Right Idea, Wrong Goal… Where Financial Freedom Goes Wrong

If I were to list the most common financial goals that are often repeated across the nation in financial small groups, seminars, and sermons, I am confident I know the two that are listed the most. One is a goal most pastors dream of, and the other is a dream held by those in the the pursuit of stronger financial health. Can you think of what these two goals might be?

Well think no further, because here they are:

  1. Pastors dream of their church being filled with faithful tithers. The Bible teaches it and, if you do the math, it is a clear benefit for church finances.
  2. Individuals dream of being debt free. Who wouldn’t? The freedom and extra cash would be great.

But what if both goals are not to be life pursuits in and of themselves? What if they can unintentionally create shame, guilt, discouragement, or even false gods?

First, let me say that both pursuits are certainly worthwhile, and both can be supported strongly by scripture. They each have immeasurable benefits for people and churches. They are good principles that can create great habits. However, what if both goals are kind of wrong? What if they are not the healthiest ways to pursue our futures? What if they are not always spurred on by the highest motives?

Again, I am for both, but let me explain some unintended negative consequences the blind pursuit of these goals can create:

  1. Pastors can be so concerned with tithing that they speak in terms that lean more towards guilt, shame, and negativity as opposed to promise, hope, and faith.
  2. When focused too much on tithing, a pastor’s judgement can become clouded and ascertain that the church’s financial challenges are clearly the result of poor giving as opposed to other factors like, overspending, lack of vision clarity, or an absent discipleship plan for generosity.
  3. When individuals idolize becoming debt free, they can actually reduce giving and invest more resources in becoming debt free sooner.
  4. When individuals obsess over their debt they can feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or even hopeless.

If chased the wrong way, the pursuit of two very good objectives can have negative short-term experiences. However, regarding these two objectives as one of many stepping stones we take on our financial journeys can help set them in the right place. So rather than focusing on the goal of getting more tithers and becoming debt free, I propose that we think about the following money goals to embrace every day.

Money Goal #1: I can be 100% obedient today with all my resources, no matter how much or how little I have.

Money Goal #2: I can pursue every financial principle in scripture today.

Money Goal #3: I can fully receive every blessing God intends for me to have today as I apply his principles to my finances.

Money Goal #4: I can be more financially free today than ever by following God’s principles.

Money Goal #5: I can be far more generous today than I have ever been.

Money Goal #6: My obedience, freedom, and generosity will not be limited by 10% giving or by my current debt amount.

Those are just a few. Maybe you can think of some on your own.

Remember, all of God’s principles and freedoms are fully accessible today to everyone — no matter your income or debt level. You do not have to wait for another day to receive grace, fulfillment, or freedom in your finances. Being a debt free giver will be great one day, or maybe it might feel a little empty if we have not learned to release all of God’s goodness in your financial lives. Don’t wait another day to chase financial freedom with the right steps in mind.

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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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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

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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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
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— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

When Vision and Discipleship Meet the Budget

The church budgeting process does not rank high on the list of the most motivating and inspiring experiences in a minister’s life. Pastors will line up to deliver a message, shepherd the hurting, pray for wayward, and lead the body forward. However, if a pastor lies awake at night dreaming of the church budget it is usually for the wrong reasons.

Let’s take a look at a popular budgeting process. It begins with ministry leaders submitting their annual requests for funds. Sometimes that number will be inflated because they expect to not receive their request, other times it can be rather under-prepared. Then the long vetting process begins. It is usually shaped more by fixed expenses and relational loyalties than most admit. Tough decisions are always present which either result in hurt feelings or a stressful extension of reasonable financial limits. By the time the budget is complete the process has gone on too long and fear or disappointment can be present among the team. Finally, it is concluded with a church approval process where it’s secretly hoped few show up to participate.

Does a positive, rewarding, and visionary budgeting process exist? If so, what does it look like? 

Let me suggest an approach. One that can increase vision, disciple your people, and set you free from the bondage that sometimes accompanies money.

  • Begin with a season of prayer and fasting.

