Category Archives: Stewardship

Funding the Vision

budget

budget (Photo credit: 401K 2012)

Many churches start their new budgets in September.  So with that in mind, I am writing this blog post with a few thoughts on creating a budget.  I’ve been working with budgets for years; personally, in business settings and in ministry settings.  One thing I have learned is that you do not set a budget based on what you need, but on what you have available.  A budget says “If” we bring in this amount of money, this is how we are going to spend it.  They are actually designed to focus on making effective use of income rather than searching for money for expenses.  With that said, you should always start with a clear understanding of your income for the set time period.  When you are calculating this, you should never use percentages of increase to project your budget.  Always use real numbers.  If the past two quarters showed an increase of $2,000 each, trends would tell us that there is a good chance that the next quarter will show and increase of around the same amount if all other factors stay the same.

Projecting Your Income:

  • Numerical Projection:  Determine what your history has been.  You can look over a given history to help you in looking forward.  If possible, use at least two to three years of history to get a clear picture of giving.  Use this picture to identify trend of giving based on your history.  If in looking at the previous two to three years, you see that each year you had an increase of $50,000 annually, then you can project that conservatively you will see $50,000 in additional giving in the coming year.  You don’t go up on your projected giving until you have a track record that shows your giving can increase.  Use real numbers.
  • Per Capita Projection:  What is your per capita giving?  Take your average attendance and take your average weekly income for the year and divide it.  You will come up with the per capita income per person per week.  (The longer the length of time is for your averages, the more accurate your per capita giving will be.)  You then can use your average attendance and your projected attendance to make an calculated per capita projection.

Calculate both the numerical projection and the per capita projection and compare these together.  If there is a huge difference between these, you may need to look at what some variables may be that would be causing a huge difference.  Have there been some huge one time gifts?  If so, you may need to pull these out because they are skewing your results.  I’ve found that, generally, using both of these calculation methods put me very close to the same projections.  Once you determine an annual projection using real numbers, you can begin to move forward.  It is a good idea to be conservative on your projections.  You can always do more with increased giving, it’s harder to cut back from initial projections when the giving falls short.  Conservative budgets also will give your staff freedom to spend their budget as it is needed.

Creating Your Budget:

Once you have a good understanding of your estimated income you can then create A, B and C budgets.  The A budget is if God really blesses and everything goes right (could be anywhere from 10 to 20% above budget).  The C budget is if things get tight and things go wrong (maybe 10 to 20% below budget).  The B budget is the primary operating budget and this allows shifting up or down.  You need to plan all three budgets in advance.  It’s easier to make alternate plans in advance than when you’re in the middle of the storm.  As you create these, have a simple one page broad budget by major categories.  Don’t get too detailed, just list general categories (i.e  Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Evangelism etc…)  Have 2 or 3 line items in your budget that are open and flexible, these could be designated as “Special Projects & Events”, “Ministry Expansion”, etc…  This gives you opportunity to also meet needs as they arise through the year using these categories.  When you are assigning dollar amounts to budgeted areas, don’t make it so tight that ministries can’t function.  Allow room for flexibility.

Filling in the Details:

Look at the overall pie and determine the percentage of the pie that goes toward Staff.  Keep in mind that churches are largely volunteer in structure, so we need staff to lead them.  Only use percentages for allocations.  Payroll should be no more than 50 to 55% of budget.  If your payroll is below 30% you are probably understaffed or not paying your staff enough.  Building needs should be 20% of budget.  Missions should be at least 10% of budget (this is all missions including international, national, state and local). Areas of Ministry should be 10% of budget.  This leaves 5 to 10% for other areas.

You need to know your seasons so you can manage cash flow.  When is your biggest quarter? When is your weakest quarter?  Are there times in the year that the cash flow expenses may naturally increase, but at the same time the cash flow income slows down?  Generally first quarter is going to be one of the strongest quarters.  At the same time, the end of second quarter and third quarter can also be a struggle.  Have a plan of action in place for if you consistently miss budget.  When will you move to “C” Budget?

