A Thank You Plan


Saying thank you is often a spontaneous thing. When someone does something for us, especially unasked for or at a cost to themselves, we naturally want to thank them, in words, by doing something for them, or by “paying it forward:” giving in some way to others. Most people don’t give in order to be thanked, but it feels good to know the receiver has noticed them and appreciates what they’ve done.

When we’re together as the Church, it makes a big difference when we plan to say thank you, regularly and in different ways. Cesie Delve Scheurmann, consultant and blogger, 1 offers a potent, three-part plan:

  1. Thank people who give a financial gift for the first time, or who make an unexpected gift at Christmas or at year’s end.
  2. Schedule one day every week, when you’ll write four notes of gratitude. A heartfelt thank you note for someone’s gift of time, talent, and/or treasure will make you feel good, and will please them, too.
  3. Every Sunday, plan to thank your congregation for being generous and for supporting ministries that make a difference. There’s plenty to be thankful for, including for churches that are struggling financially, and Scheurmann gives several examples. Over the course of a year, the message will sink in: “What you give brings joy to and matters in the lives of real people.”

However it’s done, giving thanks becomes a gift in itself. “You will be enriched in every way for your generosity,” Paul tells the Corinthians. Their giving will produce not only thanksgiving from Paul and his ministry partner and “not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Cor. 9:11-12) The “saints” – that’s us, and all who seek to follow Jesus – will thank God for their needs being met, and will give their thanks back, as a gift, to God. So giving thanks keeps multiplying, grace upon grace!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – Cesie Delve Scheuermann, “Set Your Generosity Priorities – Part 1,” 1/11/2017, at http://www.umoi.org/blogdetail/inspiring-generosity-7343136


Help for Talking About Money


Stewardship professionals and bloggers can be a great help to a lot of folks on the front lines of ministry – not only sharing their knowledge, but also giving courage and inspiration for our daily work. Rebekah Basinger is one of those people for me, through her site, www.generousmatters.com. For example, she wrote a piece called “Red Letter Money Talk” (Oct. 18, 2016). Here is what I wrote back to her:

“Dear Rebekah, I loved this blog! As a stewardship educator and retired pastor, I agree with Dick Towner that we can come to understand stewardship in a way that transforms hearts and conforms our lives to the image of Christ. But it’s an ongoing, lifelong process! Both confidence and care are good to have in equal measure when we allow use of money to be part of our spiritual care for those we serve.

“The best part, as you say, is knowing that we are not asking for ourselves, but instead ‘present the challenge, invite, and trust God to do the rest.’ Thank you for your encouragement!”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

The Commitment Circle


Ever since first learning about the “Commitment Circle” from the Center for Parish Development,1 I’ve been delighted to present it to local church leaders. It helps us understand different levels of involvement in the church at different points of people’s lives, without laying guilt on other people or ourselves for not getting everyone involved.

Based on ongoing research, the Center discovered four primary segments of people in North American churches. The “Creatives” usually constitute about five percent of a congregation. They’re the ones who unite their personal goals with the goals of the church, and they bring their personal creativity to the church planning process. They often chair all the committees and give generously of their time, energy, abilities and money for the church’s ministries.

The “Responsibles” are usually 15 to 20 percent of the people and are very active. They commonly fill the rest of the committee positions. Together with the Creatives, they give about 75 percent of the church’s budget. They identify with the congregation and come to all-church events. The “Responsives” can make up 20 to 30 percent of the congregation. They attend church infrequently, depending upon their family agendas. They give about 25 percent of the church’s income, and may come to an all-church event if you contact them five ways and offer to personally bring them.

The “Dormants” may be very active in other aspects of their lives, but are “asleep” at this time related to the congregation. They might have been Creatives in the past, before they had a falling-out or moved to another state or province. They may be family members of a Creative. They probably come to church only for baptisms, weddings or funerals, or for personal care during a crisis in their lives. Those who visit them need to feel personally called to a one-on-one relationship, building personal trust over a long time.

The good news about being aware of the Commitment Circle is knowing we can work where it’s most fruitful, tailoring our message to people’s different commitment levels, without implying that they’re not as involved in church life as they “should be.” We can expand from our strengths as a faith community, without trying to do everything for everyone. And the best news of all is knowing that positive change is possible, one person, one family at a time. We can change the percentages by increasing the number of Creatives, then Responsibles, and so forth, around the circle, as we work on one relationship at a time.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 missionalchurch.org

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


Rallying Stories and More, for Abundance Thinking


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


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

“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 transformingthechurch.org. 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