Church Stewardship Programs
The most effective church stewardship programs are centered on Scriptural principles about the use of resources. Though most people think of money when they hear the word "stewardship," the concept also applies to the best use of one's time, talents, and other resources. Jesus' parable of the talents is a familiar one. "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey" (Matthew 25:14-15). The servants who were entrusted with five talents and two talents put the money to good use and doubled the amount. The servant who was given one talent buried it. When the traveler returned, he praised the first two servants, telling each one, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matthew 25:21). The third servant was called "wicked and slothful" (see Matthew 25:26). The word "talent" in the Matthew 25 passage refers to a monetary coin. But it's interesting that this archaic word holds a different meaning to modern-day readers. Holistic church stewardship programs will emphasize both renderings of "talent" as money and as abilities.
Some people have a talent for leadership, others for administration, and still others in creative pursuits such as music or drama. All these talents are gifts bestowed by God and are to be used for His glory and the furtherance of His kingdom. It's not too farfetched to say that the rich man in Matthew 25, who symbolizes God in the parable, is interested in how his servants use the non-monetary gifts he gave them. The talented individual who buries her talent may hear the same frightening pronouncement heard by the wicked and slothful servant: "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30). Well-rounded church stewardship programs will include an emphasis on helping individuals recognize their special talents and assist the church leaders in establishing ministries or areas of service where these talents can be used. In this way, individuals are able to devote both time and talent to the furtherance of God's kingdom in meaningful and significant ways. The leader can lead, the administrator can administrate, the musician can sing or play an instrument, and the dramatist can showcase Biblical truths in entertaining and thought-provoking messages.
Of course, an important element of church stewardship programs is proper money management. These can be divided into two basic types. The first is for the church as a whole, perhaps as part of a capital building campaign. The second is for the individual members of the congregation and centers on personal financial issues. Let's look at each type separately. When a congregation outgrows its building or perhaps is looking for property for the first time, there is a need for an enormous amount of revenue. A plan needs to be created to meet the need for the down payment or perhaps even the entire cost of either purchasing a particular property or the construction of a new facility. There are several different types of programs that are especially designed to help the church leaders educate and motivate their members to give the needed money for these large expenditures. For example, a particular program may include a series of sermons on giving for capital needs. The promotional campaign may include colorful posters and bulletin inserts. Members of the congregation may be encouraged to fill out a pledge card of what they intend to give over a certain period of time. Some congregations conduct these types of pledge drives once a year as a way to set an operating budget. Instead of raising money for a capital project, these congregations are using church stewardship programs to educate the members about the amount of money needed to meet the annual expenditures.
The second type of stewardship program focuses on the needs of individual members and their family household budgets. Here again, the most effective programs are based on Scriptural principles. Individuals and families are given the tools to set realistic budgets, get out of debt, and invest for the future. The basics of tithing are taught so that individuals and families become joyful and generous stewards of God's resources. These church stewardship programs are often designed especially for use in small groups. DVD or video lessons are supplemented with workbooks and other relevant materials. The lessons may be designed as a one-day seminar, a workshop series, or perhaps a multi-week series. The flexibility of the program allows church leaders to use the format that works best for their members.
Interested people can find reviews of a variety of church stewardship programs by going online. There are many Scripturally-based plans available that will help a congregation meet its particular goals. Personal finance workshops are beneficial to members and can also be used as an outreach tool, especially in difficult economic times. The small group option allows the participants to receive needed support as they apply Biblical principles to their household budget. An annual campaign can assist leaders in setting the yearly budget for the congregation, including its own gifts to other ministries and missions. For capital projects, such as purchasing property or new construction, some type of program is needed to encourage sacrificial giving. Whatever the goal, there are many church stewardship programs that can benefit the congregation. But the leaders must remember that stewardship is about more than just money. Individuals want to contribute in other ways, too. A well-rounded program will link together the stewardship principles for money, time, and talents.