Scripture teaches that the tithe is holy to the Lord (Lev. 27:30). This applies both to the one giving and the one spending. God grants you resources to use for His glory and to impact lives. Your leadership needs to feel deep gratitude and responsibility before the process begins. Releasing of ownership will change the language of the conversation from the very beginning.

  • Recount how God has been at work over the past year.

Where do you see the fruit of His hand or the anointing of His Spirit? Seeing the hand of God can provide a good indication of what He desires to do in the future. Ultimately you need to align your resources to God’s work. Acknowledging God’s work will prevent personal agendas, subjective opinions, and ministry silos from occurring. Released resources and the Spirit’s leading create wonderful meetings.

  • Stand on the foundation of vision clarity and a well defined discipleship strategy.

Every church is not great at everything. Do you know what your church does better than 10,000 others? God places unique people in unique communities in specific eras of time. Your church is called to a very specific mission that is not to mirror the church down the street or compete with the congregation across town. You are free to be you. This level of focus actually causes your ministry to expand. It helps you say a powerful “yes” as well as a confident “no.”

  • Learn your ROI.

Do you know the impact of a dollar spent? Are you investing the proper amount to gain the desired result to accomplish your dream? The longer a church exists the more its budget grows. It is rare that a congregation actually evaluates an expense based on the return. We tend to continually fund ministries long after they have lost effectiveness. Every ministry line is not mission critical and not all ministries are created to exist forever. The vision to glorify God and make disciples never changes, but strategy does.

  • Allow strength and strategy to lead.

This may be a radical concept for most, but give consideration to each budget year starting with a blank slate and not encouraging each department to make their own financial requests. Instead, allow the activity of God, the vision strategy, and a few select financially gifted people to create a solid business plan. This does not mean collaboration and dialogue are removed. It simply means those with the giftedness should lead under the clear direction of the bigger picture vision.

  • Spend strategically, not simply less.

This might be the most shocking piece of advice. Create a spending plan that only spends 90% of your previous year’s undesignated giving receipts. (This may take a few years to accomplish.) Most churches increase their budget 3-15% annually. Why do we do this? “It’s faith based and visionary,” the pastor says. However, it tends to create a lot of stress and reduced spending throughout the year. In reality it is far from visionary. It can be careless, unfocused, and demotivating. It creates a crisis money culture instead of a generous culture.

  • Plan to be surprised.

Every year God will call you to become engaged in something you can not currently see. Of course, something will break which is not fun. Finally the next growth step has to be funded. Prepare for what you can not currently see. Nothing is more financially freeing than cash reserves. It is a sure way to tell God “yes” before He ever asks you to go. Now don’t step over the line and hoard cash reserves either. God gives you money to invest in His causes.

  • Inspire others with the vision investment plan.

This is the opposite of simply getting church budget approval. A well designed spending plan and presentation should bring glory to God, affirm those who have invested, validate what the leadership have said in the past, and inspire toward the future. It should raise generosity. Loyalty and confidence in the leadership should increase. A faith-filled expectation for the future inspires all.

Everything is a choice. As leaders we choose the financial culture we create. Every conversation can be both a vision and discipleship conversation. It all depends on how you lead it. For more resources on how to grow a generous culture you can check out my blog toddmcmichen.com or my book, Leading A Generous Church.

Want to know more? Start a conversation with our team. We’re glad to offer our input. Your vision is at stake, so let’s talk.

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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

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Hard Decisions of Generosity

The desire for a more generous culture is an inspiring one. After all, we all need more resources released into ministry. The discipleship conversation around giving is filled with hope and expectations. Pastors light up, ministry teams engage, and downhill momentum is gained. Then it happens, right in the middle of a robust conversation, reality hits. At first there’s denial, followed by resistance, and then the room goes silent. Teams are dug in. I’ve seen it over and over again. Yet, developing a generous culture is within reach, but not without making some really hard decisions. What are the three hardest calls that can ultimately result in experiencing a generosity surplus?

#1 – REDUCE staff expense.

