Components for Creating a Culture of Generosity


Developing a Strategic Plan — Notes from a presentation by Michael Reeves

What are the components of creating a culture of generosity?

  1. Clear statement of what you believe – This includes both your mission statement and your financial support [See “Attributes of a Biblically Generous Church”]

2. Leadership – Lay and professional; Boards; Wealth + Wisdom + Work; Define reality and express appreciation [Ex: Ask, Thank, Tell by Charles Lane]

3. Communication – Most churches need to rethink this area (ex: quarterly, not monthly)

4. Education – About both our mission and different ways to give

5. One-to-One Cultivation – Major donor development

6. Annual giving – Starting point for financial stewardship commitment; Communicate clear expectations / levels of giving; Say thanks

7. Capital giving – Major gifts; Segmented or campaigns; 1 Chronicles 29:1-9; Exodus 36

8. Planned giving – Endowments; Is your church really a candidate for receiving planned gifts?; Focus on wills and bequests; maybe charitable gift annuities

9. Fund raising events — Do a hard evaluation; Two purposes – Are the events for money? Or for community?; The fund raising ratio for the effort is often questionable

10. End-of-Year appeal – Not an “annual lamentation of desperation;” Say, “Look at what we have accomplished with your generosity!;” Say, “Look at what we anticipate next year.”

The Bottom Line:

NBC TV concludes its evening broadcast with a thematic story, called “Making a Difference” – Like the “End result” of changing lives – Our mission: creating a culture of generosity. It is a vital catalyst in “making a difference.”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub


“Stewardship and Culture” course in January


person-w-cross-signI’m excited to teach an online course on “Stewardship and Culture: Building Contagious Generosity” this next Jan. 9 through Feb. 11. Registration will be open beginning in December at The class will feature four audio-video presentations, an interactive online Class Forum, and four weekly live conference calls on Saturdays, Jan. 21 and 28 and Feb. 4 and 11. We’ll begin with a conference call on Jan. 9 to introduce ourselves to the class, website, and one another.

The course will explore how aspects of our North American culture influence our practice of stewardship and giving. Students will frame critical questions about consumerism and God’s vision of sufficiency, recognize the impact of technology and marketing on consumerism, and begin to create an intentional Generosity Plan for their congregation. Topics will include critiquing mainstream-culture assumptions about achievement and individualism, redefining ourselves from consumers to stewards, shifting our focus from “the market of one” to hands-on community work, and strengthening a culture of generosity within our faith network.

“Stewardship and Culture” is sponsored by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, which provides stewardship resources for churches and Christian organizations all across the U.S. and Canada. I look forward to joining in this venture with you!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

April 26 Author Chat


Afire front coverI invite you to a free, online “Author Chat” with me on April 26, 2016 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, sponsored by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. I am looking forward to it!

In the first half, I’ll talk (live) over some Power Point slides about what I’ve learned so far through work with churches and my books, Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living and Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards. Then we’ll have a question-and-answer session using the participants’ typed-in questions and moderated by Marcia Shetler, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.

Stewardship bookTo learn more and to register, go to and click on “Register” in the Author Chat section. They’ll email you a URL so you can click on the link to participate. I hope you’ll join us!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Creating a Narrative Spending Plan


How can we build a Narrative Spending Plan, or Narrative Budget? Church leaders and pastors are familiar with the process of establishing a line-item budget, but a Narrative Budget is done a different way. It starts by forming a small group of church leaders who are familiar wGiving wordleith the church’s current ministries, including the pastor.

Each local church develops its own creative way of doing it, but these are the basics:

  1. Identifying Ministry Dimensions

What are the three or four core dimensions of our congregation’s ministry? We’re not talking about individual programs here, but essential umbrellas that make this church the Church. It also may include an aspect that is part of the congregation’s essential DNA. Here are four real examples, with sample programs under each category.


+ Spiritual Formation – Ex: Worship; children, youth and family ministries, Sunday school; Bible studies and small groups

+ Compassion and Service – Ex: Food for the hungry; local homeless and advocacy ministries; international mission; denominational and ecumenical shared ministries

+ Congregational Care – Ex: Hospitality; fellowship events and groups, classes, women’s and men’s groups; shawl ministry; Communion to shut-ins.


