A Thank You Plan

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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

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“Stewardship and Culture” course in January

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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

Stewardship and Culture online course

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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 TransformingTheChurch.org, 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

Local Church Stewardship Plan Guideline

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Stewardship bookWritten for the CA-NV United Methodist Conference

Instant Connection, 7/30/2015

The 2012-2016 U.M. Guideline, Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living, is now available. This nuts-and-bolts booklet, written by the Rev. Betsy Schwarzentraub, former California-Nevada Conference Director of Stewardship, is written for a local church stewardship team to build a generosity plan for the congregation. The forty-page booklet moves from three core stewardship practices, to ten possible plan components, to ways it can support other congregational ministries. To order the Stewardship Guideline, visit http://www.cokesbury.com.

Vital Signs

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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

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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

Building a Plan for Generosity Worksheet

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                                     Building a Plan for Generosity For                      U.M.C.

Desired Outcomes or Results:
For example:
1. Growing vibrant, faithful stewards (personal growth)
2. Maturing as a vital congregation of gospel stewards (congregational growth)
3. Building a local church of generous hearts and lives
4. Strengthening the stewardship of the church’s full ministry (mutual support with other ministries of the congregation)
5. Empowering our worldwide mission connection (our Apportionments covenant)
For our congregation:

                                             In These Next 12 Months We Plan To:

Stewardship Vitality – 3 Aspects of Sustainability and Growth:

1. Celebrate how well we are doing this one of the three aspects:
Initial ideas of how we might do this:

2. Strengthen how we are doing this one of the three aspects:
Initial ideas of how we might do this:

Moving from Fundraising to Stewardship:
Ways we can help our congregation make this shift:

Church Behaviors that Show Extravagant Generosity:
1. Support for Mission – How we can communicate our mission more clearly as a congregation, and celebrate it intentionally:

2. One thing we will do to strengthen the personal joy of giving among our people:

3. Percentage Giving and First Fruits Living – How we will emphasize percentage giving and teach, practice and model first fruits living:

The Small-Group Study we plan to have in the next 12 months

(not linked to the annual funding program):

What Impacts Giving Behaviors
1. Using the Offering time as a “teachable moment:”

2. Making it Easy to Give:

Working in Collaboration
1. How we can support the work of different ministry areas of the local church:

2. What we need in support from other groups and persons in the congregation, to develop and implement a Generosity Plan:

                                       Ten Things We Will Do in the Next 12 Months:

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