Having served on church staff for decades, I 100% support a well-compensated team. The job of a pastor is both rewarding and grueling. Being on call 24/7, giving up your holidays, living in a glass house, all while trying to advance the Kingdom is a noble life effort. However, most church budgets will invest somewhere around 50% of their expenses toward staff – this is a big chunk of your resources.

As a church grows both larger and older it tends to expand staff, often times in advance of the income. Over time, work that was done by volunteers has now become work for hire. Then, once a staff member is well entrenched relationally it becomes difficult to recreate your staff budget allotment. Churches need to make the hard choice to steadily reduce staff expenses from 50% to 45%, then toward 35% and some may even dare to achieve 25%.

I know you are ready to stop reading, but what would you give to have 10-20% surplus over the next few years?

REMEDY: Develop a new staff structure and empower more volunteer leadership. If you are going to reduce your staff expense, you will need to reorganize with a few multi-managers at the top of the organization. Then move from an activity or even ministry-based framework to a process and systems framework. This will enable you to hire a less expensive management level team to implement. You should also be able to hire more within the organization reducing the risk of outside hires that end up as misfires. Finally, you will need a solid leadership development pipeline and training process. Volunteers can and will do more. Most high capacity volunteers sit on the sideline unengaged.

#2 – FOCUS on the one thing that matters most.

Most pastors are uber confident in their vision crafting and casting prowess. It is really hard to get most pastors to evaluate their vision. Nevertheless, I find most churches exist on a vision that is some version of “we want to do church bigger and better next year than we did last year.” I so appreciate the drive for improvement and expansion. I also understand the fear of saying something that may feel less than the maximum best.

However, if vision is not clear, accountable, and actionable by every staff member, then it is not clear enough. Vision should clearly determine how a staff member goes about his/her work. It should be an obvious filter of what we do and do not do when the pastor is not around to help. It should direct all resources toward the main objective. Finally, it should be powerfully obvious to all when we succeed as a team.

When a vision is not crystal clear, pastors struggle with rogue staff and a disunited team. Team members struggle with clear direction and proper support. All levels of an organization are drained by sideways energy and less forward momentum than originally hoped.

REMEDY: Create one clear unifying goal each year and lead all ministries to rally around it. I know it can feel very limiting to have only one goal and terribly unspiritual to measure what God may do. Please hear me, when you create one strikingly clear goal like, “Provide people with a clear path of personal discipleship seeing a 50% increase in small groups participation,” you have not limited what God can do. However, you have made a choice to do one great thing together instead of five isolated, unconnected wins in different ministry silos. You have to believe me when I tell you that I have seen staff members release their budgets for the greater cause of a clear vision.

#3 – STREAMLINE ministries and supportive programming.

You know you are doing too much because you are tired. Your staff is tired. However, another Sunday is coming and expectations have been created. There was a day in your past when you “surrendered to the call of ministry,” only to now be living the life of a highly effective event manager. Unfortunately, I have seen it time and time again. Ministry success is measured by great events in amazing environments that cause large groups of people to leave feeling happy. I am all for high quality events, full rooms, and inspiring moments. No one wants their ministries to stink! However, successful activity is not the same as accomplishing the vision of kingdom expansion.

Remedy: Spend time measuring every ministry activity to determine its ROI (Return On Investment) toward your clearly articulated and measurable vision.

I would suggest you put your leadership in a room and do an objective analysis of the resources invested in all calendar events versus the return on the investment in terms of mission advancement. Measure the following using a simple green, yellow, red grading system, green = good to go, yellow=hey, wait a minute, and red=police flashing lights in your rear view mirror if you keep your foot on the gas.

  • Does this ministry activity align 100% with our clearly articulated and measurable vision?
  • Are we investing the proper amount of trained staff and volunteer time?
  • Are we investing the right amount of financial resources?
  • Does this ministry activity happen in the right room, at the right time, and at the right time of year?
  • Are we providing this ministry activity the proper marketing support?
  • Does this ministry activity provide a proper anchor for our strategy or bridge to the appropriate next step?
  • Does this ministry activity accomplish its desired and clearly stated goal?

