By Carolyn Kitto
I am often asked to help churches ‘get more money’. But churches have two entirely different motivations behind the need for this money. The first kind of church is driven by a sense of call from God to grow their mission and ministry; they need more money. The second kind of church is the one which has having trouble making ends meet; the income and the expenses just don’t match up. In essence it is the same issue and opportunity: there is more to do than the money lets us do. Raising money with the first kind of church, which has a focus on people and serving and mission, is infinitely easier than the second kind of church, which is trying to make ends meet. The suggestions in this article apply to both situations but will be most useful in a church which is seeking to grow its mission and ministry.
So, a brief comment for the church trying to make ends meet! Cutting expenditure is eventually a dead-end street. You run out of things to cut and cutting the budget cuts motivation. The closer a church is getting to the dead end, then the more they become like a rock climber who has become frozen on a cliff. They are afraid and their primary motivation is to avoid falling; they achieve this by hanging on and not moving. No amount of yelling or cajoling, suggesting that they are on the wrong cliff or that they look down and see what will happen if they fall, is going to help. Instead just get alongside them and help them move. There is no formula or program for this action. It is different in different churches. Basically help them have a ‘win’ that moves them beyond their fear. If they are fragmented as a community, help them have a fun time together. If they are feeling isolated and lonely and fearful of their personal future, visit them. If they are obsessed with themselves and doing things the way they have always been done them, don’t try and change them, help them do one thing in their community which helps them live beyond themselves. Do it once. Once they have moved, you (plural) will ‘know’ what to do next. Maybe it is another small move, just to get them used to the feeling. Soon they will be more confident, take bigger steps and even change direction.
You can often tell what people value by what they spend their money on. When I look at most church budgets the largest items are staff salaries, bills, building maintenance and what it costs to belong to a denomination. In other words the budget ‘hides’ the mission and ministry of the church in salaries and bills. To motivate people to be generous with the mission the church is engaged with, show the mission. Develop a budget which outlines how you plan to invest in your future. An example of a line item could be, ‘Building a ministry with children and mentoring at-risk children in the community’. Then ‘hide’ the salaries and bills in the mission by apportioning them to the mission’s objectives.
Once you have your mission budget, remember we live in a time of choice. Allow people to choose the particular areas of mission, ministry and activities they want to give to. Don’t ask them to give to the bottom line. This opportunity in and of itself will motivate generosity as people consider their ‘investment’ in mission.
Build a culture of grace and generosity in all aspects of your church life. We are told that we are heading into a global financial crisis and recession. One of my colleagues says, ‘A good crisis should never be wasted’. Perhaps this crisis can be motivation for your church and its members to be the kind of church of compassion Acts 2:42-46[i] describes. This crisis means people will fail in our world’s eyes. They will lose jobs, they will struggle with mortgages, and their marriages and relationships will be put under pressure. The church should be the safest and most supportive place to go through this crisis (or any life crisis). How will you support people in your church, community and the poorest people in the world for whom this crisis is a life and death question? In your worship, what prayers will you pray and songs will you sing? Do you need to write some new ones? In your pastoral care, are you willing to be available in the toughest times of life, even if that is 24/7? In the groups you run, how will they support everyday living and engagement with the bible, which tells the failure stories as well as the success stories? I once visited a church in a community where the local industry, which had employed most of the community, had suddenly shut down. The church had decided that its mission would be to ensure no-one in need would be turned away; this included no-one losing their home because they were unable to pay their mortgage. People are motivated in give in a church which lives beyond its own needs.
Grow a church community which values the gifts that everyone has to give. That means a focus on discovering those gifts and affirming them, as well as operating in ways where everyone can participate. I know a church in a community where people had a range of incomes. They asked everyone to bring a roll of toilet paper one Sunday as a part of their giving program. On a pragmatic level it provided the church with a supply of toilet paper for the year. On a discipleship level it sent the message that everyone can give, every gift is valued, every person is valued, and it encouraged people to think seriously about their other giving.
When Jesus says, ‘If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes’ [ii] And, Paul says to the Romans and the Corinthians respectively, ‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life and place it before God as an offering.’[iii] ‘Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.’[iv] And John Wesley said, ‘Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.’ They are not prescribing a set of rules about how people should use their money or processions, whereby discipleship is reduced to lines on a budget and percentages of income. They are talking about a gospel of grace, a relationship with God and God’s people and the world, and a way of living which motivates generosity.
First published in Australian Leadership
[i] They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. Acts 2:42-46, ibid.
[ii] Matthew 6:24-26, The Message, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. NavPress Publishing Group.
[iii] Romans 12:1, ibid
[iv] 2 Corinthians, ibid