Seven Attributes of Generous Churches

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            Patrick Johnson has worked with innovative U.S. churches for almost ten years, seeking to answer the question, “What does it take to create a culture of generosity in a local church?” In “Seven Attributes of a Generous Church,”1 he names seven common characteristics he has discovered. The more generous congregations he has encountered:

  1. Are led by generous staff and key lay leaders who give with accountability and promote trusting relationships, personally demonstrating the joy and impact of generous giving.
  2. Communicate a strong vision of why their church exists. The top three places they connect ministry with money given are: during the offering time, in quarterly giving statements, and at an annual Vision Meeting with the congregation.
  3. Focus strongly on making a difference in the community and the world, trusting in their big view of a generous God. Their commitment to local and global outreach moves them toward giving half of their budget to external projects, “because it’s who we are.”
  4. Teach people a holistic theology of stewardship, generosity, and God’s Reign, exploring the connection between giving and grace.
  5. Provide discipleship environments for people to practice stewardship and generosity, reaching out to everyone, whether they are financially struggling, fiscally solid, or seeking to invest and manage their surplus.
  6. Develop an organizational culture that supports the priesthood of all believers, helping them follow God’s call to use their time, abilities and finances outside current church programming, as well as within it.
  7. Steward the church funds effectively by setting budgets and managing the resources of the church, allocating income and assets among buildings, staff and external giving, and communicating their management through Town Hall Meetings, quarterly giving statements, and annual reports.

These best practices are not cookie-cutter activities for us to copy, but rather habits that develop over time, uniquely suited to the congregation’s local context and DNA. They prompt many of us to rethink our habitual actions – and risk some new behaviors.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 www.GenerousChurch.com

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Churches on the Move

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Downtown Disciples man at keyboard in classroom            What a gift it is to meet and share with colleagues across the U.S. and Canada through the “Stewardship and Culture” online course! One of the topics in our most recent conference call was about churches that are not tied to a specific church building but are literally “on the move” in the community.

One is called The Mobile Church (in Dallas, Texas?). Its members meet for worship in office buildings and unused theaters. One usual spot for midweek gatherings is at a Starbuck’s, where other coffee patrons inevitably are attracted and join in. Another is Downtown Disciples in Des Moines, Iowa. Their weekly “meetups” include live music and worship at a community center; and Wine & Word: A progressive discussion around current events and Scripture, at a winery. Their Meetup Groups frequently get together at Smokey Joe’s Sandwich Shop.

These churches remind me of Old Testament scholar Albrecht Alt, who said that in the entire Ancient Near East, only the God of the Old Testament was “a God Who goes with us.” While other supposed gods were eternally linked to a set territory and shrine, God / the LORD / “I Am Who I Am” could move outside a specific territory, wherever God’s people traveled – even as far as Babylon during the Exodus.

Churches on the move remind us that God is not locked into a specific piece of private property, and we can travel anywhere with God, as well. What would happen if we were bold about using public spaces for ongoing worship as well as witness?

Yours partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Growing Generosity: Six Best Stewardship Practices – Canada Study

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Based on “Growing Generosity: Identity as Stewards in the United Church of Canada,”
a 2009 United Church of Canada study, by Barbara Fullerton

What best practices in the local church correlate with increased financial giving? A six-year study of the congregations in the United Church of Canada revealed six essential behaviors:

1. Operational management with sound fundraising methods including mission clarity, a narrative budget, an annual giving program, donor appreciation, and multiple opportunities for financial giving;

2. Integration of stewardship in worship: using stewardship worship resources in worship planning,1 preaching stewardship almost every week, nurturing young stewards through children’s messages, and celebrating the offering as an act of worship;

3. Stewardship formation creates a culture of gratitude and generosity, including stewardship education with youth and adults through classes, confirmation, Vacation Bible School, Bible study and small groups, legacy giving seminars, and personal finance training;

4. Stewardship leadership by clergy and laity through involvement in wider church roles and stewardship training;

5. Opportunities for spiritual nurture through Bible study and small group ministries, encouraging a shift of self-image from consumer to steward;

6. Engagement in social justice concerns that reveal a clear congregational DNA and mission as the basis for an effective stewardship strategy, resulting in community outreach opportunities.

