What Makes a Ministry Trustworthy?

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When people want to give to a ministry to improve people’s lives, they need to know they can trust that organization to follow-through in the ways they promised. But how can they know your church or other nonprofit organization is doing the right things with the money they have given? The answer includes not only money, but also relationships and showing Jesus’ love.

Using gifts for their stated purposes – Whether people’s gifts are large or small, most donors feel a sense of personal investment, and want reassurance that their donations are making a difference in the way the church said it would. Stories about changed lives and circumstances can make a world of difference, rippling out among ministry supporters in a powerful way. Check out your organization’s listing on www.guidestar.org or www.charitynavigator.org to see how they say it has operated financially in the past.

Financial transparency is essential for any ministry. Church leaders need to discern how much detail some of their members or participants may want to see, and make that information accessible to them. In addition, conduct that is accountable and transparent earns the trust of the ministry’s employees, which creates a positive workplace for them, as well.1 The Internal Revenue Service has certain requirements for what must be publically disclosed, but a church can also create a “best practices” statement that addresses issues and values up front.

It’s also about relationships, not just use of finances. Positive experiences with core transactions can bring givers a sense of confidence in your church’s effectiveness, as well. For example, an article in Nonprofit Quarterly 2 says that the way the church or organization asks for and receives charitable contributions, how it uses its assets to benefit society, and the ways it promises mission commitment into the future all give donors a sense of its legitimacy.

Trust goes beyond relationships, as well. In a study of 16,800 givers called The Generosity Project, a nonprofit ethics organization 3 found that “overall, givers are twice as likely to say they give because they’ve been blessed as to say they give because their gift makes a difference.” In addition, 71 percent of their givers were more likely to consider giving to a ministry if it showed the love of Jesus. And for those donors who were Millennials, they were “ten times more likely to support a ministry that shows the love of Jesus than any other guiding trait of ministry service.”

May your ministries show themselves to be trustworthy in all of these ways!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 = www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/financial-transparency

2 = “The Public’s Trust in Nonprofit Organizations: The Role of Relationship Marketing and Management,” by Herrington J. Bryce, in https://nonprofitquarterly.org

3 = www.ecfa.church

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Resurrection Generosity

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

On this Easter Day, I was thrilled to read today’s meditation from www.generositymonk.com. He cited Franklin Brookhart about “Resurrection Gratitude and Generosity.”

“The resurrection of our Lord is the paradigm of the way God works,” says Brookhart. “Resurrection means fullness and abundance of life – all of life. . . .” This statement aligns with what I see in the world these days, as well as within us human beings: God entering into deadly places and transforming them into opportunities for new life. Whether it’s an addict’s turnaround to claim a new beginning, or people saving lives in the midst of the devastation of war, in all sorts of places God inspires and empowers us to choose life and give and receive generously out of who we are.

Brookfield continues, “I am convinced that resurrection gratitude is a key component to maturity in the spiritual life . . . – the resurrection generosity of God.” Resurrection generosity, yes! It’s the deep generosity of God, Who loves us so much that God shocks and invites us into new life. And it’s that quality of generous-hearted living to which we are called, in turn – receiving little resurrections time and again, and gratefully responding in the all the daily ways we can.

A joyous Easter to you!

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Holy Week Writing at Mount Hermon

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It was an amazing way to enter into Holy Week, recalling Christ’s last week here on earth as Jesus of Nazareth. I joined about 300 people – writers, agents and editors – for the Christian Writers Conference in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. Mount Hermon is a glorious site filled with both young and ancient coastal redwoods: an inspiring place for walking, writing, worshiping, and consciously being with God.

 Mount Hermon is a place already filled with good memories for me, since our family rented a cabin here several times when I was young, and one weekend a year our entire congregation would close the church building and take over these campgrounds for worship, learning and community.

 But I have cherished it differently the times I’ve come for the Christian Writers Conference, and especially this year. Yes, individual appointments with editors have given the opportunity of a lifetime, as we’ve come with our book proposals and writing ideas. But the most moving dimensions have been seeing so many people for whom the passion to write is normal, and worshiping together as Christians with this common call. The variety of theologies and church brands made no difference, as we knelt on common ground – particularly inviting Jesus Christ to enter into our spiritual Jerusalems once more.

 Holy Week can be an emotional roller coaster, between the depths of sacrifice and self-giving that Jesus gave us, and the Easter glory yet to come. It reveals the extremes of faithful human living in response to God’s incredible grace. In the face of all this, how can we strive to be anything less than stewards of God’s grace?

 Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Plan for Earth Day April 22

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Earth Day is coming up soon this month, so now is a perfect time to decide as a congregation what you can do to encourage good stewardship of this earth. Here is a response I sent to Adam Hamilton, United Methodist minister and author, in reply to his 2015 blog about Earth Day at adamhamilton.org:

“Thank you, Adam, for highlighting Earth Day to raise awareness of the importance of being good stewards of our earth. I especially appreciated your emphasis on the daily ways we can care for the earth in the habits and patterns of our lives.

” As a U.M. minister and stewardship writer, I’ve seen what a great impact individuals in a congregation can have on their local community. One local church formed a group called Earthkeepers. They educate their neighbors in community events, and host free toxic clean-up days.

” As we move closer to 2017 Earth Day this month, we can get more ideas from www.earthdayinitiative.org, and decide to do something locally. Sincerely, Betsy Schwarzentraub, generousstewards.wordpress.com.”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Lynne Twist for Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday

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Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” this April 23 will include Lynne Twist, inspiring blogger and author of The Soul of Money. I was so moved by her blog, “Super Soul Sunday with Oprah” that I made the following comment:

“Lynne, I was thrilled to read your response to being interviewed by Oprah for this April’s Super Soul Sunday. Navigating the world of money can be hugely challenging, whether we come from our U.S. obsessed “money culture,” or from impoverished situations like those of Oprah’s Leadership Academy graduates. It takes attention, persistence and intentional gratitude to mature in the very traits you have and recognized in Oprah: spiritually grounded, loving, smart, and incredibly generous.

“A key aspect of growing such generous souls is telling ‘rallying stories:’ experiences that inspire hope, and trust in God’s abundance. When we reflect on learning from our own experiences and share what we’ve heard from others, we encourage healing in our relationship with money in an amazing ripple-out way. Thank you for your own grounding and the way you share rallying stories about generous stewards with so many of us in the process!”

Lynne Twist’s site is http://soulofmoney.org. Another great resource is Rebekah Basinger’s www.generousmatters.com.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub