Stewardship: Types of Giving


When most people think about church giving they often think about money that goes in the offering plate every Sunday.  In reality there are generally 4 types of giving.  John Maxwell speaks of them as pockets of giving.  Basically people have money in certain pockets that they will give to certain things and not other things.  Here are the 4 pockets or types of giving:

General giving– This is the giving that happens week by week and month by month in the offering plates and is used for the usual work of the church.  This used to be based on annual pledge cards but I have noticed a general aversion commitment cards.  I think that people’s jobs tend to be in flux so they have trouble knowing.

Special giving–  Sometimes there are specific and immediate needs that come up in ministry.  This could  include emergencies at the church or in the community, a visiting missionary, a music program, a denominational special offering…  Very often people will give to a special cause if they are asked and if it is a something they value and believe in.  My dad had a visitor in his church a few years ago who happened to be visiting as my dad was making a plea for funding several kids to summer camp.  It turns out that this person had a valuable church camp experience growing up and has always wanted to give that to someone else.  He ended up giving a big donation and funding camp for several youth.  We are not good about asking for these kinds of gifts.  The reality is that some people want to give to special causes and we in the church need to give them a chance to.

Campaign giving– This is special giving for a 2-3 year period for a major project for the church.  Many times these are building renovations but I have also heard of churches doing campaigns to pay down their debt, build an endowment, or even start a new ministry.  Churches are often scared of these kind of programs because they think it will hurt their general giving.  In reality these kind of campaigns can generate excitement and giving habits that increasing general giving.  A consultant can be very helpful in this process.

Planned giving– This is the area I still need to learn the most about.  This is end of life giving.  Has anyone talked to the people of your church about remembering the church in their will or estate?  The Presbyterian Church (USA) normally dedicates the first Sunday in May as Wills Emphasis Sunday.  This kind of giving can be valuable for both the church and the person.

My experience so far it that generosity breeds generosity.  In other words, the more types of giving that your church engages in the more giving generally increases.  If your church is only doing one of these, I suggest you try another.

How is your church doing in each of these areas?

Stewardship: 5 Things to Think About


In my last blog I talked about the need for the church to rethink the way it talks about money.  For this blog, I am sharing 5 things to think about when dealing with stewardship in the church.

1. Utilize the call to the offering. -Every Sunday the pastor or someone else gets to stand in front of the congregation and ask people to give.  Often this 20-30 seconds is boring and routine.  But this is a great moment in the service to shape the giving of your church. How could you use that moment to help your people think about money in a Christ-like way?

2. Get testimonies pertaining to the mission of the church. – This is a great thing to incorporate the call to the offering.  Have people share stories about how they have seen or experienced the mission of the church being lived out.  Find every reason to talk positively about God’s work in your midst.

3. Stop publishing your financials in every bulletin and newsletter. – I understand why people do this. We think it makes people want to give because they know about the need.  The reality is that it only puts people into a mode of giving to keep the organization open. Here is my own experience.  We stopped putting the financial in the bulletin almost a year ago.  What we did was begin posting the weekly giving and attendance on a bulletin board so that people who wanted to know could see the information.  At first a few people were bothered, but now, interestingly enough, I never even so those people looking at the numbers.  They cared when it was constantly in front of them, but when they had to go get the numbers they did not care as much, but they also felt secure knowing they could get the information when they needed it.  Now guests are not scared off by our low summer giving weeks.

4.  Start giving quarterly giving reports. – Many churches only give an annual report to members of what their giving has been for tax purposes.  This is a mistake.  People do not always realize that they have not been giving regularly.  Good practice is to give a quarterly update so that people can see how they are doing.  I recommend adding a letter of thanks with that letter.

5. Consider online giving. – This is the way of the future.  A lot of young people do not have cash or own checks.  I do not.  Even a lot of older members are now paying bills online.  The fact is that when people do not come to worship then they often do not give.  This is evident when summer giving is so low.  I have heard that it greatly benefits churches who get the consistency of online giving.

Here is a bonus: Say thank-you.  If we only ask, ask, and ask then we are basically like a 2 year old.  Thank-you’s are a blessing both from the pulpit and in hand written notes.



Stewardship: Why People Give

Most church people I have talked to would expect charitable giving in the USA to be down. The statistics say otherwise. In fact, charitable giving per capita has remained basically the same for decades. In other words, the amount of money people give in comparison to what they have has remained constant. What is not constant is the number of places that they can give. The number of non-profit agencies competing for charitable giving goes up every year. So giving stays about the same while the competition for those dollars is growing and shows no sign of stopping.

The church is losing this battle in part because it does not understand why people give while non-profits are studying why people give.



J. Clif Christopher shares in his book Not Your Parent’s Offering Plate about research into why people give to charities. There have been a number of studies done looking at why people make charitable giving decisions. These are not limited to churches but also to other non-profits. In study after study asking people why they made the gift choices that they did, three answers float to the top. These three are always there and always in the same order. Knowing them will change how you communicate about stewardship.

They are 1. Belief in the mission of the organization. 2. Trust in the Leadership. 3. Financial stability of the institution. Let’s look at these each briefly.

1. Belief in the Mission of the Organization—People make giving decisions primarily based on what the organization does. People want to know that their gift is going to go to a great purpose. Most importantly, they have to believe that the purpose of the organization is a purpose that they also believe in.

