Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that everyone who contributes to their Church can give more than they are right now. But, I am saying that many of us could afford to give more … if we were motivated … if we had a good enough reason.
Imagine the scene, it is late October, the members of your church board are huddled together in some upstairs room in the church. The treasurer has just given her report. Our finances are down this year and she wonders aloud if we will meet our budget. Whispering and sighs spread through the room. Someone suggests a plan for action, “Why don’t we initiate a stewardship program? I heard this fella, Roger Janes, at a District meeting; he said he is willing to come and help us start one.” The room grows silent. One member finally says, “Listen, the trouble is we got all these folks on our books who don’t contribute a cent.” Another chimes in, “If we do a Stewardship program, like this Celebrate Stewardship[i] Roger has been promoting, why it will only be preaching to the converted. Besides, those of us who are giving are giving all we can.” Some nods. Silence.
The problem I have with the statement, besides the accuracy, is that it is a conversation stopper. If we really believe that those of us who are giving are contributing all we can, then the only rational response seems to be to throw our hands in the air and choose not to ask. What is the use? However, If we don’t ask, guess what, we don’t receive!
But, what if ... what if it was not true? What if a significant number of us who attend church and support the church’s mission and ministry could contribute more?
Kennon Callahan,[ii] an inspiring speaker and writer on the topic of Stewardship, maintains that people do not give based on what they can afford. He says we never have. When the dust settled after the Second World War people came back and bought houses they could not afford, and spent money that they did not yet have. Today in 2014, the same is true. We continue to buy houses we cannot afford, and maintain lifestyles that require considerable borrowing. My point is this: when we are motivated to spend, the vast majority of us do not ask ourselves whether we can afford it or not. I can attest to that. Me, and a number of my friends, have children who participate in organized sports. Some of these parents have told me that to keep up with the costs and the numerous road trips, they use their credit cards all season, and hope to pay off the balances during the rest of the year. Why would they do that? They really can’t afford it, not to mention the high interest charges. They are motivated to give for another reason. Organized sports have become a priority for their children, and for them. They perhaps feel that this activity will give their children joy, or that it will help make them better people.
So, if we do not give based on a rational decision on what we can afford, what moves us to give? Kennon Callahan says that people are compelled to give, or increase giving, by five primary motivations:
- Commitment – We give because we feel it is our duty/responsibility to do so. (“We made a commitment to Christ, and to this church, and we will honour it.”)
- Challenge - Some give because we view it as a challenge to give well, or better than last year. (“Every year I am going to challenge myself to increase my giving. It makes me feel better when I do.”)
- Rationality – We give because it makes sense (“If I didn’t give to the church, and others didn’t, we wouldn’t have a church or a minister when we need one. So I need to give.”)
- Community- We give because it connects with our need for community. (“ I love this church, my friends are here. I enjoy being a member of the choir and the United Church Women.”)
- Compassion-We are motivated to help others. (“I give to Mission and Service because I know that through my giving I make a difference. I am able to ease suffering, give folks a hand up, and put a smile on a child’s face.”)
So friends, bottom line - don’t be afraid to have a stewardship campaign. You have a wonderful ministry and you want to give people an opportunity to be a part of it, and to make a meaningful impact in the community and the world… So ask! When you ask, remember to try and motivate people based on the five primary motivations above. Good luck … and yes I am still available to come to your church and talk about Stewardship Campaigns.
[i] Celebrate Stewardship is a five week Stewardship Campaign that has proven effective in increasing a congregation’s giving. More information on the program, click on Stewardship Tab above, and then Congregational Stewardship.
[ii] Kennon Callahan, Motivations for Giving in the 21st Century. A Speech given at the 1998 North American Conference on Christian Philanthrophy. I have a cassette copy.