Last year United Church congregations across Canada took in over $25,666,000. That is incredible. It is even more so when you consider that many churches did not make an intentional ask! What I mean is that most congregations did not have a giving program of any sort, nor did they formally encourage members to prayerfully consider their givings for the coming year. Yet, research says that eight out ten people who are asked to give, give. Eight out of ten people who are asked to consider giving more, do exactly that! So my question is, if we really believe in the ministry and mission of our churches, and I think we do, why don’t we ask? The answer I think is both clear and complicated.
We don’t Ask because we didn’t have to … until now
I attended a stewardship clergy event in Nova Scotia recently. I found it interesting when David Armour*, my new boss, shared that United Church congregations in the 1950s and 60s didn’t need to ask. The UCC population was high, families were large, and people were not nearly as mobile. In short, churches were much fuller every Sunday and people brought their envelopes with them. Because we were already a little uncomfortable to ask for money, and because we were doing well for the most part, we got away with the expectation that people would continue to give and the hope that people would give a little more each year.
Well we are no longer in the 50’s and 60’s. Church congregations have gotten smaller, partly because the population we draw from has gotten smaller. People are away many more Sundays, and for those that not regularly in church, there are many other good causes and charities seeking our support. The result is that many congregations today are struggling financially, in some cases exhausting themselves with fundraising events, just to make ends meet.
We don’t Ask because we are afraid to offend
In the meantime, we have become afraid to ask – afraid we may offend; afraid that those who are already generous do not have anything more to give; afraid because we are uncomfortable with talking money in our society; and finally, resistant to the notion that we should have to ask in the first place. And yet, as giving becomes an issue of future viability, we must face it, one way or another. In my humble opinion, the answer is a simple one - we need to learn to ask. I must confess, I have not always felt comfortable, or confident, talking to people about their money. Apparently I am not alone. Our modern society seems to have an unwritten rule. Don’t talk about religion or money … and especially not both in the same breath! People are especially uncomfortable with money talk in church. I remember landing on my settlement charge as a young clergy and being told by more than a few people, “Don’t preach about money!” And yet, when we got together as a Church Board, this is what we became preoccupied with and worried most about.
Jesus never seemed to have the same reluctance to speak about religion and money together. Next to the Kin-dom of God, this is the thing he spoke about most. It had to do with what we human beings valued and how we could make a difference. So, maybe we need to re-think this. Just consider: If we believe in the ministry and mission of our church, why should we not give people the invitation to do the thing that makes us truly human – give - and make a difference?
We don’t ask because we believe that those of us who are giving are giving all we can.
As a stewardship staff, I have heard this frequently. God knows, for years I believed it. I have since come to learn two things: (1) Many people have the ability to give more … if inspired. (2) People don’t give based out of a sense of what they can afford anyway.
People give because they are moved to give. The two primary motivations for giving are compassion and community. It is rarely based on what we can afford. I give to my local congregation and to Mission & Service because I want to make a difference and because I have witnessed the wonderful compassion and love of God enacted in my faith community and in the world. I feel God has blessed me so much and given me the means to make a difference in Christ’s name.
The truth is … if we are not afraid to Ask, we will receive
So friends, let’s not be afraid to ask. We are doing incredible things in Jesus’ name. It is time for us to be bold, share this good news, and invite others to join us in growing our ministries! I think we would be super pleased with the results. Research bears it out – ask and you will receive!
How do we Ask?
I am glad you asked! As it turns out the United Church of Canada has just launched a new giving program. It has been mailed to every United Church Congregation. It is named “Called to Be the Church.” It is a complete 5-week Stewardship Program that has a ton of resources that will help your congregation to: INSPIRE, ASK and say THANKS!**
Also available in electronic format here:
*David Armour is the Director of Philanthropy, The United Church of Canada
** This program is awesome and contains 5 complete stewardship Worship Services, 5 Sunday School Lessons, 5 Adult Education Sessions, a Youth Confirmation package, plus videos and lots of materials to promote and advertize the program.