If possible, allow your ministries to have the same budget as previous year plus half of the planned overall percentage of increase.  (i.e. if after you determine your dollar amount projection, you determine it will be a 8% increase, allow each ministry to increase their budget by 4%.)  Then look at what was spent in each ministry.  Identify growing ministries that may need slightly more of an increase to cover needs.  Prior to having the staff develop their budgets, give them the specific dollar amount they will have to spend for the year.  Don’t give percentages or expect them to calculate their overall budget.  Once they have their overall budget, have the staff submit 3 budget requests.  The first request is their General Budget Request (this will match the number they have been given).  The second request is a One Time Request.  This is when a ministry has an expense that is not a reoccurring expense.   The third request is a Ministry Expansion Request.  This is to expand their current ministry into a new area that will be an ongoing part of the ministry from that point forward.

Reserves:

Don’t think you have to spend surplus just because you have it.  At the same time, you shouldn’t hoard what God has given to the church just because you’re not sure about what will happen in six months.  We serve a big God who is capable of providing our every need.  You can set aside a Cash Forward Reserve (2 to 4 weeks of operating budget) in a separate account so that if things slow down, you have a few weeks to make budget adjustments.  Anything past this amount would be considered idle money.  One of the principles from the parable of the talents is that God hates idle money.  It should be put into play for the Kingdom.  Not doing so will limit God’s blessings on your church.  Our faith is in God, not in our money.

Note: You should never promote that you are behind on budget.  People do not want to give to a sinking ship or a need, they want to give to a compelling vision. So promote a compelling vision.  What is God doing? Where is He leading? What needs can be met? Make it a habit to talk vision at every opportunity.  It is also good to identify your annual turnover rate of individuals/families in your church.  This number is good to know as it will help you not only understand the importance in developing a culture of giving in your church, but also realize that every year there is a portion of your income that is always changing.


Tithe Challenge

There are some who believe that tithing is a legalistic approach to giving.  But I believe that God has called us to bring our tithes and offerings to Him on a regular basis.  It’s a physical act that demonstrates that He is the Lord of our life.  The New Testament didn’t lower the expectations of giving.  If anything it actually increased it to the point that we should be willing to sacrificially give to glorify God and further His Kingdom.  We should teach regularly on the biblical perspective of giving using both the Old and New Testament as our guide.  Jesus talked more about money than he did any other subject while He was here on earth.  He knew that if we were going to learn to trust in Him, we would have to learn to let go of our main object of trust, our money.

I have found that once or twice a year as you are teaching a series on giving or one Sunday on giving, you can use the tithe challenge to jump people from initial givers and systematic givers to tithers.  It’s just as easy to ask for a 30 day commitment as it is to ask for a 3 month tithe challenge.  If your asking for a 3 month challenge, you can also modify it to a 4 month challenge.  In Malachi, God says test me.  Encourage people to test God.  “For the next 4 months I want to encourage you to take this challenge and see what God does in your life.”  Along with this challenge, you could give out copies of the treasure principle to those who take the challenge.  Either hand it out that day or mail it to them.  Mailing it could be better because in the packet with the treasure principle you can include a letter from the pastor with info about the challenge and a mail in envelope and even ask them to use auto debit.  After the challenge Sunday, send an email from the pastor encouraging them about their commitment.  Then one month in, send another encouraging email, “Right now your being challenged and are wondering what is going on and you are considering taking back what is God’s…”  Again at half way through the challenge, send another email requesting stories about what has happened since they took the challenge. (Tangible or Intangible)  Do they feel better, have inward peace, seen financial blessings, seen financial struggles, etc…  And one month before the challenge ends, send out all of the stories you received to encourage others and invite more stories from those in the challenge.  If you’re ambitious, you can also do a daily devotion dealing with money to people who took the tithe challenge.

Note: Know that there will be some people that will not continue tithing after the challenge is over.  But there will be a good percentage of those who took the challenge who will realize the value of giving and continue to do it on a regular basis.

Times of change are good times to start a tithe challenge.  These would be the months January or Feburary and then again in August or September.

A Side Note on Tithing

Malachi 3 is the basis for tithing.  The best time to teach on giving is when things are going good.  It should be a part of the normal routine.  If you taught on money as much as Jesus taught on money … it would be every third week.  A third of Jesus’ teaching is on money.  You should challenge people to give more so they can grow more.  When you are not tithing, God is not proactively against you.  But at the same time, He is not proactively for you.  The curse from not tithing is the absence of God’s blessings in your life.  Partial obedience in the tithe is complete disobedience.  Genesis 4 is another good passage where it talks about Cain and Able.  Cain gave what was left over … it says he gave some of his fruit (not his best fruit).

