Dying well for congregations

I help congregations with generosity assessments.

One of the big questions I ask churches is: "Are you two or three funerals away from disaster?"

It's joyful, challenging and sometimes vulnerable work (for both me and the congregation!)  This is a great article on ending well for congregations.

http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/dying-well

As with individuals, I encourage congregations to talk about money.  Silence and secrecy seldom serve us well.

"Young families can't give"?

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"Young families can't give."  Twice recently I've heard exactly the same statement from church leaders.  I believe what they meant was "young families with mortgages, daycare fees and mouths to feed can't afford to give to the church."  I surely hope it wasn't a theological statement! Let me start with a story:

Once there was a big family with lots of kids.  They arrived in Canada as refugees, supported by a small-town church. This family settled in and worked hard. Then something surprising happened: this family started giving more than some of the regular donors to the church.  They had learned tithing back home and they actually did it - they gave 10% of their income to the church. No one had expected them to give; they did it on their own.

Yes, this is an exceptional story.  I heard it on my church basement tour of Canada during my D.Min. research into Christian giving. It was a privilege and an honour to hear from so many faithful stewards. I recorded and transcribed these conversations.  Here's a sampling of their wisdom:

  • as our kids grow up, there’s so many voices calling for their dollars, except the church
  • Don’t feel  bad the time that you can’t give, because you also give in time and talent, and that’s part of giving
  • 10% a good number but if you can give more, give more.  If you can only give 6,7% that’s okay
  • in 1961 we were just married a year and the baby came along.  I had just got laid off, I worked in construction.  The church had a fundraiser and they were asking for money.  We made a commitment by faith.  That Sunday the Ford motor called me...and I got the job.  God is faithful

If someone in church said "I don't have enough time to pray", the church would find creative ways to respond.  Maybe the family needs some caregiving help, networking support for job-hunting.  I doubt that "you can learn to pray later when you have more time" would be the response.

Many of the faithful stewards I talked with learned to give when they were young.  They saw their dad get paid in cash and count out the church pile on the kitchen table. Some generous folks learned from their employers or other role models.  And so I think it's important that churches talk about giving.  Not as a guilt trip, but as a joyous spiritual discipline.  Don't assume people can't give - talk about how they can give.  Model generosity. Tell stories.  Here are more quotes:

You can’t outgive God, it’s a little game we have [laughter]  that’s certainly been very influential.

“I don’t notice that it’s gone...it almost seems like I have more money when I give it away”

“we run on a pretty tight budget and we make it through every month”

for some people budget is tight, but instead they volunteer more

“it’s hard to figure out”

“if you’re just pleasing yourself... it’s a lot harder to give away because it feels like its yours but if you approach it as it’s not mine... it’s a lot easier”

“it’s not your stuff, it’s God’s stuff - once you make that leap, it changes everything”

“if Jesus puts something on your heart, then you should support that thing both in prayer and financially, and both are just as equally as important”

I think it's more important to be faithful or to use what we do have..that’s more important  than the amount

try to find that balance – don’t want to be living on the last of every paycheque “but you still want to have that giving heart”

I can't say it better - "you still want to have that giving heart."  May we lean into God's abundant grace.

We can always afford to be generous

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How and why Christians give is definitely changing, that's certain.  How can churches and denominations respond? I've summarized a lot of my research into an easy-to-read article in the Canadian Mennonite.  It's the story of Peach Blossom church, a composite of many congregations I've met in my travels.  Do we treat our donors like horses or like cows?  Should we say thank-you in church?

http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/we-can-always-afford-be-generous

I needed to leave out a lot of material - the full article is on my About page - link below.

Data on Canadian Christian giving trends is scarce; it's hard for my Mennonite self to say this, but this longer paper is really a goldmine if you're interested the state of Christian giving in Canada.

Whom do you trust?

Happy reading!  Do be in touch if you'd like to chat more!

Lori speaking at The Pursuit, April 2016

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I'm looking forward to conducting two workshops about church and money in April, at a conference called The Pursuit.

What's the Pursuit?

It's a new Christian ministry event, jointly hosted by three different groups and supported by many.  Canadians, Americans, and many denominations and types of ministry.  It's good to push the envelope!

Marcia Shetler from the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (an insider!) says an important part of the conference is how "faithful stewardship and generous giving" intersects with the church.   The list of speakers is impressive and stewardship component is part of a conference serving a larger constituency and offering other organizationally-related topics.  (many, many topics in fact - fortunately videos will be available to see the sessions you missed!)

I tried to think of what that would look like and came up with a Venn diagram (when people study Math and then theology, these things happen!)the pursuit

Video links for Lori's workshops

Here's the links to one minutes videos highlighting my two workshops (these will open in new tabs)

Best Practices for Giving in Churches

What (apostle) Paul taught me about Church and Money

How do I attend this conference?

The Pursuit website http://the-pursuit.ca/ explains all the details.