Development and the Local Church

Development and the Local Church By Olan Hendrix
There is no more infallible barometer of spiritual health than how people spend money.
Differences Most of us in ministry have assumed that development, as practiced in para-church ministries has nothing to do with local church funding. I have come to believe that the church can learn from the development specialists in para-church organizations. To be sure, there are some differences.
Teaching Versus Value-Matching Traditionally, we have thought of the church as featuring stewardship and the para-church as being involved in development. True, the church is the place for teaching what the Bible has to say about giving. The para-church organization has little, if any, platform for such teaching. There is neither time nor opportunity for such teaching. The para-church is simply looking for donors whose values match the values of the ministry of the organization. The local church aims at getting its message to everybody in its constituency. The para-church should not expect that every Christian will be interested in giving to its causes.
On the other hand, the local church should expect that every member will give to its programs and causes. The para-church can always move on to another audience; the local church has a limited audience: its members and attendees. If I don’t give to my church, there is no one else to whom the church can appeal. It is unrealistic to presume that the person in another church across town will give to my church.
Once we understand the differences between the para-church and the local church, the task is to devise a strategy that fosters giving.
Annual Emphasis and Pledging One of my favorite stories concerns a church in a southern city. The pastor of a Presbyterian church there picked up the local paper one morning to learn that one of his fellow-elders had given a million dollars to a nearby college. He immediately went to the telephone and called the man. He asked why that million dollars had not been given to the church. (The church was in the midst of a capital campaign.) The explanation was that the college had asked him personally for a gift and the church had not.
The people of our church need to be asked to give, taught to give and treated with care as donors.
Many pastors boast that they never teach concerning money This assumes that our people are not only sanctified but perhaps even glorified! Should we not consider stewardship a part of “the whole counsel of God”? The New Testament is replete with teaching and admonitions regarding money. To avoid the subject as pastors is to do so at our own peril. And at the peril of our people.
We need not only to ask our people to give to the local church, we need to admonish, encourage and make it rewarding for them to do so. Most churches that are successful in funding have some kind of annual teaching and emphasis on the subject. This is usually a time when not only the giving of money is spotlighted, but also the stewardship of all of life. Often an entire month is set aside for biblical teaching on the subject.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of culminating this teaching with the asking of your people to respond, to make a commitment. Use every God-honoring device at your disposal to move your people from “hearing” to “doing” the Word of God.
In the early days of my ministry I learned of the faith promise system devised by the renowned Toronto pastor, Oswald J. Smith. Years later I would speak at a missions conference in his church, then pastored by his son, Paul. Also, I became a friend of the man who would write the book describing Smith’s faith promise system, Norman Lewis. Thousands of churches around the world have used the Smith method and the Lewis book for raising money for missions. The strategy is simple: teach the Word of God regarding missions, ask the people to make a promise to give and then trust God to provide. Some variation of this strategy should be implemented in every church: teach and ask.
Welcoming New Donors Through the years my wife, Libby, and I have moved from city to city and therefore have attended many new churches. Whenever I have put our first check in the offering plate I have wondered if anyone noticed that we were new givers. Apparently, no one ever did. I always wondered why someone didn’t write to us acknowledging that we had given our first contribution and thanking us, and perhaps telling us something of how the money is used and what is the church’s vision.
Technology makes it possible, even easy, to detect new givers and provide them with a warm welcome. Para-church organizations that practice good development do this routinely. Why don’t churches?
The surest fact about donors is that we’re going to lose some. They are going to die, move away, lose their jobs or just get mad at the pastor. We are going to lose donors. This same technology makes it possible to know when people stop giving. The regrettable part is that the technology will not intervene for us to find out why they stopped giving and discover if something can be done to fix the problem.
Welcoming new donors and intervening on behalf of lapsed donors makes sense. It is the gracious thing to do. These two steps could increase your church income more than you can imagine. Plus, these measures build bridges for good relationships and ministry opportunities.
Reporting Most churches I have observed do little by way of reporting to givers. Some display the weekly budget and income, along with the overage or deficit in the weekly bulletin. While this is better than nothing, it is far from adequate for donor cultivation and motivation.
Again, technology is our friend in the work of development. With the right software you can now send a quarterly report that is personalized, showing the amount an individual has pledged and the amount given. This affords you another opportunity to express thanks for his/her gift and once again do the vital work of vision casting. It is impossible to thank donors too often or to restate your mission, vision and goals too often.
The research of one of my clients revealed that on average their donors were giving to seven ministries in addition to their church. Many of the para-church organizations are expert at asking and reporting to donors. The church can ill afford to do less.
Planned and Deferred Giving Recently I was visiting with a para-church director of development who told me his institution received an average of two legacies per week! I have never been able to understand why the local church leaves most planned giving harvesting to the para-church organizations.
Many denominations have stewardship people who are specialists in this field and available to assist churches in this vital work. While they do not always take my advice, I urge all local churches where I am consulting to have at least two or three estate planning events each year. The greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind is taking place now, at the turn of the century. The depression era people who found they could not spend the money they accumulated are coming to the end of their lives. This is a great opportunity to help people determine before they die where their money will go.
Many denominations have stewardship people who are specialists in this field and available to assist churches in this vital work. While they do not always take my advice, I urge all local churches where I am consulting to have at least two or three estate planning events each year. The greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind is taking place now, at the turn of the century. The depression era people who found they could not spend the money they accumulated are coming to the end of their lives. This is a great opportunity to help people determine before they die where their money will go.
The second assumption is that everyone already has a will and and an estate plan. Again, not so. I often ask my audiences how many of them have wills. To my dismay, easily half say they do not
Never-Ending Capital Campaigns I have a pastor friend in California who told me he was starting his seventh three-year capital campaign in just over 20 years of service to that congregation. A financially healthy church will always be in the midst of, or preparing for a capital campaign.
Look at it this way: as long as there are needs to be met, people to be reached, missions to be accomplished, we should be offering people the opportunity to give. Also, your people are always coming into possession of new funds through inheritance, promotions, sale of assets, bonus and commission payments, et cetera. Furthermore, since you started your present campaign you have brought in many new people. They also need the chance to participate.
When you think of the stewardship work of your church, think not only of the annual emphasis, usually at year’s end, but also think of estate planning and capital campaigns. All three are essential elements of financially healthy church.
The sheep of your pasture deserve your shepherding them fully, even in the subject of money.

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