These three conversations consistently receive the most resistance in my generosity coaching with pastors. If you finished this blog CONGRATS TO YOU! I know you probably wanted to challenge my thoughts many times. However, what would it be like to lead a church in 3-5 years which was led by a smaller more nimble staff, that were clearly unified and rallying together around one clear goal that produced obvious results over and over again. Not to mention you have created more margin spiritually, relationally, physically, mentally, and financially. Being a church with surplus goes way beyond preaching on money, leading a Financial Peace class, and capital fund raising. You must have the hard conversations. You can actually accomplish more, do less, and enjoy a surplus to reinvest in ministry and your team.


Are you facing some hard decisions related to generosity? Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about how to work through those decisions.


> 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

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Generosity Starts at the Top

How do I keep our budget from turning inward?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

– Matthew 6:21

Jesus directed these words to the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount, but their truth is just as appropriate for your church today.

If you are concerned that your church is beginning to become more inward-focused, take a look at the finances: If more of your church’s funds are being used to keep the machinery of the church moving and to keep the members happy, rather than to fund the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, you have a big problem.

The inward focus of financial matters is symptomatic of a heart problem. When a church consistently directs resources and energy more toward its own needs than the need to reach their community and the world, decline toward death becomes a natural result.

If you are concerned that you are on the this path, start with YOU. Model generosity so it becomes a driving force in your church.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Leading a Generous Church, by Todd McMichen

What kind of help would people receive if the only training they were given on money came from the church? Leading a Generous Church: Making Disciples without Chasing Money takes your team through a step-by- step process to develop a generosity playbook that delivers unprecedented confidence and clarity.

Using the book of Proverbs as its foundation, the resulting playbook is an innovative tool that provides a fresh perspective on generosity – one that will truly grow passionately generous disciples.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Pastors always desire a generous culture, but very few know what it really is and are willing to do the work to experience it. They tend to default toward doing nothing (except complaining) or executing yet another quick fix, short-term remedy. While there are a few necessary ingredients for true generosity, the one absolute is that the senior pastor must model and lead the way.

If you want to lead a generous church, the senior leadership must become passionate about generosity.

Your heart must be overcome. Stewardship must be a driving force shaping your culture. Be mindful that a generous culture produces many results beyond a surplus of finances. It helps with volunteerism, impact in society, personal faith, and a more positive disposition. I have never met an unhappy, over-stressed, or weary obedient servant. Who doesn’t want these positive characteristics to permeate church culture?

Often when churches pursue generosity, they pursue more money. The pursuit of money is not the same as producing a generous disciple. Money can be gained quickly, but the strategy can contain unintended negative results. If the ill-gotten gain is money, the proper gain must be a transformed disciple. And that transformed disciple may need to begin with you.

– Todd McMichen, Leading a Generous Church

A NEXT STEP

Anchor generosity within your existing set of core values by crafting 2-3 ”demonstrated by” statements for each, showing how stewardship is lived out in the culture of the church. Then locate one to two verses for each value, to provide Biblical encouragement, discipleship, and direction toward generosity.

Value Illustration: “Life-Giving Conversations”

We are passionate about the power of uplifting conversation. Our words come from our heart and the generous heart of God will be loud.

  • Demonstrated by telling stories at leadership meetings of how life change is occurring in ministry areas due to the positive generosity of our people.
  • Demonstrated by expressing thankfulness in our worship services for the abundant generosity we have received both from God our provider and our people on a weekly basis.
  • Demonstrated by personally thanking volunteers and investors one on one.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

(Proverbs 18:21 NIV)

 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

(2 Corinthians 8:5 NIV)

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

(2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV)

Language is one of the most important tools you have as a leader. With language you direct, inspire, inform, and communicate. Clear communication and modeling are actually the two most basic activities in a leadership relationship. You show; you instruct.

Clearly demonstrating agreed upon values in your own words, grounded in scripture is empowering. When you are in a collaborative environment and your team understands how your values impact all ministries, it will provide both accountability and direction for your team.

