns to create margin and drive funding, but relying on capital campaigns often stands in the way of leading with vision and cultivating generous disciples.

A recent survey done by LifeWay Research of 500 large churches (over 1,000 in weekend worship attendance) noted several trends. 100% of these churches had conducted a 3 year capital campaign in their past. Still, they had major financial concerns of debt load, aging donor base, and lack of a generosity strategy. The commitment to capital campaigns was not solving their long-term challenges. It was only meeting their short-term needs.

Here’s are my suggestions:

  1. Begin with a year-long generosity strategy. At LifeWay Generosity we have created a year-long Generosity Cycle consisting of six modules: Believe, Lead, Teach, Practice, Celebrate, and Thank.
  2. Engage in a comprehensive digital giving tool. Your digital giving platform should enable your people to give anytime, anywhere, and almost anything. Generosity by LifeWay’s digital giving platform allows you to do just that.
  3. Train your people to live ready and to respond generously to God’s leadings. We call this the Generosity Pathway. All the resources you need to grow a thriving generous culture where you are experiencing freedom and surplus can be found at LifeWay.com/Generosity. Check it out.

I would love to hear your thoughts and know what you are learning about generosity and how it is applied in your church. You can connect with me on Facebook, and Twitter.

> Read more from Todd.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd McMichen

Todd McMichen

Todd serves at the Director of Generosity by LifeWay. His generosity roots arise from leading multiple capital campaigns for local churches that together raised over $35,000,000 for their visionary projects. Since 2000, Todd has been a well-established stewardship coach, generosity leader, author, and conference speaker.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How to Lead the Best Money Meeting Ever

Recently I had the privilege of launching a Generosity Culture session with a pastor who is leading one of the most successful churches in his state. Over the years they have grown from a few hundred to thousands of people generating millions of annual income. You would think that this kind of numeric success would be sufficient to just stay the course. However, 10% of their people are giving over 50% of the revenue and they are praying for an even more significant impact in their city, which requires a flood of resources.

After several hours of meeting, sharing, and dreaming with the team, it was simply one of the most inspiring money meetings I have ever witnessed. Here are some insider tips:

1. We talked about generosity and not money. Money is paper, metal, and plastic which is not very inspiring. Generosity is a heart joy straight from the Creator of our souls. Language creates culture; words create worlds. Learn the language of generosity.

2. We invited everyone to the conversation, not only the finance office.Everyone handles money. However, sometimes the dollars and cents are left to a small few. How different is a generosity conversation when the Children and Worship Pastors are in the room? Their passion and perspective was invaluable.

3. We talked about life impact not expenses or receipts. When budgets are the topic, numbers and line items can rule the game. It was so enlightening to hear stories of how money was being used to transform a life. Money looked much different when seen through the eyes of addiction recovery and cancer treatment care.

4. We talked about the future first, not the present or the past. When you see the future clearly as a team, it produces such freedom when it comes to budget planning and expenses. The future frames the present.

5. We talked about what could be, not what would never be. I have watched God provide far beyond the calculators of men. I have watched gifts come in and doors opened when leaders lead with bold faith and a clear calling. This church had these experiences. Past success spurred future faith.

6. We talked about their city, their people, and the Bible, not a spreadsheet.Every city, life, and family possesses a money story. Once you know the story you can learn your role in growing a generous disciple that enjoys fruit far beyond their means. People want to live big lives and money is a significant story line.

7. We talked about vision, not a capital campaign. Campaigns are necessary when you need a large infusion of resources in a short period of time. However, you can lead your church to live in the land of surplus each and every day. More and more churches are prioritizing a generous culture long before they have a critical need.

8. We talked about discipleship, not debt reduction. Debt reduction programs are only sometimes good ideas. If your church feels as if it is struggling with debt, you are probably struggling more with cash flow. Cash flow can be increased many different ways. Don’t settle for old ideas.

9. We talked about fun and freedom, not bondage and limitation. Most church money conversations are some version of getting more money from people and not getting more blessings for people. When our motive is money and not the freedom that comes from obedient discipleship, we are way off as leaders.

10. We talked together, not being told how it would be. This is big! Try kicking off your annual budgeting process with vision and celebration. Let every ministry leader share their dreams based off the direction provided. Spending and investment choices now become a unifying experience toward a greater goal.

These are only a few of the things that I learned from our conversation. I hope they inspire you to raise the bar on the money conversation at your church.

> Read more from Todd.


 Would you like to learn more about developing a Generosity Culture for your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

Download PDF

Tags: , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Resourcing >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd McMichen

Todd McMichen

Todd serves at the Director of Generosity by LifeWay. His generosity roots arise from leading multiple capital campaigns for local churches that together raised over $35,000,000 for their visionary projects. Since 2000, Todd has been a well-established stewardship coach, generosity leader, author, and conference speaker.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.