“Stewardship connects to all aspects of church life,” says researcher Barbara Fullerton. “It is an ongoing conversion process of daily decisions that relates to all that we are, do and have, both individually and in community.”

1 = Find an excellent resource in Radical Gratitude, offertory prayers, stewardship nuggets and more, on the “Stewardship In Worship” tab at http://www.gbod.org/stewardship.

Questions for Discussion

• In which of these six core practices can your congregation engage more intentionally?

• How can you weave these components into your church plan and evaluation process?

Written 4/6/2011 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church

Teaching Healthy Money Habits: Christ Church, Richmond, VA

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What are youth learning about healthy money habits from the adults around them? How can local churches help shape young people’s financial values? The issue is urgent, and some churches are stepping up to the task.

Take Christ Church in Richmond, Virginia, for example. To grow generosity among their members, they knew they needed to break open conversations about money and values. Their goal was not just to raise money for the congregation’s ministries, but also to involve all generations in conversations that connect faith, values, and money.

So in 2010 they launched churchwide forums using Nathan Dungan’s Money Sanity curriculum. They chose a time of year to do the study different from when they asked for funding. Now they are moving to a second round of small-group discussions based on Dungan’s book Money Sanity Solutions: Linking Money and Meaning.

Small group exploration strengthens churches as well as families. A Canadian study of stewardship practices found that when congregations offered personal financial training for their members, overall giving went 25 percent higher than in churches that offered nothing.
With dramatic increases in debt, families need help now more than ever. “The church needs to step up and reclaim its voice as a countercultural leader,” says Dungan. “Millions of youth and adults are eager to live differently and to think more deeply about aligning their faith, money and values” with God’s call to be God’s people.

Questions for Discussion
* How does your church teach healthy money habits to children, youth, and families?
* What steps could you take to encourage conversations about money, faith, and values?

For more about Nathan Dungan’s resources, go to http://www.sharesavespend.com.
Written 3/16/2011 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church

Five Star Stewardship Award

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What would it take to help your congregation develop a plan for cultivating generosity year-round? The East Ohio United Methodist Foundation has created an incentive for local churches in its conference, called the Five Star Stewardship Award.

“The important thing is not to compete with other churches or gain a certain number of points, but to say ‘What are the things that my church needs?'” says Brian Sheetz, Executive Director of the Foundation. “What are the things that we do well, and what can we learn from others that’s a good idea so we can do things better?”

The purpose of the award is to encourage congregations to engage in a comprehensive stewardship program by recognizing them at four levels: the Five Star Church (all churches with 150 or more points and all required components); the top earning Five Star Church in each district and in the conference; and the district with the highest percentage of Five Star Churches. The Foundation will give $250 to the mission project of the top point church in the conference.

The award has four major components: connectional stewardship, local stewardship effort, church finance and budgeting, and a narrative summary describing changed attitudes and outcomes.

The award gives specific options. For example, the church can create an active stewardship committee that is separate from finance; have a ministry supported by the church speak about how the church’s gifts change lives; or show staged increases in shared ministry apportionments. A church can have at least five stewardship sermons throughout the year, set up endowment fund policies, or do a ten-year analysis of ther church’s giving.
The Foundation also provides lists of possible “Thank You” speakers, International Mission speakers, and suggested congregation-wide studies. To see all criteria, see “East Ohio Five Star Stewardship Award.”

Questions for Discussion
* What encouragement does your conference have for churches to cultivate generosity year-round?
* If you were to create a year-round stewardship plan for your congregation, what components would you include?
* What assistance does your Conference United Methodist Foundation offer for stewardship education and action in any of these aspects?

Written 2/11/2011 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church

Faithful Steward Award: Western North Carolina UM Foundation

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What does it look like to be a faithful steward congregation, and how can we encourage and measure growth in our stewardship as a community of faith?

