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In his book Linear Giving Rev. Neil Orchard goes directly against some of the most widely-read stewardship experts of our time.
And I think he’s dead right.
The common wisdom is that the budget process and stewardship program should be completely disconnected. Don’t provide a budget and ask the congregation to fund it. Make stewardship about responding to what God had provided.
Reverend Orchard points out that the way this usually works is the finance committee operates out of a scarcity model. Budget requests come in, they pare them back to show an annual increase of 3% or so, members increase their giving by an equally modest amount, payroll is met, checks clear and everyone is happy.
But how many of us have a 3% mentality anywhere else in our lives? I look at what I was paid in my first job out of graduate school 20 years ago. If I had a 3% increase every year I would be paid just about half what I am now. I imagine many of you have had the same experience. We tend to dream smaller for our church than we do for ourselves.
Rev. Orchard proposes that we present the same ol same ol, the 3% budget we have conditioned our members to expect. But then have a step. What would happen to our ministry if giving increased 10%? We would hire that full time youth director we have always wanted, upgrade the lighting in the sanctuary and send a dozen volunteers to Haiti for a mission trip. If it went up 20% we would do all of the above plus replace the carpet in the narthex, add a contemporary worship service and expand our after school program to include dinner for the student’s family.
Do you dare dream what you could do if it increased 50%? Or more?
Go ahead, live a little, have that dream. I’ll wait.
Here’s the dirty little secret. The average United Methodist in the U.S. gives about 1.5% of the family income to the church. That’s one-seventh of a tithe. Do the math. What is the number if your church budget increased seven fold? What would your ministry look like if you had those kinds of resources?
Bishop Hopkins calls us to be mission outposts in our communities. What kind of mission outpost would you be with that kind of money?
I love finance committees. In many churches it is the hardest working group. But they tend to be lousy dreamers. Give your entire congregation the job of deciding how big of a dream your church can afford. Then assign the finance committee to figure out how to spend that boat load of cash.
You can learn more about Rev. Orchard and Linear Giving at rivertreestewardship.com