Taken from SUMS Remix 18-1, published July 2015.


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

4 Ways to Grow in Your Personal Generosity

Generosity is not an event or an emphasis. There’s no secret sauce or hidden tricks. Generosity is the cultivation of a simple lifestyle and I am not referring to limiting spending, having a family budget, or curtailing an enjoyable life. No coupon clipping here. So how do you cultivate a spiritually generous life that is second nature?

  1. Learn to talk to God in prayer. You may be thinking that you already do this. However, I want to encourage you to talk to God in a specific way. Speak back to Him about His generous nature and promises to you. God’s love is generous. His presence is generous. His grace is generous. Scripture teaches us that He desires a prosperous future for our lives and is giving us every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. Confess humbly and powerfully your deep appreciation for His generosity in your life. You have far more than everything you need to live generously. You are overflowing with good stuff that is worth giving.
  2. Learn to listen to God in prayer. My experience is that generous people are prepared, sensitive, and alert. They are ready and responsive to needs. Generosity is both planned, cultivated to become second nature, as well as spontaneous. God will always surprise you with new opportunities to be generous with your time, words, heart, and resources. However, if you have not created listening space in your life it will be impossible to live generously. The Bible is full of stories of how God spoke to people and they responded with generosity. Expect God to speak specifically to you about a blessing He has given you that He needs you to pass on to someone else.
  3. Fast regularly. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that can be a struggle to accomplish as a lifestyle. I have found it helpful to fast regularly of small things like a meal or form of entertainment for a day to remind me of how important a vibrant relationship with God is. Fasting disconnects you from things that can easily have powerful influences in our lives. The gifts of this world can become the authority of our feelings and source of pleasure quite easily. Fasting not only puts my dependence back on God, but it gives me more committed time for talking and listening in prayer.
  4. Live ready. Every day is a new opportunity to both enjoy God’s generosity in your life and extend His generosity to others. Each day create margin in your heart, mind, time, and wallet. You do not have to be rich or debt free to live generously. Everybody can live in 100% fulfillment of God’s generosity dream today. God has nothing in store for you today that He has not already given you the resources for. He has always provided in advance for His people to live generously. Only one of the many examples is the Israelites after having been delivered from slavery built a tabernacle.

If you are not enjoying the fruit of generosity in your life and church, it might just be that you are spending your time focused on the finances and waiting on the future to be different. On another blog we can talk about financial fixes and future plans, but for now I want you to live confidently today. Every leader, person, and church can live generously. It’s a spiritual formation issue far more than a financial resource issue.

Read more from Todd.


Learn more about the importance of generosity. Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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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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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

2 Challenges in Growing a Generous Church

Give some thought to what it would be like to be a part of a generous church, led by a generous staff, overflowing with generous people. While generous people can be described in many ways, I will limit their attributes to this statement: A generous person exudes an overall positive disposition, lives with sensitivity to what is going on around them, and is ready to respond to needs. If we embrace this partial description, a generous staff will exhibit a positive vision, provide a process that develops generosity, and live generously.

Below are two obstacles related to leading a generous staff as well as opportunities and practices for overcoming them.

Obstacle #1: An unhealthy culture and unhealthy conversations about money.

Money is intended to be a wonderful gift to us. However, it is also one of the biggest life stresses. Church staff members are not immune to this life stress, and they bring it into their work practices. A generous financial plan (i.e. Church Budget) prioritizes the church goals for the year, allows flexibility year to year, and provides margin for preparing for the future and managing surprises. The financial plan should be focused in a positive direction, sensitive to the ebbs and flows of a year, and ready to respond to a great opportunity. Many staff dread the budget process and experience demotivation when it comes to church money. Generous people will not result from a non-generous staff.

Opportunity: Ask each staff member to record the last three conversations or statements they had or heard around the office related to church money or budget. Would these statements be considered more or less indicative of a positive generous culture?

Obstacle #2: Lack of a discipleship pathway that aims to grow generosity in the life of a believer.

