What if the Two Largest Givers aren’t even Members

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.


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Letting Go to Fuel Generosity

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?

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Budgeting: Does your Budget tell the Story of your Church?

As an accountant, I love a line item budget. It speaks to me as clearly as a short story, but I’m in the minority. The vast majority of people need to hear the story in order to understand the budget. They don’t need more numbers. How do you transform your budget into a meaningful story about how your church is and is planning to impact this world? That’s what I walk you through in this video.

A narrative budget is a lot of work. Is it worth it? If a narrative budget helps you align your budget to your mission and helps your congregants see how their giving is making a difference, what is that worth? That’s like hiring a leadership consultant mixed with a capital campaign consultant which would normally costs thousands.


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Budgeting: What about Designated Gifts?

Sometimes church are criticized for having so much of their budget go for personnel, buildings, and administration. Sometimes church leaders (and especially the pastor) feel guilty about this too. On average, about 80% of a church’s budget goes towards these things. Church budgets rarely include estimates for designated giving although churches plan on and depend on designated gifts for youth activities and to support missionaries and to feed the hungry. Why not include designated gifts in the budget? It’ll make your church’s budget look better and may more accurately show your ministry strategy.


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Budgeting: Building or Using the Reserves

Like individuals and families, the church also needs an emergency fund. Assuming that the Holy Spirit hasn’t told you specifically otherwise, not having an emergency fund doesn’t show your reliance on God. It shows your lack of respect for the work of God. Emergencies happen…COVID-19, flooding, fires, and tragedies happen. Do you care enough about Jesus Christ to prepare for the emergencies so ministry doesn’t have to go on hold while you scramble to respond? I walk through how to actually build an emergency fund.

The other danger is for these emergency funds to take on a life of their own. A lot of church trustees have a savings account or checking account that acts as an emergency fund. I’ve heard plenty of stories where the trustees abuse their control of these funds to try to control the mission of the church. That’s an issue that can be solved as well by getting clarity on the purpose and use of those funds. Sheri Meister of the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation addresses this in a recent webinar.


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Budgeting with Purpose

For too many churches, the budget is just an annual chore that we have to go through. The treasurer and/or the finance committee take charge and plug in numbers. The church board then approves it which is then approved at the annual meeting. For too many churches, the budget is also the annual reminder that we’re failing financially, and we don’t have a plan to turn it around.

If you don’t have a clear vision/mission for your church, that’s the first priority. The vision needs to be clear enough to where you can see how it should affect you financially. The budget then becomes the plan or assignment for each dollar to move us one step closer towards realizing that vision. It’s no longer a chore. It’s a vital part of the work.


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