?In the midst of a time of national economic stress, many churches are experiencing financial stresses of their own.
Barna research from 2001 to 2007 shows a fairly consistent pattern of tithing-between 5 and 7 percent of Americans contribute 10 percent or more of their annual income, with born-again persons giving 9 percent in 2007. But when those same persons are experiencing job losses and other financial tightening, churches feel the impact.
While many economists expect the current recession to continue into next year-and perhaps get worse before things get better-churches are still facing the need to make financial plans and budgets. In fact, many churches are nearly ready to start the budget process for a new year. Beyond the traditional planning process involved in developing a church budget, what should we do as we prepare to make financial plans for the coming year?
Remember that Money Follows Mission
A key fund-raising axiom is that people don’t give to need; they give to vision. That is also true in the church-people don’t stretch their giving because we need a new furnace; they give more because they are able to see a vision of people being reached and God’s purposes being accomplished in the life of their church or ministry.
In the Church Administration Handbook (B&H Books), Bob Johnson reminds us that congregations often see giving suffer because they “have become preoccupied with maintenance and forgotten about mission. People want to give to mission more than they want to give to maintenance.”
Johnson observes, “Congregations that have been specific in stating and practicing their mission objectives tend to have much less difficulty in financing those goals and objectives. Instead of asking, ‘Our budget is behind; we are cutting every cost possible. Would you please help us catch up?’ try saying, ‘Our church is seeking to reach and help many people. The money you are giving is being invested wisely in people ministries. Thanks for your giving.’ The church whose story includes a small mission focus tends to raise a small amount of money. The church whose story includes substantial mission purpose tends to raise substantially more money.”
As you budget this year, seek to develop a mission focus in the process. Demonstrate how various parts of your church’s budget will impact people for the Kingdom. Shift the conversation from need to vision.
As senior pastor, you have a teaching role in the process. Share stories about lives that are touched and changed through the ministry of your church-their giving helped make that possible. Share stories about persons, even villages, that came to Christ through the mission outreach of your church-their giving helped make that possible. Talk about your vision for the coming year: how the church can touch young people and families, how it can impact the community, how it can reach people for Christ-their giving will help make that possible.
And as you share, remember to help people visualize individual lives being touched and changed. We tend not to give to the mass-we know millions are in need, but we don’t think we can do anything for so many. But when we see the need in one life-that’s a different thing. We can visualize helping that one. So use stories to draw word pictures that help them see that man or women, that boy or girl, whose life can be changed through the power of the gospel-and how their giving can help make that possible.
Never forget: money follows mission.