No More Excuses for Church Generosity

Several of us agreed a couple of months ago to stop talking about the economy. Enough already. Stop whining. Indeed, what has been viewed by many as an obstacle to funding ministry and capital projects is having less and less of an impact today.

church generosity excuses

I have been blessed to engage with several churches and non-profit ministries this spring, and the results are coming is as I write this article. Suffice it to say, for these clients anyway, the economy is not holding them back.

One has received commitments in excess of 4 times the annual income of the church. Another is at 2.4 times. Early commitments are in from two other clients who are having congregational commitment events later this month. The results of their “leadership” phases are running at or above what I would normally anticipate.

Navigating Capital Projects in a Tough Economy

Our first “On the Table” luncheon was a hit!

Fifty Kansas City area ministry leaders assembled at the Hereford House for a great time of food and fellowship, with the opportunity to hear Senior Pastor Derrick Lynch of Blue Valley Baptist Church tackle the topic that was “on the table” - Navigating Capital Projects & Funding Ministry in Hard Times.

Here is a summary of Pastor Derrick’s comments:

Can you afford the project on the drawing board?

Charitable Contributions Breakdown

It’s always interesting to see where charitable contributions come from as you view the statistics from the Giving USA report. Here is the breakdown:

Where The Money Comes From

* Individual Giving – $229.3 Billion – 75% of the total in 2008

* Foundation Grants – $41.2 Billion – 13% of the total

* Charitable Bequests – $22.7 Billion – 7% of the total

* Corporate Giving – $14.5 Billion – 5% of the total

2008 Giving Data Released

The article headline reads “Charitable Donations Fell by Nearly 6% in 2008, the Sharpest Drop in 53 Years.” Many church leaders will read the headline and assume that this statistic also applies to their church. Often times statistics like these do not include faith-based charities in their reporting.

It is important to read the entire article to learn the specifics that apply to our specific area of interest.

This update from the Giving USA Foundation as reported in the recent article found in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, does include faith-based charities in the report.

A Time for Generosity

Numerous assessments about the economic condition of the United States abound. Furthermore it is also a condition affecting first, second and third world countries.

Many Americans feel that they are joining the rest of the world because they have anxieties over dependable income, home ownership, retirement plans, health care, debt loads, and college plans. Most people, however, are not yet moving down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to the basic level of safe shelter or adequate food and clothing.

How the Economic Slump is (or isn’t) Hitting Churches

If America’s national recession and economic downturn are like a season of bad health, do churches have pneumonia, a bad cold, or merely the potential of illness?

Overall, churches are doing better than the national economy. If the economy has pneumonia, most churches either have only a cold or are adding precautions in anticipation of a possible illness. While all churches are closely monitoring their finances, and the situation is worsening for some, in general most churches are cautious but holding steady – and churches that are growing are doing well economically.

In an effort to get an accurate picture of the church’s current economic outlook, Leadership Network asked identical questions about the economy’s impact in surveys conducted in both 2008 and 2009. A comparison of the responses led to several surprises. In addition to Leadership Network’s own statistical analysis, the following report includes summaries and references to other recent research on church economics.

God’s Wealth Affect

Investment portfolios are down… way down. Depending on the percentage of dollars allocated to stock investments, brokerage accounts, 401k accounts, IRAs, and the lot are down anywhere from 20% to 50% in the last 12 months. Jobs are disappearing as well. In January, the unemployment rate was 7.6 % and it may hit a peak of 10% in 2009.

The wealth affect that drove excessive consumer spending has been replaced with a fear of spending on anything, even on those things that represent our stated higher values. Hoarding has grabbed hold; people are hunkered down to ride out the recession. We feel less wealthy and thereby, less secure. It does not feel like a time to be generous.

Where is the Economic Climate Balance?

I just finished reading yet another article on the economic climate’s effect on church giving in the United States. Many articles have been written and surveys conducted, portending to know the outcome for 2009.

While I agree there will be affects in many churches, it is unwise, even unfaithful, to believe that ALL churches will be affected negatively. Some continue to flourish, even in these times! Should our 2009 ministry plan (budget) anticipate a shortfall? Perhaps. It is thoughtful to be conservative in times like these.

But we know that in three of the last six recessions dating back to 1968, church giving actually increased! And two of the three instances where giving did decline in past recessions were in the final year of a multi-year recession. In a study published by The Empty Tomb, they concluded that giving does not necessarily decline due to an economic recession.

So what’s the problem? All these articles share the same “doom and gloom” without balancing the positive things that have and continue to occur in churches all over this land. Clients share with me the generosity welling up in their congregations to serve those that are truly hurting. Isn’t this the kind of opportunity that affords Christians to really shine the light of Christ? It has happened before!

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

2 Corinthians 8:2-4