At a recent stewardship meeting our chair brought a book to us: Not Your Parents' Offering Plate, by J. Clif Christopher. After reading and discussing, there were three things that I resolve to change about the way we do stewardship.
- When we donate money to non-profit organizations, we give it to church first so that our church can give it to the designated non-profit institutions.
- During the offertory, we will share stories of church members whose lives are transformed by our church ministry.
- We will have classes that can help us all to manage our finances better.
The Issues at Hand
First, Christopher says that in 2006 gifts to religion fell below 33 percent of charitable giving (down from 60 percent just 20 years ago). The number of nonprofits in America grows 5-7 percent each year. He says that churches are in competition with the non-profit organizations to secure donations. I understand what he means, but his statement can be misleading and cause misunderstanding.
I believe that churches are not in competition with the other non-profit organizations in doing missions. I believe that we are partners with them. They are doing what we are doing also. So, we are not competitors but partners in principle. So, how do we serve the same mission with them?
The reason that people give money to Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, American Heart Association, Hospitals, and Universities is that people believe in what they are doing. We all want to make this world a better place. We believe that they are doing a great job! So we will continue supporting them.
However, if we donate money directly to those non-profit organizations, they will send a “Thank You!” card to us. If we donate money to church and the church gives the money to them, they will give credit to the church and say “Thank you!” to God! We will send the same amount of money to the same places. The only difference is now that God is glorified. Not my name but God’s name will be lifted up!
Imagine that all the church members in the world donate money through their churches! Universities and hospitals will respect churches and listen to what churches should say when they teach about principles and practical applications concerning life and death. Organizations that work for issues of poverty, health, and social safety nets will honor churches and respect their positions and principles. We will give them money and God will restore our influence.
Second, during the offertory we will share stories of church members whose lives are transformed by our church ministry. Even though we are partners of the other non-profit organizations, we are unique. In worship, we do not give direct services to the sick and hungry. However, we give hope to the hopeless and strengthen faith for the ones who go through tough times. We teach love so that we can practice love in our daily lives with other Christians and non-profit agencies. We proclaim God’s forgiveness so that we can have a second (and many more) chances in our lives. No non-profit organization can assure God’s forgiving love like we do. We shape biblical value, view-point, and vision in our character. We find biblical purpose of life, make biblical plans for our lives, and recruit partners in mission and ministry. We help people to live out simple, sharing, and serving lives. When we share those stories, we can confirm that the offering that we give to God is being used effectively and wonderfully.
Third, we will help people to be free from debt. Jesus has freed us from the bondage of sin and death. As followers of Jesus, we want to continue this mission of freeing people from shackles. One of the gravest prisons that people experience is financial debt. We do not want to tell people to give more to church. We want to give more financial freedom to people. Many people do not know how to manage their money responsibly. If our church helps people to manage their finances better, they will be free from debt and they will have more room to help others with what they still have in their hands. And when we finish our faith journey on earth, we can even have some asset to donate for the Kingdom of God! So our stewardship committee will offer a finance class for our church members.
Plan of Action
For number 1 (donation through our church), church members can do it independently. We will emphasize the value of the church's reputation in the world if funding for non-profits doing good work comes through the church. It is up to our members whether they accept the suggestion or not.
For number 2 (sharing personal stories during offertory), we will invite church members to volunteer their participation. Sometimes, worship leaders will have to recruit and find people who are willing to glorify God through their stories.
For number 3 (finance class), our stewardship committee will plan and promote a series of classes. There are many good resources created for the purpose of teaching financial freedom in churches. It is up to each member to participate in the class or not, but the benefits of such a program will be emphasized for all individuals and families to make financial responsibility part of their discipleship.
Let us glorify God together through these simple changes!