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Quick answers to some giving questions
Baptist Press
December 23, 2009
7 MIN READ TIME

Quick answers to some giving questions

Quick answers to some giving questions
Baptist Press
December 23, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The end of the year is drawing close, and

churches are thinking about end-of-the-year giving campaigns. Ben Stroup, is a

marketing coordinator in LifeWay’s Christian Stores division, but he calls

himself the “chief broker of opportunity” because he helps pastors change the

conversation from “What do we have to cut to survive?” to “What does God want

us to do next?”

Stroup agreed to answer a few questions related to giving in

churches and some of the trends he’s seen in 2009.

Q: In light of the current economic situation, is giving

different this year than it has been in the past? For instance, are people

giving more to benevolence, Good Samaritan, or other “good will” funds

that go to individuals and social works than they are to the general church

budget?

A: Charitable giving, on a whole, is expected to be off by

about 10 percent. People, on a whole, believe they have “less.” Whether that’s

true, perception is reality.

In times of failing economies, people tend to direct their

available funds first to human services that address things like hunger and

homelessness because the need appears more pressing and the result seems more

tangible.

Within the life of the church, there is a shift taking place

that threatens “general giving” as we know it. The shift was already taking

place; the economy simply accelerated it. I believe it stems from a lack of

trust.

The traditional message is “You give to God, and the church will decide

what to do with it.” Where this fails is that the church often provides nothing

in the way of a quantified report showing the measurable ministry impact that

resulted from its spending.

Contrast this to many other nonprofits that do this

well.

We tend to measure churches by how well they stay within

their budgets, not whether they achieve results like we might be more inclined

to do with businesses.

Thus, the level of trust needed to capture the heart of

the giver is eroded.

People want to be involved in co-creating an “investment

portfolio” that defines what Kingdom ventures will be funded with the resources

God has entrusted to us and provides a metric by which to judge the

effectiveness or return on investment. If the church does not adapt to this

shift, it risks losing the dollar of the person in the pew who may decide to

fund another organization’s budget.

Q: What are churches doing to encourage people to continue

to give in spite of the difficult economic times for many members?

A: Sermon series. Small group or Sunday school studies.

Classes related to personal money management. Encouraging faithful giving

through personal testimonies and specific, direct challenges. Ministering to

high-capacity givers. Use of systematic giving tools such as online giving, offering

envelopes, contribution statements and special appeals.

These are just a few of

the strategies churches employ to ensure that funding levels exist to

accomplish the ministry.

The church leader has to talk about it and must make “the

ask.” If he doesn’t, the local hospital or university will.

Chances are those

places already have.

The churches that are thriving in today’s economic climate

are those casting a vision that is larger than life, connecting with the

passion of the people in the pews, and helping those people accomplish

something they couldn’t do on their own. People tend to give to organizations

that embody their core values and are staffed with leaders they know, like and

trust.

What the economy did to many churches was expose a lack of conversation

and strategic disciple-making efforts in the areas of stewardship and

generosity.

Q: What are some ways churches (and/or parents) can help

establish habits of giving among younger generations?

A: There are three ways parents and church leaders can

influence the next generation in the area of giving. One, talk about it. It

needs to come from the pulpit, church teachers and parents. If the church is

silent, then the only source shaping the mind and habits of the next generation

is the culture.

Two, practice it. This is especially true for parents in how

they influence their children. Your children need to hear you talk about why

you give, and they need to see you do it. It reinforces what you are telling them.

Three, utilize some type of visual participation. Place a

penny jar in a high traffic area in the home, use offering envelopes, whatever.

Children, especially younger children, are not usually abstract in their

thinking.

Any visual representation — something they can touch, feel or do —

opens their minds and further explains what you are saying and, hopefully,

doing. As children become youth, the opportunity arises to talk about things

like biblical money management, so they can see God has a plan for 100 percent

of the time, talent and treasure he has given us – not just a 10 percent tax.

Q: Why is giving important in the life of a Christian?

A: Giving is an outward sign of an inward commitment. Thus,

a giving problem is really a spiritual problem. “Passing the plate” describes

the average American Christian’s view toward giving as “discretionary

obligation.”

We hear from the pulpit and read in our Bibles that “Jesus is

Lord,” but we are reluctant to give up the rights to what we think we possess.

I think it goes even further than that. Built into the ethos

of America is the “rags to riches” story telling us we can become anything we

want if we are willing to work for it. This poses a problem for Christians who

subscribe to this idea, in that when they do achieve, they believe they have

ownership of what they have achieved.

This is in stark contrast to the

profession and practice of the Lordship of Christ.

Church leaders have the responsibility to cultivate a

generous spirit in the lives of the people they serve by moving them along the

spiritual continuum from “all that I have, am and will ever become is mine, and

I’ll decide what God gets” to “all that I have, am and will ever become is a

gift from God, to be invested into building the Kingdom.” Giving is important

because it holds us accountable in the practice of what we profess to believe.

Q: Is the method that people use to give changing? Is the

offering plate still the primary way people give or are you noticing a rise in

online giving to churches?

A: Online giving is growing faster than any other channel.

While it is the fastest growing channel, people who gave online only

represented 9 percent of all charitable donors, which represented 11 percent of

total charitable giving in 2008.

It is clear that technology and the acceptance

of technology is driving the use and practice of online giving. Further, the

regularity of church attendance and the way people are paid is shifting. Thus,

the idea that we can fund our churches through weekly tithes and offerings is

quickly fading as a singular strategy to achieve sustainable funding.

Many

churches are looking for alternative or supplemental ways to fund the ministry

God has called them to accomplish.

Q: What should people know about giving and taxes?

A: Well, I’m not a tax adviser, but I do know that all

donations must be received by Dec. 31 to be deductible from the current year’s

tax liability. Online giving helps keep the “window of giving opportunity” open

as long as possible, allowing the member to make the donation even if no one is

available to receive the donation on Dec. 31.

I encourage churches to put a notice on their Web sites with

a link to the place members may donate online. That information should also be

included in printed publications such as bulletins, newsletters, etc.

December

is a big month for giving in most churches, especially those ministering to a

high-net worth demographic as many of those givers are receiving year-end

bonuses, quarterly dividends, commissions, etc.

For more information about stewardship, visit Stroup’s blog

at churchgivingmatters.com.