Review: Bounty

August 27th, 2013

As a college chaplain and professor, I missed many aspects about my former life as a pastor; I never missed the fall stewardship campaign. Giving to the church is, in my experience, is an unfailingly accurate barometer of the strength of a congregation, the fidelity of its members, and the confidence the people have in the pastor’s leadership. For all those reasons I spent many sleepless nights until the stewardship emphasis was completed and the budget was (mostly) pledged.

As bishop, when I met with new pastors, asking them in what area they desired more training the predominate response was, “Stewardship and fund raising!”

Now that I am again a pastor of a congregation (Duke Memorial UMC, Durham, NC) I have returned to the task of leading stewardship. My first week on the job the SPRC chair told me, “We don’t have anyone who was willing to be Stewardship Chair this year. You have a real job ahead of you. Finances have never been strong at this church.” I panicked.

It was then that the Lord led me (and I really believe it happened just that way) to Bounty: Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church (Abingdon, 2013), by Kristine Miller and Scott McKenzie. This book is a wonder, that rare combination of theologically grounded, well informed, tried and true principles and specific, workable, practical steps that any congregation can take to lead to greater financial faithfulness.

The authors are convinced that gratitude is a basic human emotion and also a cardinal Christian virtue. While they stress that fostering a spirit of gratitude is a year-round undertaking for the church, this is the sort of book that any church could use for guidance through a time of stewardship emphasis (the fall stewardship campaign). Indeed, I did just that. I gave copies to every member of our Stewardship Team. They read this book and it became our handbook on how to lead our congregation to more faithful stewardship.

Miller and McKenzie show themselves to be masters in assimilating the best thought on giving in the church and then presenting that material in a concise way. They stress that stewardship leadership is one of the most important educational and prophetic tasks of the pastor. Every pastor ought to know the financial faithfulness of each member of the congregation. People ought to be constantly thanked for their giving before they are asked for gifts. We should preach and teach about the dangers and the gifts of our money. All year long we pastors ought to look for opportunities to lead our people to greater financial witness. They tell us which practices work and which ones don’t work. They give great examples of ways in which churches both encourage and discourage generosity. In short, this is a wonderful book that is sure to be indispensable for all pastors and all lay leadership.

By the way, we did indeed remarkably increase our congregational giving. Our theme was, “I’m Grateful,” and we used Bounty as our guide. Our team constantly referred to the guidance of Bounty every step of the way. Our results both in the amount of money we raised for ministry and the spiritual growth that occurred during the time of stewardship emphasis were unprecedented. I can think of no greater testimonial to the value of this important, imminently useful book!

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