2. Trust in the Leadership—Like it or not, people judge an organization based on its leadership. Givers report that trust as crucial to their giving decisions. People want to know that they can trust the leaders to follow through with the mission to which they gave.

3. Financial Stability of the Institution—People don’t want to give to a sinking ship. They want to give to an organization that is going to be around and accomplishing its mission for a long time.

Non-profits understand these reasons.   Watch a commercial from St. Jude’s. It is normally a story told by an important person about a kid who desperately needs the research that your donation goes to pay for. They clearly state their mission.

When your college or seminary gets a new president or professor or board member, they send out big announcements because they want their donors to know who the leadership is.

All non-profits have bad quarters and bad financial reports, but you never hear those publicized. But when a non-profit has good numbers they put it in all of their material.

Now, think about how we talk about finances in our churches. How often does someone stand up in October or November and say something like

“Uh-oh. I have bad news. We are in trouble again. We are $x,xxx behind on our budget and if we don’t step up then we won’t make budget for the year. I want to encourage everybody to give what they can.”

Think about what we have just communicated to the church.

1. You just communicated that the mission of your organization is to stay open. That is not a very compelling mission. There will be a few committed members that will respond to that kind of plea, but young people won’t. New people won’t.

2. You just destroyed people’s trust in your leadership. Didn’t we have this conversation last year? Why do we always get behind at this time of the year? Couldn’t anyone see this coming?

3. What about the financial stability of the institution? You just announced that you were in trouble. If you are like many churches you probably even publish every week in the bulletin and every month in the newsletter how bad things are. Stop it. Fear is not a Biblical motive for giving. It may help you in the short run, but finances based on scare tactics will only ensure your long term financial demise.

Here is the fact- as non-profits get better at asking for charitable donation, the church is hurting itself in the way it talks about finances.

In my next couple blogs I will talk more about how to respond to this information, and I cannot express enough how critical the J Clif Christopher’s book is for pastors and leaders.

Wednesday Book Recommendations: Church Finances

Like most pastors I graduated from seminary knowing little to nothing about church finances and stewardship.  Unfortunately, this area is critical to leading people and leading the church.  Many churches are not in good financial shape.  This area is perhaps the most important area for seminary graduates to read about.  So here are a couple of good places to get started.
I was blessed early in my ministry to have gone to a workshop with author and consultant J Clif Christopher.  It was a one day workshop that blew me away.  I have shared what I learned there with many people, pastors, and sessions.  Christopher has written three main books on stewardship.  All three of these books should be required reading for pastors.

Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship– This is Christopher’s dismantling of today’s stewardship practices.   In its place, Christopher paints a picture of church finances that is well thought out, mission oriented, and effective in today’s world.

Whose Offering Plate Is It?: New Strategies for Financial Stewardship– This book is a set of practical answers to questions spurned by the previous books.  He deals with things like how to get stewardship stories, deal with campaigns, and how to make stewardship a more open topic in the church.

The Church Money Manual: Best Practices for Finance and Stewardship
–  This is Christopher’s newest book, just put out a few weeks before this writing.  It is the most compact and accessible resource for all things church finances.  It is now my go-to recommendation to pastors and church dealing with stewardship issues.


After reading J. Clif Christopher’s stuff and deciding to take these issues more seriously in
my own ministry, I also decided to talk about stewardship and preach about stewardship more regularly.  Two books have been helpful in this regard.  First, Preaching and Stewardship: Proclaiming God’s Invitation to Grow (Vital Worship Healthy Congregations) by Craig Satterlee is a great resource for preaching stewardship sermons.  He gives a lot of examples and even highlights opportunities for stewardship topics throughout the lectionary.  The other resource that I have used is One Minute Stewardship Sermons by Charle Cloughen.  This book is great for taking advantage of the call to the offering.  This is a natural place in the service to shape the congregation’s views about money and stewardship.

For a final recommendation, Developing a Giving Church by Stan Toler and Elmer Towns is a good general overview of developing stewardship in a church.  It covers all the basic elements of healthy church finances and even includes some sermon ideas.


Stewardship: What is the big deal about money?

We don’t like to talk about money or stewardship in most churches. This is supposed to be secret and untouchable topic, like sex and what happens in Las Vegas.  When we do talk about it often we do so in the form of a desperate plea to fulfill an annual budget.  We need to rebuild stewardship from the ground up.

Stewardship is about much more than giving to the church.  Stewardship is the acknowledgement that everything we have is from God and that we are merely taking care of it temporarily.  We give to the church because we are acknowledging that all we have comes from God.  We set aside part of our lives to show that God owns all of it.  A tithe (or 10%) is given as a guideline for doing this with our money.

We steward all kinds of things- money, time, gifts, people, jobs, churches…  But there is something different about money.  Jesus said it this way-

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

We normally talk about this verse and say something like, “If I could see your checkbook I could see into your heart.”  While that may be true, that is not what Jesus is saying.  That saying is assuming that your money follows your heart.  But Jesus said that your heart follows your money.

There goes your money, your heart follows.

Of all the things you steward, your heart only follows your money.  You can spend a lot of time on something and never put your heart in it.  You can be very good at something and never love it.  But try to spend money on something without putting your heart in it.  If you buy a new car then suddenly you love driving.  Buy a new house and you want to have everyone over.

Jesus does not need your money.  But he desperately wants your heart.  Jesus knows that the key to having your heart is through your money.

This is why the church cannot ignore stewardship issues.  Much more is at stake then the financial viability of institutional church.  People’s hearts are on the line.