Growing the attribute of generosity is not the same as preaching on tithing or conducting a capital campaign. Nor is it limited to a money management course. Generosity is not limited to the wealthy or those who are older or even those who are debt free. The generous life is possible every day by everyone regardless of age, financial position, or life stage. Now, if your staff leadership have not embraced this lifestyle as individuals or as a team, what likelihood is there that a member of your church will overflow with generosity? If staff members are poor money managers at home, don’t possess an inspiring stewardship testimony, and do not have the basic teachings of Scripture related to money at the ready, how will the church ever become generous?

Opportunity: Ask each staff member to name a Bible promise related to money or generosity (it cannot be a reference to tithing). Then ask each staff member to name a great hero in the Bible related to giving. Together as a team, create a theology of generosity that your team will live personally and utilize together to create a new generosity culture. Highlight biblical support with both principles and heroes. Include applications for all ages and financial positions.


If you are interested in studying generosity with your group or with your church, Generous Life can help you work toward a culture of gospel-centered generosity. This five-week stewardship emphasis, co-created by Auxano and the Groups Ministry team at LifeWay, will help members identify the type of giver they are and the kind of giver God is making them to be. This resource includes five weeks of message outlines, study guides for adults, kids, and preschool, family devotionals, and an optional media kit.


Want to know more about developing a generous church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Seven Actions to Lead Your Church to Financial Fitness

Is your church financially fit? When asked this question most church leaders usually have a quick gut level response between two extremes. They either respond with a confident “yes” because the church has more money than it spends every year. Or an absolute “no” due to the impression of too few resources to fulfill the dream. Before we venture into an honest discussion of what it means to be financially fit, let’s make sure we understand the land mines of measuring the wrong things.

False Financial Measures

  1. No Debt – Debt can be the number one binder on financial freedom. However, being a church with no debt can also result in a lack of numeric growth, dated and unmaintained facilities, or a hoarding of resources. Don’t make debt free the ultimate measuring stick of financial health.
  2. Increased Budget Growth – Receiving more resources every year is not the end all measurement on financial health. It might be the result of a small percentage of willing donors or can lead to unjustified spending which is sinful. A generous church is not the same as a wealthy congregation.
  3. Lack of Financial Conversations – A church that never talks about money may also be a church that is stuck or even moving backwards. It may be a church without a clear mission that demands a great sacrifice. It may be a church with very little financial discipleship occurring.
  4. High Missions Giving Percentage – I’ve learned that being a “missions-minded church” can mean a lot of different things. Sometimes it means we live for the mission, then other times it means we do nothing but study missionaries and give resources away. I have also seen foreign missions giving be trumpeted as better than internal or local investments in ministry.

Financial Values Leading To Fitness

  1. Model The Way – Every church I encounter that is enjoying the fruit of financial freedom is being led by a generous pastor who is not distant from every financial conversation. A pastor who understands both personal stewardship and the generous life will naturally lead the organization by the same principles.
  2. Tell Great Stories – Church leaders would be shocked to know how many times a church attender gives to non-profits, because he or she does not clearly see the impact of the mission of the local church. Most committed church givers do so out of duty, habit, or obligation. Very few see, hear, and experience the stories of impact. NPO’s have clear visions that are big and engaging. The church has a budget and bills.
  3. Invest For A Return – 100% of church resources need to be wisely invested as resources considered holy by God and wholly committed to the mission. Every budget year most churches answer two lingering questions, “What did we do last year?” and ” How much money do we have to spend this year?” The conversation needs to begin with a clear understanding of where God is uniquely at work in your church. Then, church leaders should have a clear and tactical vision moving forward. We should never justify an expense solely because of the person leading the ministry or fear of making a change.
  4. Tame the Monsters – The two biggest expenses in most church budgets are staff and facilities. As a matter of fact, these two spending categories routinely create 75% of yearly expenses. We find that churches who pay their staff well, while creating a stronger volunteer pipeline, can steadily see their staff expense trend below 50% or less. When the figure is closer to 35% we see real future potential. Churches that maintain a debt load of less than 1 time their annual expenses also show few signs of financial bondage. There are certainly seasons in church life cycles where staff expense can trend above 50% and debt can be 2-3 times your annual income, but these are two places you want to avoid as a pattern.
  5. Focused Impact – Decades ago people could revolve their lives around church activities. That is simply not the case today. Church programming is far better off when you do a few things well as opposed to many things. Focusing your resources of people, funds, and space can produce far better results than stretching yourself thin.
  6. Personal Path – Money affects every person. We value and experience money at every stage of life and it is constantly different. Just watch a kid on a toy aisle or a senior adult fretting over a major health expense. Every person and family regardless of age or income level deserves the opportunity to enjoy financial freedom offered by the generous life. For many churches 50-60% of their people give far below the tithe principle taught in Scripture. A financially fit church has a discipleship plan for each giver beyond just a money management class and tithing sermon.
  7. Surplus Plan – This principle always sounds so foreign to church leaders. Unfortunately most churches begin each fiscal year having created a spending plan that consumes all expected margin. This leads to false limitations of ministries, an unnecessary weight for church leaders, and self-induced pressure. When we encounter a church that has the pattern of only spending 90% or less of last year’s undesignated receipts, we encounter freedom and joy. The conversation among church leaders is no longer what they can’t do, but instead, “God, we are ready. Lead the way.”