A common excuse for not giving is debt.  But, the way to get out of debt is to pay God first and let him manage the debt, not to pay down the debt and ignore God.  Proverbs 3:9&10 tells us to honor the Lord with our wealth.  Additionally, the tithe should be given to the church not other organizations.  The church belongs to Jesus Christ.  It is the organization He left behind.


Should we use Credit Cards for the Church?

Credit Card

Having a good plan in place for proper use of funds will help with the overall stewardship process of your church. Often the use of credit cards and churches do not mix well.  Some are afraid of unwise use of cards or spending that may or may not be accounted for on a monthly basis.  And there have actually been leaders and pastors who have misused the church funds for their own purposes.  We shouldn’t judge all leaders and pastors on the actions of a few.  There are certain aspects of daily church business that requires some type of cash flow that is available to the leaders, pastors and/or business managers of the church.  I have found the system below to work well in providing accountability of spending and giving freedom to make necessary purchases on a daily basis for ministry functions.

The truth is if we can’t trust those who are leading our ministries and our church, then how they handle the money is the least of our concerns.  How they are leading our ministries and our church should be of a greater concern.

I hope this structure below helps as you develop guidelines for credit card use in your church.

Church Credit Card Policy

Those who use a credit card to make purchases within the church should follow the procedure listed below:

  1. Get a personal credit card in your name that will be strictly for the purpose of church business.
  2. Use that credit card for all budgeted purchases you make.  (If a purchase has not been budgeted, it will need to be approved prior to the purchase.)
  3. Keep your receipts
  4. Any purchase of more than $250 will need to be approved to check for availability of funds and cash flow.
  5. When the bill/statement comes in either to your address or to the church, you will need to fill out a monthly report indicating account totals (i.e. if you have made several purchases for supplies within your ministry, you will need to enter that on one line with a total that goes into that account)
  6. Turn the Accounting sheet along with the bill & receipts in to accounting to be paid.
Once you receive your bill, identify the account numbers and the total spent within each account and log this below.  Do not show each account more than once.  Simply give an overall total spent within each account.  Place the receipts in an envelope, attach envelope to the bill and turn in for payment

Account # Description of Account Dollar amount spent
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$

Timeline Plans for Stewardship

I work best with systems in place.  I don’t have to continually reinvent the wheel, just tweak it from time to time.  The timeline below has worked great in setting up some simple stewardship plans within our church.  Many of these things I have learned by reading after Steve Stroope, Nelson Searcy, and other trainings that I go to on a fairly regular basis.  This plan has been put together as I have taken various aspects of those trainings to create a system.  I hope it is helpful to you.

Annually

Secure an Annual Commitment (Usually in January)

  • Use a card in services: Will you recommit yourself to being in a small group (which group), sharing your faith (who is on your card), quiet time (morning, afternoon or night), Serving (where), Giving (What will you give to general fund, building fund, missions fund). This is usually about the third week of January.  This is recommitting to basic Christian discipline. Allow people to specify how they plan to fulfill their commitments this year (including the amount they plan to give to the general fund, capital campaign and missions).  Don’t base your budget off of this amount – it’s for the individuals themselves. People are 15 times more likely to keep a commitment that they write it down and hand it in.

Receive Christmas Eve Offering (In addition to General Fund Offering)

  • This offering can go towards the Benevolence fund to help meet needs as they arise in the upcoming year.

Receive an Annual Offering (In addition to General Fund & Christmas Eve Offering)

