Dr. Clif Christopher unravels how to increase giving at the 2018 Bishop’s Retreat
At the 2018 Bishop’s Retreat, held Oct. 23-25 in Syracuse, Dr. Clif Christopher, founder of Horizons Stewardship Company, provided inspiring insights to Upper New York clergy on how they can improve stewardship in their congregations.
Dr. Christopher emphasized the fact that people are bombarded with messages from the media that they need the next new car or gadget.
He explained, “The greatest sin your people have is their love of material things…we love money more than we love God… We have an enemy constantly telling us that stuff will save us… the message is constantly there.”
Sadly, people’s spending habits have translated into no longer tithing.
Dr. Christopher presented a chart that illustrated total giving as a share of income by religious affiliation. Every religion gave their place of worship less than 5 percent of their income—Methodists gifted their churches a mere 1 percent of their income.
How can pastors and church leadership improve congregational giving? How do they become the opposing force of materialism? Dr. Christopher discussed three pockets of giving: annual, planned, and capital.
Pastors often cringe at the idea of talking about money—according to Dr. Christopher, the fact is that many pastors do not have stewardship plans.
He said, “Your plan is for two weeks in October, you talk about it and then you go on to other things. There is no plan for the first of the year or for Lent, or for the summer, or Christmas. The plan is for two weeks in October. You’ll preach a sermon and maybe send out a letter and that’s it.”
Dr. Christopher reiterated the problem with materialism and said that the stewardship committee needs to meet all year long because materialism is a sin that is happening every month of the year.
He said, “Every single Sunday is Stewardship Sunday. Stewardship is part of discipleship.”
In terms of giving, Dr. Christopher explained that though it may seem counterintuitive, churches should not be focusing on expenses; they should be focused on the mission and constantly communicating the mission to their congregation.
Instead of showing their congregation a line-item budget, pastors and leaders should present a missional budget that explains how their giving created more disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. How many people were new to the church? How many people worshipped on an average Sunday? How many children’s programs were there? How many baptisms? How did you and your church nurture people? How did members of the church witness their faith?
Dr. Christopher discussed how people are solicited for planned gifts by almost every charity they support so why doesn’t the church do the same?
He said he spoke in front of a crowd of about a 1,000 people recently on the topic of planned giving. He asked the laity in attendance, “How many of you in the last six months have been solicited by a charity for a planned gift, asked to remember an organization in your will, or to perhaps set up a trust?” Dr. Christopher said that over 500 hands were raised.
He asked the same laity. “Now in the last six months, has your church in any way, shape or form, communicated to you that they would love for you to consider them in your will?” About six hands were raised.
Dr. Christopher’s point was that pastors need to ask for planned gifts. He said, “We have done a dismal job at talking to them (our congregations) about donations to the church through estates.”
He provided suggestions such as having an attorney come in to talk about how to set up wills and include in the presentation how to set up gifts to the church.
Regarding capital campaigns, Dr. Christopher discussed assumptions held by most clergy— “Most of us in the church assume that we deal with the capital pocket only when we are actually building something. Understand that every college in America has a capital campaign every single day. They’re not all about building something every day, but they are all about a dream and a vision every day.”
Dr. Christopher explained that the capital pocket contains resources such as stocks, bonds, property holdings, inheritances, etc. These are resources we don’t use on a day-to-day basis. They’re there for the point in time we choose to reach into that pocket for something, generally a one-time, short-term expense, such as our child’s college education, our dream vacation, or a giving opportunity that arises.
Dr. Christopher said to the clergy, “This needs to be a pocket that you are communicating to your people that you could use any day of the year.”
Are you ready to plan how you will increase giving at your church in 2019? When doing so, address the three pockets of giving and see stewardship as a year-long process. Keep mission at the forefront. Every Sunday as offerings are collected, have a person who has been touched by the church give a one or two-minute talk on how the church has helped them.
Dr. Christopher reminded the crowd, “When hearts are reached and touched and not just wallets, annual funds will rise.”