Church Capital CampaignLaunching a church capital campaign may be necessary for a variety of reasons including retirement of debt, renovation of an existing facility or building a new one. But there can be a number of problems and pitfalls that congregations may face in the course of raising these needed funds. Successfully handling periods of growth and the financial strains that can result can be a major challenge. Congregations who refuse to compromise their core beliefs while effectively meeting the challenge of significant growth are the ones that are the most likely to succeed. A number of professional consulting agencies are available to provide help and guidance to churches who are making their way through the maze of red tape and competing priorities that such campaigns can represent. Unlike a simple fundraiser, a capital campaign will deal with issues of stewardship and often require real sacrifice on the part of the entire congregation. If campaigns of this nature are to succeed, giving that exceeds basic tithes and offerings will generally need to take place. There are major differences between capital campaigns and general fundraisers. Fundraisers will usually involve short term projects. These may include one time sales of items such as candy or magazines and will generally only last around a month or less. Larger stewardship campaigns may extend over a year or more and will generally be reserved for large ticket expenditures.
When conducting a church capital campaign, there are a number of positive outcomes that a congregation can focus on. Achieving financial goals is only one positive outcome of healthy campaigns. Often a congregation may look back on this period as a time of spiritual growth as members of the congregation learn to develop better stewardship habits. Learning to depend on God and His word can be another positive benefit. If handled Biblically, congregations can realize tangible growth and maturity. These benefits can far outweigh any financial gains. On the other hand, if church leadership decides to use tactics of pressure and manipulation, such spiritual growth will most likely not be evident. In fact, frustration and dissatisfaction may cause a church to loose members as well as enthusiasm. For this reason it is very important that any approach toward raising capital that is undertaken should be Biblically sound. Effective communication with the congregation on the goals and reasoning behind these campaigns is very important.
There are a number of pitfalls to be avoiding when conducting a church capital campaign. When the time comes to concentrate on campaigns of this nature, there can be a great temptation to attempt to handle things without calling in professionals. This can be a big mistake. All too often folks who are already very busy with ministry concerns will become overloaded with financial responsibilities and ministries will suffer. The end result can be less than successful fundraising totals, a burnt out ministry staff, and a frustrated congregation. Calling in a professional expert can lighten the load for these ministry leaders and can also yield a far more successful church capital campaign. Generally speaking, when ministries suffer, giving and enthusiasm within the congregation will suffer as well.
But simply seeking out professional help during a church capital campaign may not be enough. A mistaken belief that every professional service that promises to provide help and advice for raising capital is able to make good on those promises can be very costly. In many cases, churches will select the professional agency that charges the lowest fees. Low fees do not necessarily guarantee expertise. A little research into the quality and professionalism that the agency offers is called for. This can be done by talking with other churches who have utilized the agency in question in the past. Going with a professional consultant who has a reputation for staging a successful and profitable church capital campaign can pay dividends in the long run. But finding the best candidate may require investigating a number of professional agencies before making a final selection. The Bible tells believers that giving should be done with a joyful heart. "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Most congregations will insist upon a church capital campaign that is Biblically sound. These priorities should be discussed openly among leadership and insisted upon when dealing with outside agencies. Each step of the plan should be evaluated to determine whether or not it stands up to scripture. Campaigns that implement pressure tactics or guilt trips will most likely not fall in line with a church's core values and beliefs. The same can be said for campaigns that ignore the importance and power of prayer. If a professional consultant is not on board with these priorities, he may not be the right man for the job and the church should most likely look elsewhere. But once a congregation has located a consultant who shares their values and priorities, a healthy partnership can be put into action. This consultant will not only help church leadership design and implement campaigns that will raise money for a specific goal, but he should also be willing to advise the church on how to obtain any needed financing. By placing an emphasis on worshiping God through faithful giving, the time that is dedicated to a successful church capital campaign can provide a congregation with growth that is both financial and spiritual.