  • This can be done every December.  Most nonprofits send out a lot of requests at this time of year, because they know that it is a time when people are most willing to give.  Identify what the Annual offering is going towards.  If it is missions, identify those areas specifically that people can give to.  Be detailed.  People want to know specifics.  Mail a separate envelope to the homes.  Additionally have a separate envelope in the chairs for this offering.
  • This offering is a special offering given during a set period of time around Christmas.  It encourages people to give over and above their regular tithe and offerings.  The areas this offering goes towards needs to be “Heart” projects.  It encourages people and challenges people to get involved and offers blessings for people who get involved.  The goal for this offering should be set initially to be 2 or 3 times your weekly offering.  Once your church has done this a few times, your goal will more likely be 4 to 6 times your weekly offering.
  • Identify One-time causes and new initiatives to work towards and promote.  Have no more than 3 or 4 heart causes (non-recurring).  Types of “Heart” causes could include: Missions, Church Planting, Servant Evangelism, Counseling, and Benevolence, Help for Poor & Needy, Children’s Ministry, Youth, Seniors, New Church Plant, New Multi-site Locations.  The good thing is if you don’t raise it, you don’t fund it.  These should be things that you can’t do unless people get involved.  Any money given over and above your goal can be divided equally between missions and the annual budget.
  • If you hit your goal before the season for giving is over, you can always expand the goal by adding additional elements to the goal.  Tell the church that “God has bigger plans”.  This would be a true statement if He is bringing in additional funding.
  • Note: If all of the leaders in the church give, you’re more likely to get all of your people to give.  If only half of your leaders give than likely only half of the church will give.  The Pastor and staff needs to step up and give the first gifts towards this offering.  Make it the first and best gift you can give.  If you need to pay over a few weeks, then do it.  Be sure you are a part of setting the example.
  • When you mail out your packet for the Annual Offering include, a letter from the pastor, 2 page overview sheets, Q&A Pages, Giving Envelope – Put all of this in a 6×9 envelope.  Mail this out the week after the offering is announced.  Send it to everyone who has an affiliation with your church.  If you extend the annual offering into the new year, you may want to mail another packet at the beginning of the new year.
  • You should begin your kick off for this offering the Sunday before Thanksgiving (even sooner if possible).  Include it in your Week at A Glance email newsletter every week.  Give updates and tell people where you are at in the campaign beginning in mid December (talk percentages or hard numbers, which ever works best for the time).
  • You should promote the annual offering from the stage, in sermons, in small groups, at events and activities, in leadership training meetings, etc… When you get tired of talking about the Annual Offering, the people will have heard it for the first time.  Use creative redundancy.  Think through how you say it.  Focus on the Why of the offering.  Focus in on a different area of the offering each week.

Limit Special Offerings each year

  • Don’t nickel and dime your church.  You cannot hype something new every month and expect your people to respond fresh every month.

Annual Gifts

  • At the end of each year, everyone who gives over a certain threshold will receive a gift and a letter of appreciation to those givers.  The gift might be “The Treasure Principle”, a DVD of life changes that year, or even a book on spiritual growth. You can determine what the baseline threshold is.  This investment in these people will help them develop in their gift of giving and/or see what their giving has done to impact the Kingdom.

Quarterly Letter/Statements

Send quarterly statements to give people a chance to correct their giving before the end of the year. You need to maximize these quarterly giving statements.  Include a Financial Newsletter; keep it simple and easy to understand.  Make it about more than just finance by including small group involvement, ministry involvement and other areas.  Let people know what their gift has helped you to accomplish over the quarter.  Identify life change stories because of the giving – not just numbers … include names (remember that stewardship is a heart issue).  Let people know how you are accountable for money spent and identify how the money is spent (If you are audited, let them know).  This is a chance to communicate to your people how you (leadership) are being good stewards of the resources they’re giving.  The more formal your giving statements look, the more people give.  There is trust in professionalism.  This letter or newsletter needs to come either from the lead pastor or the executive pastor.  It is always good to remind people to be consistent in their giving (2nd Quarterly statement usually has this theme).  Always put a “P.S.” in your letters – People usually read this first.  Make it more personal by signing it first name only.  Place your title below the P.S.  When sending out your letter, find a strategic time.  You may use it to coincide with helping promote a new series or something that is going to be happening.  Include some add in promotional items with the quarterly statement. It doesn’t have to be right at the end of the quarter.  To grab attention, put teaser notes on the front of your envelope.  Let people know about projects.  Include a list of designated giving options they can give toward ($50 leather-bound bible that is given to new Christians to $50,000 van for the church … this can be things that are in the budget).  This is usually about 14 items. Also tell how to give online, etc… Put camp scholarships in newsletter.  If it is 4th Quarter statement, the front of the envelope can be, “Important 2012 Tax Documents Enclosed”.

Note: You could do another statement at the end of November to help promote year end giving.  This is an opportunity to let people make sure their records are up to date.  If you do send one out at the end of November,  your Third Quarter giving statement should go out at the first of October.  Make sure the 3rd quarter statements go out First Class; this allows you to know if the address is wrong.  Bulk mailing just gets thrown out.  A website resource for ideas on mail outs is lumpymail.com.

Monthly

You can promote giving in your monthly newsletter.  Make a constant box for online giving or automatic giving.  You can also use this section to insert testimonies from members who have seen how giving has changed their lives and their perspective on God.

