One of the most common reasons churches contact me is because they need to identify funding – either for a new project, or just to keep things going. When I look at the financial position of the applicant church I often see that the tithes and offerings have been declining year on year, or if they are stable or increasing then it has not been at a rate which keeps pace with rising costs. Many churches do not have sufficient given income to cover fixed expenses and are reliant on investment or rental income streams to balance the books. There is a question of sustainability here. Relying on the generosity of past generations, for example, to pay the bills today seems wrong. Often a financial crisis is a symptom of a greater spiritual apathy within a church.
So what can be done about it? First I think we have to be clear about what church is for, because that will determine how we allocate our resources.
The Church, the gathered people of God, exists for mission. God calls each person and each congregation to join him in His mission. Each congregation is made up of a unique group of people who have different talents and abilities – they respond uniquely to God’s call on them: some thoughtfully and prayerfully, some enthusiastically and others reluctantly.
God is active in the world and when the church is active in the world, God is in the church. A church that only cares for the interests of those who are members – is not a church, it is a club. That’s a difficult place to be because the focus of members is on receiving “value for money” for their membership fees. We see this played out in churches where people insist on “their way” and even threaten to withdraw financial support when something they don’t like is proposed. But I’m sure you don’t know any churches like that! Let’s not spend too much time on elaborating what a church is like when God’s Mission is not paramount.
The first and greatest source of funding for every church is from the current members and attenders. Unfortunately, over the years, we have been very poor at talking about money and giving. Some of this is because we don’t want to offend anyone, but giving is an important part of Christian discipleship so churches that have neglected to teach have not completely conveyed the responsibilities and joys of a Christian lifestyle.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount tells us:
Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
God is generous, giving, loving, forgiving and gracious. God requires our loving response to his generosity. Why is this so important to God? Why does the Bible devote twice as many verses to money than to faith and prayer combines? And how could Jesus say more about money than both heaven and hell? I think the answer can be found in Luke 12:34 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus knew what was important to us. Money is the litmus test of our true character. How we relate to money and possessions is the story of our lives. If we think that what we do with our money is our business and only our business then we can feel uncomfortable. God makes it his business with the assets and resources he has blessed us with. He doesn’t apologise for watching us with intense interest to see what we do with the money and possessions he has entrusted to us.
All we have and are comes from God. How we use our money shows where our priorities are. We are to give:
- Generously (2 Cor 9:6)
- Cheerfully (2 Cor 9:7)
- Systematically (1 Cor 16:2)
- Fearlessly (2 Cor 9:8,9)
Cultivating a culture of generous giving is the first step in funding your church’s part in God’s Mission.
I’d like to make a plea here about stewardship. I have lost count of the number of times people have said that there are stewarding the resources and buildings for future generations. This is a misunderstanding of what stewardship is really about. A steward was someone who holds something in trust for his or her master. When the master asks they release the asset for his use. “Time” or “future generations” are not our Master. Sometimes we act as if our assets were more important
So funds come from OBEDIENCE – because the Bible teaches it and church members believe and practice Christian giving.
Then there’s CHALLENGE. That’s where it’s so important to discern, articulate and communicate your part in God’s Mission. After spending time with God and discerning what part of his great Mission your congregation is invited into, it is very important to articulate this in a way that you can communicate unequivocally just what your vision is and what specifically you will do in pursuit of this vision. It’s not my purpose today to take you through a mission planning process; suffice to say you need to address key questions such as:
- What does Christ want us to do?
- Who are we called to serve?
- What strengths do we have that can be built on?
- What opportunities are there in our community?
- What have I been given to show Christ’s love to my community? (not what do I want to do but what does Christ want me to do?)
All of these questions, if answered honestly, require a certain amount of Christian maturity and a prayerful approach. It is important that leaders set an example in their commitment to mission. But once your members have contributed to your mission, others may also …
Mission-led funding is similar to fundraising for any cause. You share a compelling vision of the future as it might be and challenge others to join you on the journey. Churches find that where a vision is broad enough and the action steps clear enough they will attract donors and supporters from a wider group within the community.
Fundraisers talk about each organisation having its own constituency of givers. After members of the church have given, there will be other people who may or may not be Christian, but have common values and also share a commitment to your vision, or to some part of it. They are potential givers – they may be participants in church activities, people who are being served in mission, interested and intrigued locals, local community groups, maybe community trusts. They can help you realise short and long-term goals, projects, capital developments …
Partnerships are very important. You will not be the only church or organisation to focus on a community need, or hurt or hope. You might have a mission to struggling families in your community – but who else can be a partner? Schools? Local businesses? Community Trusts? Service Clubs?
Fundraisers talk about funding markets and they comprise individuals, corporates, trusts and government. Ask yourself “who has an interest in our mission being achieved?”
Individuals (81% of voluntary giving from this source, 55% of all giving)
- Past connections
- Share similar values
- Support similar causes
- New friends
- Only 3% npo income from this source
- Quid pro quo
- Mission:mission match
- Why your organisation?
- Not just cash!
Trusts & Foundations (9% of voluntary giving, 42% of all giving)
- Lottery Board
- Gaming Trusts
- Corporate Trusts
- Community Trusts
- COGs etc
- Family Trusts
- Charitable Trusts
- Philanthropic Trusts
- PressGo offers services and advice around funding as well as many other strategic areas. We are open to invitations to talk about your specific needs and to help you discover the spirit and joy of generous living.
- I’m going to stop here, not because there is nothing else to say but because all of what I have already mentioned has so much more to it and the best funding plan for your church will be as unique as your church and community are.
- There are many ways you can communicate the need and seek gifts towards it – personal asking, a letter, a phone call, a notice or announcement … but be aware that the larger the gift you are seeking the more you need to make it a personal approach.