The United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina has come up with a way to assess and recognize great stewarding behaviors. This year, they launched the Faithful Steward Award to recognize outstanding local churches that demonstrate excellence in their ministry of faithful stewardship and to inspire all churches to participate in stewardship growth.
The award application lists specific congregational behaviors in five categories: connectional stewardship and personal stewardship, church finances and budgeting, church stewardship support, awareness and education. It includes options such as an event or initiative to advocate for the poor; a youth or children’s stewardship event or study; two environmental initiatives annually; ongoing stewardship emphases throughout the year; and a small-group stewardship study.

For those whose heart quickens when there’s a bit of competition, the award gives a total of 260 achievable points. Those with the highest number of points in their district will be recognized in the districts, and churches with 175 points or more will receive a certificate at annual conference session.

To see the award application, contact Lauralee Bailey, Senior VP of Communications, at 1-888-450-1956, extension 1503.
Questions for Discussion
* How would a Faithful Steward Award encourage your congregation’s stewardship ministry?
* How can you help shape and share faithful steward behaviors among the churches in your area?

Written 12/6/2010 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church

Faith and Work: Bridging the Gap

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For Christians who work in professions that are not automatically labeled as ministry, sometimes it can feel as if there’s a gap between what we do on Sunday and what we do on our work days the rest of the week. But that’s not so at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PC) in New York City, where plenty of ministry happens every weekday through its Center for Faith and Work.

Founded in 2003, the Center for Faith and Work exists to equip, connect, and mobilize leaders in various professions and industries as ministry settings for Christians to live out their faith in their professions. Part of this connection is to affirm their vocation, to hold them accountable to Christian values in the workplace with others who understand their work context, and to encourage them to explore deeper ways to spark gospel-centered transformation for the common good.

“They took Welfare to Work to a whole new level. They call it Welfare to Career,” says Janet Jamieson, CPA, professor and co-author of Ministry and Money: A Practical Guide for Pastors.1

Over the years, leaders in the Redeemer community have initiated small groups that meet regularly to serve particular professional communities or interest areas. These professions include business, education and entrepreneurship, the arts, advertising and healthcare, financial services, filmmaking, fabric arts, and legal services.

But Redeemer’s program is not alone. “There are at least 1300 Christian Faith at Work organizations,” says Jamieson. “Why not have them grounded in the church?”1
The Center’s organization of multiple vocational groups is a great inspiration. So how might we begin in our own congregations, perhaps at a more introductory level, to move in that direction? In their book, Ministry and Money,2 Janet and Philip Jamieson recommend at least three specific things we can do:
1. Pray for parishioners’ work in the world. “The church should be a place in which prayers are routinely and publically offered for work performed by its members, Monday through Friday. Rather than just commissioning those in the pew for the ‘sacred’ work they perform within the church, the minister should consider ways to ordain all members for their daily work.”3 Prayers in public worship can dedicate believers for their daily work week ahead, encouraging them to see the possibility of God’s activity through their work in the world. Yes, we can continue to commission our Sunday school teachers and mission teams, but why not pray for our tax advisors before April 15 and our bookkeepers before monthly closing, too?
2. Visit people in their work places. When the pastor gets to know parishioners in their work spaces, he or she affirms a ministry of presence there and lets church members know that they can express their faith and values through their professional as well as church life. Such visits also open up the possibility of pastoral care when members are facing job-related dilemmas and ethical choices.
3. Preach and teach about faith and work. “Teaching that dignifies, rather than denies, a member’s identity as a business person can bring healing and correct the unintended messages that work in business is suspect or that the believer must leave the world to enter full-time Christian service.”4 By preaching and teaching, church leaders can help believers working in business to develop a Christian understanding of the purpose of business that incorporates their faith. Such teaching can prompt members to look for God’s activity already at work around them and to ask themselves how they can help further it.

1 Dec. 1, 2010, “Expanding the Money Conversation” presentation at the 2010 Leadership Seminar sponsored by The Ecumenical Stewardship Center, http://www.stewardshipresources.org. For more information about Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work, go to http://www.faithandwork.org.
2 Ministry and Money: A Practical Guide for Pastors by Janet T. Jamieson and Philip D. Jamieson), Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
3Ministry and Money, p. 182.
4Ministry and Money, p. 183.
Written 12/15/2010 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church