As you look to measure your church’s financial fitness it is really important to sort out what you should and shouldn’t measure. Scripture is clear that God gives resources to people and He then leads them to be generous. The church is not responsible for those two actions. Here is what church leaders are responsible for and should measure:

  1. Possessing a clear vision of the unique mission
  2. Providing the discipleship opportunity for personal growth in life stewardship
  3. Proving each expense is being invested for the highest kingdom good
  4. Placing faith in God as the wise provider

How much money a church receives or saves is not the end all. Never experiencing a financial pressure is not the ultimate test. A financially fit church rests on the fact that God controls the amount, and we control how we use it.

For more resources you can download the Generosity Dream Tool here or purchase my book Leading A Generous Church.


To learn how how to help your church be financially fit, connect with an Auxano Navigator today.


 

> 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

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How Vision, Alignment, and Generosity Became One Church’s Future

About two years ago we received contact from Church at The Mall in Lakeland, FL. They had just launched an initiative with seven missional components. These action items were big, really big. The intent was to propel an already active church with a miraculous story into a bold new future. Of course, these seven missional objectives needed to be funded. Naturally, a three-year capital campaign would be the solution. HOLD ON! What if vision, alignment, and generosity could be the solution for their new future?

Here are the seven missional objectives, our approach, and some of the results we’ve seen less than two years into the work.

Missional Objectives:

  1. Raise $1million each year for missional causes while reducing church debt
  2. Maximize their outreach and efforts
  3. Advance and expand their media ministry
  4. Needs assessment for staff, space, finances, and times
  5. Launch a multi-site campus approach
  6. Develop a Center for Discipleship and Education
  7. Develop methodical and comprehensive life stage discipleship from cradle to college

Approach:

  1. Create two one-day offerings immediately to take a huge leap forward with debt reduction and missions giving. Palm Sunday was utilized to catalyze those who were passionate about debt reduction. The entire offering that Sunday was deposited toward their debt. Then on Easter Sunday, Church at the Mall built bridge relationships with multiple non-profits in the community that aligned with the church vision. The entire offering was given away to impact the city. It was a bold step on many fronts. The staff and church leaders needed to decide how committed they were to the missional objectives. What would happen if they gave two complete offerings away at the beginning of the year? How would that impact ministry, even their jobs? Their unified faith would be more than rewarded.
  1. Clarify their Vision, create culture, and discipleship Measures. TheVision Framing process of Auxano was utilized to create the organizational engine and culture needed to accomplish the seven missional objectives. A repeated priority on prayer, fasting, and the anointed life would provide the fuel. This focus led to a clear articulation of a three-pronged Strategy. The Strategy would align ministries to work best together delivering the results of their Vision. This would require big conversations related to aligning programming, staff, calendar, facility, and resources. Good activity would not compete with visionary accomplishment.
  1. Develop a Generous Culture. When Vision is clear, resources are aligned, and results are measurable, it releases people. They knew where the church was headed, how they could grow, where they could live a big life, and confidence that their generosity was making a difference beyond themselves. We identified the different types of givers in their church from those who gave nothing to those living generously beyond a tithe. Each person was able to identify with a giving hero in the Bible that was relatable to their stage of life and financial situation. Curriculum was developed. A year-long growth path was revealed. Every person and family could find their way to grow a generous life for the sake of long term kingdom investment.

