Tag Archives: finances

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.

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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
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$

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


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.

Resources


Giving has more Options

I must admit that when I first heard that it was possible to increase giving in our church just by increasing our options, I was skeptical.  (I was learning from teachings from Steve Stroope who wrote Money Matters in the Church and Nelson Searcy with Church Leader Insights.) We had always collected for the general fund and seldom promoted other areas of giving.  I actually thought that if we gave more options for people to give towards that it would just cause our general fund offerings to go down.  But then I heard it explained that there are different types of givers in our church.  There are those who give because the Bible says to, those who give towards special projects, those who give towards tangible needs, and others.  By broadening our ways to give, we actually were able to include more types of givers which caused our offerings to go up even when the economic times dictated they should be going down.

5 Areas of Giving

You need to collect all five areas every year!  If you don’t, you leave money on the table when these 5 areas are not in use.  When it comes to giving, options are not optional.  You should broaden options for giving to include the following:

  1. General Fund: These are rule keepers who will give to the general fund to keep the ministry going.  This pays for the light bill, insurance, chairs, buses, etc…
  2. Building Fund: These are people who will give to building funds but will never give to the General Fund initially.  Often when someone begins to give toward the building fund, they will begin to give to the general fund.  There should always be a building fund in place.  This can be used toward facilities any way needed.
  3. Designated Fund:  These are areas you can direct people to give toward.  Keep it simple and general as far as designations.  You can cast the vision specifically.  You can turn down designated gifts if it doesn’t go toward the overall vision of the church.  Quarterly Giving Statements are a great place to promote designated giving opportunities by simply placing 10 to 15 areas of need (usually specific ministry needs) in the envelope in addition to the statement.
  4. Benevolence Fund: You can take up the benevolence offering once a year on Christmas Eve.  100% of this offering goes toward this fund.  Reference this offering when you meet a public need in the community.
  5. Missions Fund:  Every year you can work towards having a special missions offering to help support the missions vision of your church.  November/December or February/March are good times to do this offering.  It should run for 4 to 6 weeks to be able to emphasize not only the offering, but the missions opportunities as well.

Many of the people who initially started giving through funds other than the general fund, started giving to the general fund as well.  The other funds actually helped jump start their tithing in their home.  Additionally, the other funds gave regular tithers a place to give towards heart felt needs that they were passionate about and allowed them to give more in these areas than above their tithe.


Gaining a new perspective on Stewardship

English: Mountain View

Image via Wikipedia

Gaining the proper perspective of stewardship is essential to developing an effective Stewardship Ministry.  We must first realize that stewardship is discipleship.  Stewardship is not about developing donors, but developing disciples.  Our goal should not be to get more money out of people, but to develop more people into disciples.  Donors give because of outside factors, disciples give from their heart.  We can actually begin to measure the spiritual growth of a church, by how loosely or tightly those within the church hold on to their money.

It starts at the top.  If we want our people to be generous, we have to have a culture of generosity.  If we are not generous to our people, they will not be generous in return.  Generosity starts with the Pastors & Staff.  If we are timid about giving others will be too.  If we have a lack of trust in God that is demonstrated by a greater trust in our money, we set the tone in our church.

God is not a God of scarcity. He is a God of abundance. We can examine three types of approaches to money that will help us better see this.  These are the Scarcity Mentality, The Abundance Mentality and the Wasteful Mentality.  The Scarcity Mentality says that every time one church gains, another church loses. This says there is “not enough to go around”.  This is when the disciples said “We only have 5 loaves and 2 fishes”. It is a mindset that God is not going to provide.  In practice, we say that we can’t afford to mail quarterly statements or print envelopes or print full color.  Then there is the abundance mentality which says that if we spend what we have in order to reach people, God will give us more. This says with Jesus, “Let’s give them something to eat”.  It is realizing that God is unlimited in His access to resources.  Last, there is the wasteful mentality, which is throwing out what is left over.  We don’t want to throw money away.  Be reasonable with what God has blessed you with.  Have a plan and work the plan.  Don’t spend just to spend, but spend for a purpose.  Remember that in the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes that the disciples collected 12 baskets of leftovers.  They did not waste it.

In understanding these different mindsets of spending within the church, we also need to understand the mindset of why people don’t give.  There are a variety of reasons, but some of the main ones are no vision, no money, no desire, family pressure, lack of trust in organization, no realized need.  People don’t really give to need, they give to vision which prompts desire in our hearts.  The best way to change the mindset of the church is to cast and recast the vision of what God can do if they give.  In casting the vision, remember that raising money is as much about how you say it as what you say.

(insights learned from personal experience and gleaning from Steve Stoope’s ministry)


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