Rallying Stories and More, for Abundance Thinking

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This week I relished listening to Rebekah Burch Basinger in this month’s “Author Chat” done by the basinger-rebekah-burchEcumenical Stewardship Center. 1 She is the co-author of the classic, Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry. Part of her conversation was about what it would mean for abundance to be the stewardship model in people’s lives, instead of a scarcity mindset that assumes we never have enough resources to accomplish what God has called us to do.

“This whole concept is really foundational: to put God in givers’ hearts first,” said Rebekah. “We need to keep the focus on the giver’s heart, and not let anything get in front of that” (such as money or institutional needs).

Even when a nonprofit organization or a local church is facing a big financial challenge, she said, participants can start by asking themselves what assets they have, instead of what they lack. One example she gave was when she got to work with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Arizona. Despite their difficult financial dilemma at the time, their new bishop asked the question, “What do we want to accomplish, and what will be needed to do it?” When the church leaders and members looked at their situation from that point of view, they realized they already had a lot of what they needed.

So what can church leaders do to encourage such an abundance approach? Rebekah cited these four things:

  1. Tell positive “rallying stories” of God’s abundance in the past, when God came into a particular situation and responded with abundant grace. Then ask the members what they learned from that story to help in their current circumstances.
  2. Talk about money regularly, as an everyday part of the church’s conversation.
  3. Be faithful in reporting back to givers, letting them know how their giving made a positive difference in people’s lives.
  4. Find every opportunity to celebrate your congregation’s corporate generosity, saying Thank you for all they have done to make a positive difference.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – To hear all of Rebekah Burch Basinger’s Author Chat, go to the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s website, stewardshipresources.com/authorchats/basinger. While you’re there, check out the other authors, as well, offered for free.

Dimensions of Stewardship

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Stewardstew-time-flower-handsship is the way we manage all that God has entrusted to us. Which stewardship dimensions are strengths in your church? In which areas would you like to grow? What would you want to teach?

Stewardship of Lifestyle and of the Environment

Caring for the earth and all creatures; finding a balance between work and rest

“Money, Values and Discipleship”

“Moving Toward Simpler Living”

Contact your conference officer related to Church and Society workshops and resources.

Funding the Church

Discovering ways to be creative and ministry-based in our yearly stewardship funding effort

“Creating a Climate for Generous Giving”

“Funding the Church”

“Annual Stewardship Campaigns”

“Funding Outside the Box” (grants, etc.)

Church Financial Management

Developing a church budget that’s clear and mission-focused; providing audits and effective financial accountability

“Designing the Local Church Budget”

“Narrative Budgets: Building Them and Using Them to Communicate Your Mission”

Personal and Family Financial Management

Getting free of captivity to money and credit; moving toward debt-free living

“Drawing the ENOUGH Line”

“Generational Stewardship”

“Empowering Stewardship Among Young Adults”

Time, Talents and Spiritual Gifts

Expressing the gospel through our time, talents, and personal involvement; developing a spiritual gifts-based ministry

“SpiritGifts” retreat

“Equipped for Every Good Work”

Planned Gifts, Trusts and Wills

Helping individuals know our options for giving to ministries in future generations; promoting planned giving and the local church endowment fund

“Nine Ways to Make a Planned Gift to Last Forever!”

“Why Endowments?”

“Setting Up a Local Church Endowment Fund”

Proportionate Giving and Tithing

Learning to give the first and the best to God and managing the rest according to God’s priorities

“‘Holy Smoke!’ Firstfruits Living”

Stewardship Education (biblical, theological)

Exploring stewardship in the context of Scripture in a variety of life situations

“Biblical Stewardship” retreat

“Biblical Stewardship” workshop

Shared Ministry & Mission Interpretation

Sharing stories of personal transformation thanks to our connectional giving and local mission involvement

Create a display of shared-ministry missions to circulate among the churches or use in your congregation

Plan and publicize speakers to share stories about how people’s lives have changed thanks to generous giving

Create videos and share them through social media

Top Ten Ways to Increase Giving in Your Church

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With the New Year upon us, now is an excellent time to look at the overall strategies of your congregation to encourage generous giving. Thankfully the Spirituality and Giving Project 1 studied 1,157 churches of more than two dozen denominations related to what motivates members to give, and what influences them to increase their giving. The churches were rural, urban and suburban from both the U.S. and Canada.

fire-heart-2These were the top ten overall strategies that are the most effective ways to increase giving in a congregation. They are:

  1. Connect individual giving directly to the spiritual life of each person.
  2. Begin practicing stewardship education as a twelve-month process which involves children, youth, and adults.
  3. Encourage tithing or proportionate giving.
  4. Let people make pledges and regular gifts to more than a single fund, encouraging rather than discouraging designated giving.
  5. Provide opportunity for people to give from both checking and savings.
  6. Promote special offerings more effectively.
  7. Encourage the pastor to be actively involved in stewardship education and fund-raising.
  8. Send more frequent financial statements to members and constituents who support the church.
  9. Emphasize the mission and vision of your church rather than the line item budget – and remember that people give to people and God, not budgets.
  10. Help people give through their wills, living trusts, life insurance policies, and similar means.

As you put together your church’s Generosity Plan for this year ahead, you can start with this “Top Ten,” assessing what the leadership does well and what one or more things you can improve, to help grow more generous-hearted givers.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – Study conducted by Christian Community, which published The Desires of Your Heart: Financial Giving and the Spiritual Life (1997: Christian Community, Fort Wayne, Indiana), by Holly Carcione, Steve Clapp, Kristen Leverton and Angela Zimmerman. The authors listed these ten strategies on p. 22 and used them as the subjects of each of the book’s chapters.