Weekly

First Time Givers (Send Something)

  • Send out first time giver email… thank them for their gift.  According to our records this is the first time you have given
  • When someone gives to your church it’s a great time to ask for them to give again.
  • Can send a gift to first time givers.  “The blessed life” (Randy Morris) or “Treasure Principle”.
  • First time giving letters should come from the Lead Pastor.
  • Count the number of first time givers and the number of total givers to be able to track trends within giving.

Regular Givers (Thank Them and encourage with books etc..)

  • Get a big giver report every week …  ($1000 for the first time or out of the ordinary).  They will get a handwritten letter from the pastor.  “Dear ___, Thank you for honoring God with your finances.  Your giving helps support the ministry of our church.  (signed by Pastor)  Keep a record of who those notes go out to so you don’t continue to send out the same note. If they have never received the treasure principle book … they get the treasure principle book.  If they have that you can send The Generous Giver book, The Rest of God, Margin, Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley or other life development books could be helpful.

Extravagant Givers

  • Follow the regular givers layout above.  You can also write a personal handwritten note to key givers to thank them for being willing to give.
  • Consider lining up a meal (breakfast or lunch) once or twice a week with key donors.  Once they hit a certain point in giving, have these meals be automatically set up.  This meeting is not to show favoritism to those who give, but to invest in a leader within your church who has been blessed with the spiritual gift of giving.  When you go to this meeting, get a record of their giving.  This card should have the name of the spouse, kids, activity in small group, where they are serving, etc.  Ask the giver, “Is there any way our church can do a better job of helping you grow in Christ?”  Do you have any questions about where our church is going or anything that is going on in our church?” (If they have any concern about the direction or vision of the church it will affect their giving.)  Thank them for giving financially to the church.  Tell a story of a life that was changed in the recent past.  Ask them how you can pray for them and add them to your permanent prayer list.  You generally do not ask for money at these meetings and often times it is not discussed heavily. (If you’re in a capital campaign, ask them to pray about giving the biggest gift that they have ever given.)  The main goal of this meeting is developing relationships and trust with these givers.

The timeline above is really based on the idea that stewardship is discipleship.  We must invest in people and encourage them along the journey as they grow spiritually.  I pray that some of the above plans can help you move forward in developing a culture of generosity within your church.

The Joy of Record Keeping

I know if you’re not administratively gifted that keeping records are a thorn in your flesh.  I mean, who really needs to know what people gave on a certain week or exactly how many were in small groups last week?  Aren’t we really seeking to glorify God in what we do?  I would say the answer is we need to know where we have been to know where we are going and by doing that we can glorify God in the results.  It’s interesting to me that as I read scripture, I see that someone was administratively inclined.  There was someone who counted that 3000 were added to the church on the day of Pentecost.  Someone counted that Jesus fed the 5000.  When Jesus sent out the 72 to the towns and cities, how did they know it was 72?  Someone counted that Gideon started with 30,000 men and ended up with 300 men.  The fact is that throughout scripture God is tracking what is happening in the life of the early church.  We can learn from this example and keep records of what is happening in the life of our church as well.  I’ve discovered as I look at real numbers, it is often different from my perception of how things are going.  Sometimes the real numbers encourage me and sometimes they challenge me to reach new goals.  Either way, they are valuable in measuring the physical and spiritual growth of our church.

You can track, attendance of your weekly worship service, tithes and offerings, per capita giving, baptisms, first time guests, new members, small group attendance as well as projections for some of these areas.  By tracking many of these you will be able to see over a period of time how your church is doing at evangelism and outreach, discipleship, assimilation, and other areas.

Many of the church management software today allow you to track and print reports on many of the areas above.  If you don’t have that capability, I am including a digital form (in excel format) I have used over the past several years that can help you keep records of what is taking place on a weekly basis.  You can click here to download it: Church Data Sheet


Defining the Reality of Giving

I believe that Stewardship is a process of discipleship.  Because of this, we need to be able to measure the growth of the discipleship in this area of ministry just as in any other area.  There are some who have the spiritual gift of giving, but there are others that this must be cultivated in as they develop in their walk with Christ.  As such, it is important for a pastor to not only identify the types of givers that are in the church, but also develop a plan to disciple these givers into the next step of giving.  As we take an initial look at giving there are three things we need to do:

1.  WE NEED TO IDENTIFY TYPES OF GIVERS

There are 5 Types of Givers in Every Church

Never Given  (Non-Givers)

  • How many are giving nothing?
  • This number may surprise you if you haven’t been paying attention to your giving numbers.
  • The first law of leadership is to define reality (Max Depree).  By looking at “current reality” statistics, you create a benchmark to measure progress in your church’s stewardship.  You can track individual giving in a database.  From that giving record, what percentages of the households of my church are giving? What percentages are not giving? Measure the “overall stewardship health” of your church by comparing these percentages from year to year (and do the same with serving, small groups, etc.).  Find and keep the same measurement for growth year after year for comparison.

