What is your goal in stewardship? 83% of pastors in one poll agreed with the statement, “In most congregations, the goal of stewardship is defined as meeting the budget.”1. If this statistic is true, and I don’t doubt it, then no wonder we are having difficulty reversing the decline in giving. I want churches to be fully funded, but that is not the ultimate goal. In this edition of the Coach, I will be discussing The Driving Goal of Stewardship. But ask yourself, “What is your goal in stewardship?”
Making disciples that honor God by being good stewards of all He has entrusted them. That, to me, is the goal of stewardship. I am reminded of The Westminster Catechism’s first question which asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” We bring glory to God by being good stewards.
If our goal in stewardship is meeting the budget, then even if you make the budget, you have missed the true goal.
When our focus is on our budget, our eyes are upon numbers, and God has never been interested or impressed with numbers. Neither have 99% of your members. I can promise you that 99.99% of your younger generations don’t care about your budget numbers. Most of them are drowning in debt, wondering how they can afford to give anything.
“I can’t afford to give.” That is the number one response from people when asked why they don’t give more consistently. Why is that? One obvious answer is that they have mismanaged their finances and resources. Too many have succumbed to a materialistic lifestyle that leaves little room for charitable giving. Another answer is that many churches have downgraded the importance of teaching biblical stewardship. The result has been catastrophic for both churches and members.
Two results of the downgrading of biblical stewardship:
- Your members will struggle to become good stewards and thus fail to reach their financial potential.
- Your church will struggle to be financially solvent at a time when giving continues to decline.
Giving as a percentage of Americans’ incomes continues to decline. The giving percentage has slipped from above 3% during The Great Depression to under 2% today. At the current rate of decline, by 2050, giving to religious causes, including churches, will have slipped to around 1%. The irony is that personal incomes have increased significantly, meaning that Americans make more money but give less of it away.
Every church in America is headed for disaster unless they act. We did not get into this dilemma overnight and will not get out with simple, easy fixes. It is imperative for both your members and for the health of your church that you make biblical stewardship an ambitious goal for your ministry moving forward. How can you do that? It starts with…
The Right Attitude – I realize that some of you are uncomfortable with any talk about money, giving, finances, etc. I hear that a lot. I understand, but my approach might surprise you. Here is one of my core principles, it is not that we ask for money that people hate. It is how we ask for money that matters. I will show you how to create a desire within people to want to give to your church.
What’s the right attitude for church leaders when it comes to stewardship? Let me answer that with a couple of questions. Is the mission of your church important? Do you believe in that mission, or is this simply a job for you? It’s eternally important, and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t deeply believe in your calling. How about this for an attitude statement?
My mission, to impact my world for Jesus, is given to me by God. We are changing the world one life at a time. Since all this is true, why would a Christian not want to give money to support that mission?
If you adopt this kind of attitude, you just took the first step toward building a stewardship platform to put your church on the path to financial security.
Develop a Plan of Action – Fulfilling your goals for stewardship will not happen by accident. You need a plan. I will help you with that. Week after week, through this newsletter and my seasonal playbooks, you will have a plan of action.
Work your plan! A plan on paper, sitting on your shelf or in some file on your computer, does you no good unless you put that plan into action. To achieve financial stability for your church, you must work on your plan 365 days a year.
Finally, make disciples. That is our ultimate goal and our Great Commission from Jesus himself. And, by making disciples, we help assure making our budget.
A new study out by the Barna Group found this:
- “Christians (68%), and especially practicing Christians (those who attend church at least monthly and say their faith is important to them), stand out among annual donors. An overwhelming 90 percent of practicing Christians report charitable giving of some kind within the year.”
- “Practicing Christians’ annual contributions ($3,004 on average) roughly triple the average giving of U.S. adults ($916) and all self-identified Christians ($1,165). Their individual donations to churches average $2,041 (vs. $463 from the average U.S. adult and $688 from the average self-identified Christian).”
- And finally, this eye-opening statistic shows that “80% of practicing Christians give to their local church.” 2.
The Barna study stated, “As we continue to explore giving to and through the local church, we’ll call out distinctions in Christian faith practice. You’ll see that percentages spike almost any time we focus on practicing Christians. This faithful group is one of the primary reasons the U.S. Church is a generosity engine.”3.
Let me end with my opening question, what is your goal of stewardship? Focusing only on making this year’s budget will only impact, well, this year’s budget. But focusing on making disciples and teaching them the joys and benefits of a life of stewardship benefits not only this year’s budget but for years to come. Let’s go and make disciples!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach
- John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, The State of Church Giving through 2019. (Champaign: empty tomb, inc., 2022), p. 138
- Revisiting the Tithe & Offering: The Reality of Church Giving Today Barna Group 2022 p. 12,13
- Ibid. p. 12