Results:

  • Total church indebtedness was reduced by 26% or $1,056,799.
  • Total church missions giving increased by 35% or $216,953.
  • Yearly undesignated giving increased 6% and this is not counting the special offerings taken on two consecutive Sundays.
  • General offerings increased by 12% prior to summer months, and this is not including the special offerings received.
  • Average gift per family increased 21% year to date. (Measured the first several months of three consecutive years)
  • Families or individuals giving digitally increased 19%.
  • The church was given a church facility in a neighboring town worth $1,700,000. A new campus was launched with hundreds in attendance.
  • Media is being maximized via new brand development, website, and app.
  • Discipleship Measures were created for all ages along with custom written curriculum.
  • Outreach is on a path to being maximized via new outreach Bible studies, online services, and a new television program.

Not too bad for less than two years of focused activity. Dream big, get focused, pray boldly, and enjoy the clarity.


To learn how this process could help your church, connect with an Auxano Navigator today.


> 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

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

It’s Time to Stop Campaigning and Start Discipling

Recently, Auxano was engaged by Mainstreet Church in the greater Toledo, Ohio area to help rethink how they would continue to fund their vision. Under the leadership of Lead Pastor, Marty Pennington, the church had taken a leap of faith, constructed a new campus, and relocated to the new facilities enabling them to build relationships that move more people to full devotion to Christ. However, this new level brought about new resourcing challenges.

The church had a healthy debt load that needed to be addressed and an ever-increasing cycle of one campaign after another. Each campaign resulted in lower participation percentages, a reduction in cash offerings, and smaller financial commitments by their members. Mainstreet was experiencing “campaign fatigue.” Campaign fatigue sets in when members of the church become weary of the repetitive cycle of campaign after campaign with no apparent end in sight. For both leaders and members, fatigue quickly grows into frustration and weariness. The church was at a resourcing crossroads and had several challenges that needed to be overcome.

• How do we continue to fund the vision?

• How do we stop the campaign cycle?

• How do we re-energize leaders?

• How do we disciple believers in the area of generosity?

• How do we increase the number of people who are financially contributing to the vision of the church?

So what did Campaigns by Auxano recommend? Stop Campaigning and Start Discipling! The church courageously hit the pause button on their next campaign and developed a comprehensive discipleship plan around their “give fully” spiritual mark. They identified four stages of “giving fully” for Christ followers: emerging, engaged, growing, and generous. Members were challenged to assess their stage and take the essential steps to go to the next stage. The clear challenge was to “grow up” in the area of generosity. For some that meant to start tithing. For others it meant that God was calling them to become generous “above and beyond” givers. Mainstreet’s prayer was to create a culture of generosity among a broader base of their membership and provide a break in the campaign cycle.

So what happened? Despite enduring the worst weather on record and its impact on their Sunday morning attendance, the church had amazing spiritual and numerical results:

• a 38% immediate giving increase for the first 12 weeks of the generosity initiative

• a 16% sustainable increase in budget giving beyond the first 12 weeks of the generosity initiative

more people contributing financially to the work of the church than ever before

• a new generosity culture language that is empowering discipleship and making the mission transferable

• a clearly designed and supported growth pathway from being an emerging giver to a generous disciple

When you bring the entire staff together, articulate a clear vision, and create a comprehensive discipleship strategy, churches can grow a generous culture that will produce immediate and sustainable results. Of course, you can keep campaigning if that is more fun!

> 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

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.