Stewardship: If I Could Start from Scratch…

August 26th, 2012

In established church settings it is very difficult to change the stewardship DNA of the congregation. I wish to repent of the low expectations I presented to new members early in my ministry. As a young pastor in my twenties, I was so excited when the local bank president, college president, or state senator wanted to join the church. I am afraid I communicated to these new members something like this: “We are so honored that you have chosen First Church. We know you are busy, but anytime you can attend worship, or volunteer, or give – that would be great.”

These new members met my low expectations. They attended a little bit. They volunteered a little bit. They gave a little bit.

Today, twenty years later, I am confident that their new pastor is struggling to invite these same parishioners to discover the joy of a deeper walk with Christ, a more holistic stewardship, and a higher level of discipleship. I pray that these parishioners will accept the invitation to journey toward becoming deeply devoted disciples of Christ.

Set High Expectations

Hilbert Berger’s teachings, later reinforced by Mike Slaughter and Adam Hamilton, helped me to understand the importance of helping new believers journey toward the high expectations that Christ has of all who seek to be disciples. No more invitations to lukewarm Christianity, fence sitting, or pew warming.

In new church settings, the pastor has the opportunity to plant a high-expectation church that has a healthier stewardship DNA. The new church’s stewardship can be driven by ministry and changed lives, rather than by constant concern of meeting the budget. New church pastors can set up a discipleship system with a broad level of expectations for new parishioners. These expectations usually include personal devotional time, reading the Scriptures, attendance at worship, lifestyles at home, heartfelt commitment, and a healthy view of money – all the while communicating clearly what Jesus Christ expects of those who desire to be faithful followers.

Some churches that are setting higher expectations for membership say up front that members are expected to tithe 10 percent. There is no pressure to make the commitment of membership, but for those who want to go beyond simple attendance, the bar is set for not just their prayers and participation, but their giving as well.

Adapt Your Methods

Setting high expectations doesn't mean being rigid with your methods of ministry, including with the ways people can give. For example, many 25- and 30-year-olds tend not to carry cash or checkbooks. There is a new generation of young adults who conduct all their financial transactions electronically.

Some denominational headquarters, such as that of The United Methodist Church, have provided simple resources to help churches take advantage of the electronic transfer of funds from parishioners’ bank accounts directly to the church account on a steady, uninterrupted basis. Ken Sloan reports that the church he attends places a QR Code in the worship bulletin, so parishioners can scan the code on their smart phones, which takes them immediately to the church’s online giving page.

Kim Griffith, of Griffith Coaching, encourages people to set up the church as a payee on the bill-pay list with their online banking. She suggests, “If people are not comfortable having the money automatically taken out, they can still give electronically when they pay their bills. We received a lot of payments that way every month at my church.”

Kim also suggests that when people view or download sermons online at the church Web site, they be given a link to the giving page. There are people who may be coming to the site every week to listen to the sermon who may never have attended church. Consider providing a link saying something like this: “We hope you enjoy the sermons from First Church! If you would like to contribute to the ongoing ministries of this church, please click here.” People who are moved by what they have heard will contribute.

Congregations that are reaching younger parishioners have found ways to allow online giving with credit cards, recognizing those who prefer this method and the reward points they accumulate. While some complain that allowing credit card giving enables people prone to accumulating debt, some of these same churches are offering programs to deal with the issue of credit card abuse and crushing debt, raising the bar on responsible finances and discipleship rather than avoiding the issue altogether.


This article is the last of a four-week series on stewardship from Bob Crossman. See the first three: Stewardship and Vitality and Common Stewardship Pitfalls and Effective Stewardship is Not Budget-Driven.

Check out Bob Crossman's new stewardship program, Committed to Christ, and hear more from Bob about high-expectation churches and this new paradigm.

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