We Need All the Money We Can Get!

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 “The offering today is for the Church Budget. And folks, we need all the money we can get.”

As I sat behind the elder making the offering appeal that Sabbath I cringed. I had strong convictions about the spiritual nature of stewardship and giving. I wondered what was going through the members’ minds as they reached for the change in their pocket, or their purses/billfolds, or the tithe envelope they had prepared the night before. Did the elder’s appeal persuade them to give more than they planned?

Through the years I have often wondered if pulpit appeals – even my own – persuade people in the pew to give. Or, to put it another way, what is it that motivates people to give to their Church? Before looking for the answer, consider these questions:

True or False?

  • Pastors should review the treasurer’s books to learn member giving patterns.
  • Giving as well as tithing is a barometer of the spiritual condition of members.
  • The majority of church members today give/return out of a sense of obligation.
  • Members of my congregation clearly understand how their tithe and offerings are used.
  • Pastors should create a giving culture within their congregations.

Examine yourself: 

  • Do you know what motivates your congregation to give to your church’s programs?
  • If you are reluctant to talk about money with your congregation or individual members, do you know why?
  • Do you know how to appeal for financial support for ministry in your Church?
  • Do you know how to create a culture of giving within your congregation?

Did you know . . .

  • Charitable organizations competing with your Church for dollars have increased exponentially?

NOTE: Between 1995 and 2010 the number of registered public charities increased by 78%; the number of churches increased by 92%. But the number of parachurch organizations increased by 195%! (Christopher Scheitle, Beyond the Congregations: The World of Christian Nonprofits. National Center for Charitable Statistics [NCCS] Database for the Urban Institute.)

  • Giving today is more likely to be driven by values than the needs of the receiving organization? (Do you know how to portray the values of your congregation’s ministry so as to encourage giving?)

We often talk about how society is changing, and we talk some about how that impacts the church. But we rarely talk about how to meet those changes, how to adapt to the changes so that we can continue to foster success by funding the ministry of our congregations. But there is good news!

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 J. Clif Christopher’s book, Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate, helps to reflect on the changing attitudes to giving we are seeing in our congregations. He also offers practical ideas for responding to these changes. But wait! There is more good news . . .

Many years ago the North American Division created Philanthropic Service for Institutions (PSI) a service to help Adventist hospitals learn how to attract financial support from outside the church for their healing ministry. Soon PSI expanded to work with Adventist colleges and universities. Then academies were included in their constituency. Now the services of PSI are available to churches and schools of the North American Division.

To widen the availability of services, PSI recently designed a course for pastors – an introduction to the principles of successful fundraising. This course is hosted by the Adventist Learning Community (ALC). The course is entitled, “Understanding and Implementing Fundraising: Essential Principles and Practical Applications”. Christopher’s book referenced above is one of the textbooks for this course. The course will also introduce you to the services of PSI. The course is available to you at no cost, and “on demand”. In other words, you can take the course at your own pace and on your own schedule. 

You can find the course on the ALC website, www.adventistlearningcommunity.com. Open the site, create your continuing education account or log on if you already have an account, and search “PSI”. In the course presentations and accompanying reading you will find answers to questions posed at the start of this article. Among other things you will learn 

  • How to develop your appeals for support
  • How to develop, implement, and monitor an appropriate campaign for the project/ministry you’re funding
  • How to use a variety of tools for fundraising
  • The relationship between fundraising and stewardship

Even if you’re not currently looking to raise money for a building program or a specific project you will find the course useful as you relate to the giving attitudes and practices in your congregation. Enroll today, you won’t regret it!

Halvard B. Thomsen is a retired pastor and church administrator living in Apple Valley, California