On Friday I had a rare opportunity. I spent the day with Rev. Clif Christopher, author of Not Your Parents Offering Plate, as he consulted with a half dozen local churches.
He looked at a bunch of things, like average giving levels and how they compare with the national average. He spent a lot of time on debt and how the debt and building it made possible are a help or a hindrance to the congregation. And he talked about why the pastor MUST know what the members of the church are giving.
But as much time as I spent listening to the expert I also spent some time listening to what the pastors and others from the local church were saying about their approach to money. In this sample of six churches there was no middle ground. Some pastors were comfortable talking about money and some weren’t.
Consider the church where the pastor revealed he had once considered becoming a stewardship consultant himself. The church was growing, members were giving 60 percent more than the denominational average. They had recently made some changes to the building to provide a better nursery. They recognized the need for more small-group space and were hoping to get the nod for a capital campaign to make this happen.
Incidentally, one of this church’s financial “problems” is that they give generously to missions in the Conference and around the world. They end the year in the black, but not with the wiggle room that some churches enjoy. I have a feeling this is connected to the average giving level.
Another consultation was quite different. The pastor had been there a while but seemed disconnected from his church’s finances. He had no idea who his largest donors were, and he seemed relieved that the congregation seemed to have no interest in a capital campaign to tackle the decade-old debt. He had no plans to have a stewardship campaign this fall and I got the impression that this was standard for his 30-some years in the ministry. We heard about how broke his members were. We never heard about his church’s vision or dream.
I often hear that we can’t constantly ask for money, and I agree with that. But we can spend more time talking about discipleship, faith, loving God more than we love Starbucks and interpreting how money funds vision which makes and matures disciples.
Autopilot is a great way to fly a plane from New York to London. It’s a lousy way to manage church finances.