A number of years ago, I had the honor of working with Pastor Howie Baird when he was serving Grand Forks Wesley UMC. If I recall correctly, a big concern of Howie’s was that about 25% of the church’s income came from three donors…all in their 80’s. At the time, Howie was working with one of the donors to have them redirect their giving to an endowment that would provide a source of income indefinitely to the church long after the donor had passed.
A little over three years ago, I met with Pastor Charlie Moore and his finance chair, Joel Metz. We discussed plans to get Sioux Falls Sunnycrest UMC on solid financial ground. Part of their plan was to contribute 3% of their offerings into an investment account so that the church would one day have an emergency fund…which is now fully funded.
The reason I share these with you is that a lot of pastors and church leaders wish their churches were better off financially, but rarely take the steps that could lead their churches in that direction. The future ministry of your church will be much brighter if you start planning and then acting today on securing your church’s financial future. This webinar, led by Sheri Meister, will help you get started today.
In the 4th quarter webinar for 2020, Sheri Meister takes the learnings from Matt Miofsky’s book “Let Go” and applies them to the church fundraising world. Here’s what I got as the key teachings:
A New Hope: Discover who you are as a church and what success looks like for your church. Without hope of a better future, giving, volunteering, and passion will dry up.
Letting Go is Necessary: You can’t have it both ways. The world we were ministering to in 1970 or 1990 or even 2019 no longer exists. What ministries and methods are still life changing and what is life draining? We just don’t have the capacity to do a bunch of new things to reach the world of 2020 while still doing everything we’ve always done.
Value the Past without Living in the Past: This was a powerful statement from one of our attendees. Is your past a foundation you’re building off of or an idol you’ve started to worship?
A sermon on giving and generosity cannot be a Saturday night special! The subject is so touchy and sensitive, it’s like handling electricity or dangerous chemicals. If you don’t take great care in fine tuning the message, someone will get hurt…and likely that someone will be you. With being a guest preacher, I almost always have the luxury of being able to plan weeks ahead and have rarely given a message that I haven’t thoroughly polished. Being an average preacher at best, the polish makes me seem like almost a good preacher.
Here’s why you need to spend the extra time fine tuning your message:
Another Perspective: Up until now, this message may have come completely from you. How will a person that is older or younger hear it? How about someone of the opposite gender? People hear things differently depending on their past experiences.
Focus: In your research and preparation, you’ll run across great info that you’d love to share…but it doesn’t quite fit with your one point. If you include this, you will weaken your overall message.
Practice: People that read their sermons or rely too much on notes or stumble over the delivery seem less believable. A simple one-point message can and should be memorized.
One of the scariest tasks that pastors and others leaders can face is asking for money. But there are some people that seem to be able to ask for large donations without breaking a sweat. Are these people just born different? Maybe. If you are one of the normal people that doesn’t look forward to asking for donations, Sheri Meister can help you.
There are really two things you need to pay attention to when preparing to make a big ask. First, pay attention to building the relationship. Treat the donor as you would want to be treated. They are not a checkbook attached to a person. They are a person. Don’t just call on them when you want something. If you go to make the ask without building the relationship, get ready to be shot down.
Second, pay attention to building the case. Sometimes when people go to make the ask, they don’t have it clear in their mind the details. The most important thing is: What will be accomplished as a result of this gift? How will the world or the church or whatever going to be better? You should also have a good enough grasp of the strategy for using the gift. You’ll need to know the who, what, when, and where.
Sheri Meister is the primary teacher relying on her decades of experience in the non-profit and fundraising world.
Did you know that the Book of Discipline states “tithing is the minimum goal of giving in The United Methodist Church?” Meanwhile, the average Methodist gave just 1.6% of their income to the church according to a 2009 study by the Indiana University. 1.6%! Apparently Methodists aren’t relying too much on the Book of Discipline…or even the Bible…to guide their giving.
The good news is that there is a ton of room for growth…if people are challenged to grow in giving and generosity. Think about it. If your church is average, and they grow to just 2%, the income to the church will increase by 25%. Here’s an example of what it would look like in an average church:
The Median Household Income in the Dakotas is $60,000.
The average giving (1.6%) ends up being $960 for the year ($20/week except they miss four weeks of the year).
If they gave 2%, their giving goes to $1,200 for the year ($20/week without missing PLUS an extra $160 gift on Christmas Eve).
A church of 30 households sees their income increase from $28,800 to $36,000.
If people are never challenged or invited to think about their giving, they usually give the same amount year after year. While not everyone will accept the challenge, some will. Churches that are courageous enough to challenge their people on giving through New Consecration Sunday or the like will see their income grow year after year. Also, I and others have noticed that people growing in giving are usually more joyful and engaged.
I’ve been preaching on tithing for quite some time now so I occasionally run into someone I’ve converted to tithing. Some years ago, a woman from Groton UMC blessed me by sharing that she had decided to tithe her Social Security check after I had preached at the church some months prior. She was so excited to tell me. And then she said this: “When I saw how well behaved your three kids were in church, and heard that you tithed, I thought, ‘if this guy can do it, surely I can too.'” It wasn’t my theological points that convicted her. It wasn’t my cleverly crafted one point. It was my testimony…in a way.
People love a good story. They tend to perk up and pay closer attention. It’s easier for them to remember. There is power to a story. A person’s giving testimony is a powerful story…as long as you keep these points in mind.
Authentic: It’s easy stretch the truth or maybe ignore struggle. The temptation is to maker ourselves the hero instead of Jesus Christ.
Relatable: The listener should be able to imagine themselves in the shoes of the person’s testimony. An exceptional life of an exception person can be demotivating for us regular people.
Format: Not everyone is comfortable or capable of sharing their testimony up on the stage. You don’t want the presentation to detract from the story.
The subject of giving and generosity is usually not a popular subject to preach on. While it’s tempting to avoid the subject altogether, most pastors know that this is an import part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. So, when the pastor does eventually preach on the subject, they are then tempted to rip off the Band-Aid and tell the congregation everything they need to know about giving and generosity in one message. This is one of the rare times when ripping off the Band-Aid will do more harm than good.
Every point in your sermon is a challenge to the listener. They are challenge to either accept or act on the idea. In such a weighty subject as giving and generosity, every challenge can feel like you’re handing the listener a cinder block. If you hand ONE cinder block to someone, they’re likely ABLE to carry it…but will they be WILLING to carry it. If you hand THREE or FOUR cinder blocks to someone, few will be able and practically no one will be willing to even try. If you are serious about life change, stick to one point. If you want to make multiple points, you’re going to have to make it a sermon series.