+ Worship – Connecting to God

+ Congregational Care – Connecting to one another

+ Faith Development – Connecting to our own best selves

+ Mission and Outreach – Connecting to God’s agenda for the world.


+ Connectional Ministry – Local, independent and denominational mission

+ Christian Education – Learning for all ages; materials and support for short term and ongoing groups

+ Community and Regional Outreach

+ Media Plan – Witness and Welcoming.


+ Open Hearts – Ex: Various events that reach out to parts of the church family; celebrations of the Church Year; a weekly newsletter; talent, equipment and supplies for worship and music ministries; a repainted parsonage and improvements on the place we call home; and pastoral leadership for worship, teaching and personal support

+ Open Hands – Ex: Peace with Justice and Church-and-Society work as a congregation; weekly outreach and Thrift Shop; maintenance and upgrades of the church and other buildings to host weekly and monthly meetings of community groups; participation in CROP Walk, AIDS Walk, etc; special offerings in response to world disasters

+ Open Minds – Ex: Curriculum and materials for Sunday school leaders; facilities and teaching materials for adult learning groups; involvement in community studies; support through Shared Ministries for seminaries, colleges and training; a local church scholarship for single heads of households.

Where a given church places a specific program depends upon the nature of the group and its community context at this time. For example, a congregation may put the Youth Group under congregational care for the youth in its church family. Another sees the program as community outreach, since most of the participants are in the community. Or they may see it as spiritual formation, since they are offering a biblical basis for living, shaping young minds, hearts and lives.

2. Allocating Time for Staff and Facilities

            Pastors are not overhead! Neither are other staff members, from church administrators to gardeners. In this second step, we divide up salaries, materials and financial benefits for each person according to our dimensions of ministry. For example, in Model I above, 80% of the cost for a Christian Education staff person might go under Spiritual Formation (for preparing, coordinating and leading the Sunday school and other small groups), 10% under Congregational Care (for connecting with families within the congregation), and 10% under Compassion and Service (for direct community outreach inviting families to attend invitational events). In some situations, it might be 25% or more relating to the community.

The best way to figure out division of the pastor’s time is for him or her to do a not-too-detailed time study for two weeks or a month, and have the pastor divide it up according to the different ministry dimensions. This doesn’t have to be too complicated or a matter of committee oversight: just looking at blocks of time, for example, for visiting in homes, worship preparation, community involvement, etc. Administration is not a category in itself; it’s always for a ministry purpose. For example in Model IV, part of the pastor’s time is named under Open Hearts, and the rest assigned to Open Hands (in community involvement) and Open Minds (in teaching and group work).

The same process goes for the church’s property and facilities. What ministries are the buildings used for? For example, Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups may meet there 20% of the time (in Model II would it be put under Mission and Outreach, or Faith Development?), fellowship groups may meet there 30% of the time (under Congregational Care), and worship-related events might take place there 50% of the time. Once we decide the percentages, we can portion out the utilities and other related costs.

Putting It All Together

            For most churches, the Narrative Spending Plan ends up on one or two pages with a single money amount underneath each ministry-dimension category. We may decide to add a few bullets above that number under each category for what we would like to add or expand. When we do that, the piece can be handed out as part of the Financial Commitment response time, to encourage givers. Afterwards, we can take the money amounts off the page and use it as a flyer that answers the question, “What does this congregation do, anyway?” to put in the pew racks and take it around to the community.

Inevitably this process of creating a Narrative Spending Plan produces an “Aha!” somewhere along the way. For example in Model II, maybe we hadn’t realized we put this much energy into Community and Regional Outreach, or so much or so little into Witness and Welcoming. These realizations can lead to celebrating what we’re doing and to deciding to change our emphasis to rebalance the church’s work in the year ahead. It becomes a process of greater awareness for church leaders and an outreach tool for a variety of events.

Stewardship and Culture online course


I’m excited to be teaching an online course from mid-January to mid-February, 2016 on “Stewardship and Culture: Building Contagious Generosity.” Sponsored by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and, it features four audio-video presentations over four weeks with an interactive Class Forum. We’ll also hold three conference calls: one on Jan. 11 (to give a week to learn how to navigate the site before the assignments begin), one on Jan. 30, and one on the final day, Feb. 13.Ecumenical Stewardship Center

The course will explore how aspects of our North American culture influence our practice of stewardship and giving. Students will frame critical questions about consumerism and God’s vision of sufficiency, recognize the impact of technology and marketing on consumerism, and begin to create an intentional Generosity Plan for their congregation. Topics include critiquing mainstream-culture assumptions about achievement and individualism, redefining themselves from consumers to stewards, shifting their focus from “the market of one” to hands-on community work, and strengthening a culture of generosity within their faith network.