1st Time Givers (Initial Giver)

  • How many are giving between $1 and the “poverty level income”?
  • What is “Poverty Level Tithing? Determine what the government defines as the Poverty Level income – 10% of that number is “Poverty Level Tithing”.  For example, if poverty level is $12,000 then $1200 would be a poverty level tithe.
  • Motivate first time givers by being generous to people.  When you give something to people, they are more likely to give something back to you.  This is the law of generosity.  You’re goal is creating opportunities where people’s hearts become open to giving.  Your goal is not to twist their arm to give, but to allow them to give.  If your church has a culture of holding tightly to things, you’re people will too.

Regular Givers (Systematic Givers)

  • How many are giving between Poverty Level and 10% of the median income of my community?
  • How can you determine how many people are actually tithing in your church? Determine the median household income in your area and use 10% of that number.  This will give you at least an estimate number to work through.
  • The average church has about 3% of their church who actually tithe.   (Note:  Generally 20% of the congregation is giving 80% of the income in most churches. We need to change this trend.)

Tithers (Proportional Givers)

  • What would it look like if everyone at your church tithed based on the median household income of the area where you live?
  • Determine the median household income in your area and use 10% of that number as a guide for estimated tithe.

Extravagant Givers (Sacrificial Givers)

  •  How many are giving above tithe level?
  • Regardless of income, you can become an extravagant giver.  Giving away money prompts people to give.  This gives them a standard to live up to rather than a need to meet.  If you’re church isn’t doing much … these givers will give to many other organizations, because they want to give.  Make sure extravagant giving is part of your culture.
  • What is the gift of giving?  It’s a gift that takes you immediately into the sacrificial giving area.  They have the ability to encourage others to give and teach them how and why they moved into this area.  You can identify the gift of giving by the actions of the giver.
  • Use testimonies of these givers to motivate others.  Givers can share their gift of giving without sharing the amount that they gave.  They can state that they reevaluated their priorities to make sure that they put more into giving.  You don’t have to be rich in order to have the gift of giving.
  • We have to invest personally in these people in order for them to trust us enough and the vision of the church enough to give the big gifts.  Big gifts are treated outside the planning of the budget.
  • You should challenge people to give sacrificially.  This shouldn’t be an every week request, but you can effectively make it a couple of times a year.  Sacrificial is OVER AND ABOVE the level of tithes and offerings you give now.  Sacrificial giving is consistently giving over and above the tithe.

2.  IDENTIFY WHERE OUR CHURCH IS STRONG AS WE LOOK AT THE ABOVE AREAS.

  • After identifying each area within your church, which area identifies the highest percentage of your people?
  • Are there factors that have caused one of the five areas to be higher or lower because of the area where you live?

3.  IDENTIFY THE NEXT STEPS WE NEED TO TAKE TO MOVE TOWARDS DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF GIVING WITHIN OUR CHURCH.

  • What needs to take place in order to begin to make giving a bigger part of your church culture?
  • There are some related articles at the end of this blog that could give you some ideas of some steps to take to develop a culture of giving.
  • You can encourage the gift of giving, just as you would encourage any other spiritual gift.  If someone gives beyond a threshold, send a handwritten note from the pastor thanking them for their sacrificial giving.  Keep records of who it goes to so it doesn’t go out more than once.  Send an annual gift to recognize their Kingdom investment.  This could be a book about something that could inspire rest or something that would benefit them; a DVD of baptisms (visual of how their money made a difference); or even a book on giving.
  • You can take key givers out for a meal together.  Just as you would invest in developing any other ministry gift in the church or any other leader in the church, you should invest in this as well. This shows that you are willing to invest in them – ask key questions (know about them –family, where they serve, work, etc…):  How can we better minister to you as a church?  Do you have any questions about the direction of our church?  How can I pray for you?  By answering these questions it gives them value but also clears up unanswered questions that may also be hindering their giving even though they are key givers.  (Note: Don’t try to raise money at these gatherings.)


Identifying these types of givers at our church and a plan to move people forward has had an impact on not only our church as a whole, but the spiritual growth of many within our church.

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What’s Your Plan for the Offering?

There is one part of our worship service that is often an overlooked part of worship.  This is the time when we receive the offering.  Scripture teaches us that giving our tithes and offerings to the Lord is an act of worship.  As such, we should make this part of our service a continuation of our worship.  It’s not an add-on, an extra, or a break in the flow.  It is an act of worship.  As such, this is a time where people freely give their offering to God and as a church we receive the offering. (Often referred to as “Taking the offering”, but this creates an image for me of people with ski masks and guns taking what they want.)  We should have a well thought out plan not only of how we’ll receive the offering, but once it is received have a process in place that creates integrity in handling the gift.  Let’s explore three areas together:

1.  Preparing to Receive the Offering:  Have a plan of what you will do during this time.  Think intentionally, what are you talking about before you take the offering?  Script this out. This can include an orientation to the materials that you use or even direction to how the offering will be received and opportunities available for giving at other times (i.e. online, mailed in, foyer kiosk, etc…).  Also you can cast vision by telling them “Everything we do at the church happens because you give generously.”  Continue to cast vision for what the offering will be used for as they give.  Tell them things they made happen including testimonies, videos, baptisms, vbs, missions trips, community involvement, benevolence, outreach, etc… You can also tell them, “As part of your own personal accountability, we encourage you to use an offering envelope.”  Bottom line is we need to spend time before the offering preparing to receive it in a way that will bring honor to God.

2.  Receiving the Offering: Don’t surprise people by taking the offering at random times.  During the welcome, you can tell people about when the offering is going to be received.  This helps them get prepared for that time.  Remember that the offering is worship.  As a result, you should make it easy for people to give and be involved in this part of worship. I have heard many well meaning pastors at the time of their offering encourage first time guests not to give.  We wouldn’t encourage them not to praise God in singing or to listen to the message and respond, why would we encourage them not to give as an act of worship.  For some first time guests, the best thing they could do would be to give.  It may be what they need to do to open themselves up to God.  People aren’t offended by the fact that we receive an offering, it’s how we receive it, what we say, how we say it and present it (that’s why it is important that we think this through before we get to the offering).  As you are speaking during this time, don’t make it dark in the auditorium when you tell people to fill out their envelopes.  This works against what you’re trying to accomplish.  Give a minute warning before you take the offering so people can prepare to give.  We don’t want to rush the process of giving, but we also don’t want to get stuck here either.  You should be able to receive your offering in 45 seconds to one minute.  You can do this by placing a basket/bag  per row in your auditorium prior to services starting.  This can be placed under a chair/pew or a bag can be placed at the end of each row.  By doing this, everyone can ‘pass the plate’ at the same time and the ushers simply walk through and collect the baskets/bags.  Note: If you do not actually receive the offering during services, you lose money and your people miss out on a blessing.  If you use the tithe box, people forget to use them once they leave their seat.  Because of this, you don’t need to dismiss your service until the offering is completely received.

3.  After you have received the Offering: Take it from the floor to a secure room that is not in public traffic area.  Have a minimum of 2 counters (a few more could be helpful).  You can have all the ushers go to this room and count or just a few of them.  Once your in a secure place, I have found a good practice is to have this group pray for the offering, those who gave it and for God to use it for His glory.  Have a process in place for counting the offering.  Once that is complete, have those who counted sign of on the cashout sheet, envelope or any paperwork that is used in counting.  It is good to have a safe to keep your receipts in until it can be taken to the bank.  Once the offering is counted, place it in a bag and place the bag in the safe.  (A safe that does not require a code to place something into, but requires a code to get the money out of the safe is a good one to use.)  At no time in your process should you have only one person handling the money.  This is good to protect the church as well as those who are responsible for handling the money.  It is good to have a written plan of every step the offering takes from the moment it is collected until it is deposited into the bank.  By writing it down, you can identify areas that are needing improvement.

I believe that God honors our efforts as we build integrity into this process.  I have seen what has happened at our church as we developed a solid process of handling funds as they are given.  We have seen more first time givers and increased giving in general.  I can’t help but believe that God is pleased with our desire to be good stewards with what He entrusts with us.  If there is no system in place and things just happen from week to week, it is difficult to have integrity in place. (I know this, because of where we were before we developed our system.)  But if we’re faithful with the offerings and givers we have, I believe God will honor our faithfulness.

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