The common book for our time together is Christine Roush’s Swimming Upstream, but I’ll reference some other outstanding resources as well, for use in church study groups and to put into an intentional Generosity Plan for the students’ congregations. While the presentations, questions and assignments are set up to begin Jan. 18, all of the material is available now, to be explored on your own time. The last day to sign up is Jan. 21.

I hope you’ll join me in this course, so we can participate together!

Your partner in ministry,

                                                     Betsy Schwarzentraub

Vital Signs


We measure what’s important to us. I heard that statement a longFoothills UMC vital signs logo time ago, but it becomes truer with one’s age and with experiences in the local church. It’s like taking our pulse as we exercise, to make sure we are growing a stronger, healthier body. And now that the Bishops of the United Methodist Church are asking for congregations’ “measurables,” local church leaders are even more aware of needing to create and note observable measures for church vitality.

Okay, so some people are more Left Brain than others. They like to set up goals and measure progress along the way. But when we switch the subject from personality traits to behavior – to what we actually do – measurables become important to us all. As the old adage goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter where you are.”

The kick, of course, is choosing what we will measure. As a congregation, if we measure only worship attendance and income, that tells us we’re not in the gospel business, but simply a generic service organization. So it’s essential to think deeply about what we measure and to figure out how to assess aspects of ministry that are naturally more qualitative then numerical. I have given it a try in the article on this site called “Ways to Measure Generosity in Our Local Church Life.” (Scroll down on the left to the category of ‘Creating a Congregational Generosity Plan.’) Depending upon your congregation’s context, size and energy level, you can put specific numbers to the general phrases like “regularly invite,” “involve an increasing number,” and “increase participation.”

The point is not to reach some magic number in any of your indicators, but to consciously keep moving, as you grow in intentionality and in opportunities for people to deepen their relationship with God in Christ. As you choose any of those indicators and develop new ones, please let me know how it goes. How are you measuring generous-hearted living in your congregation?

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Why a Three Year Plan is Easier Than Six Months


Many church leaders think it is so difficult just dealing with the crises of the next six months, they can’t imagine planning ahead for three or more years! But the truth is it’s easier to plan when we look further out in time, for at least five reasons:

1. Taking a longer view helps us get our head above water.  Without planning, as
the old saying goes, we’re so “up to our neck in alligators that we forget our original objective was to drain the swamp.” But when we take the long view, we can gather other resource people and materials to limit the reptiles, so we can take on the alligators one at a time.

2. We can plan for both change and stability.  People do best when we do not try to
change everything at once. By looking at yearly cycles, we can remember community and all-church events, and assess how many people we need to prepare and publicize them. We can also coordinate our efforts by connecting with other leadership groups in the church during the early planning stages.

3. It prompts us to plan in the context of the whole church and of the
congregation’s mission. Just because our team is excited about stewardship doesn’t mean it will stir everyone’s heart. A three-year plan reminds us to make our decisions as part of a whole church family with many different activity areas. It also urges us to make our case for the importance of stewardship as it relates to this congregation’s specific vision.

4. A three-year plan urges us to introduce different aspects of stewardship. With
so many dimensions of stewardship of the gospel, an ongoing three-year plan gives us time to introduce one new element (perhaps in a workshop, worship series theme, newsletter article, display or special speaker) every quarter or six months according to how it will fit into the congregation’s ongoing programs. We can begin with areas of clearly expressed interest and need, and progress to stewardship areas that are less-known or more challenging to our local church members.

5. A multi-year plan prompts us to reinforce and build upon our stewardship learnings. A plan gives us both focus and direction, so we provide opportunities to grow as stewards. Each time we plan and publicize an event or share through the written word, we are building upon the aspects of stewardship we have taught before. When we finish our Year One, the plan advances and we set a course for our new Year Three. Stewardship education is like planting seeds: we are always planting and encouraging new growth.

Betsy Schwarzentraub