It took [my church] a couple of years of research, trial, and error to develop an effective funding plan. Here are a few lessons we learned along the way.
1. Research, research, research. We don’t need to re-create everything. A lot of work has already been done. We can take advantage of those resources. For example, we learned that new attenders take three to five years to develop a “tithing” level of giving. We didn’t need to redo the research to learn this.
2. Adapt what you learn to your church’s culture. Which systems fit our church? Which do not? How do we need to tweak resources and methods to make them work for us?
3. Define what a culture of generosity looks like. How will we measure generosity? How will we gather, track, and report this information? We decided to track first-time givers, total giving units, consistent givers, and “tithers”—households that give at a level of about one-tenth of our community’s median income. We also track and celebrate the number of digital givers.
4. Keep pointing to how generosity impacts ministry. Paying off our debt was the main way we freed up funds to fully staff for greater effectiveness and growth.
5. Treat stewardship as a spiritual discipline. We decided to celebrate decisions to give as spiritual steps, just as we celebrate other spiritual steps.
6. Involve every staff member and key leader in your funding plan. It is not enough for ministry leaders to shape your spending plan; they need to take equal responsibility for the funding plan.
7. Always keep the focus on the vision, not on the balance sheet.
Only once before in our church’s history had we met our budget goal for giving. The first year we fully implemented our funding plan, our giving exceeded our budget, and not just by a little—by 15 percent! This is exciting not because it improves our balance sheet, but because it increases our capacity to minister to people.
Adapted from The More with Less Church: Maximize Your Money Space, Time, and People to Multiply Ministry Impact by Eddy Hall, Ray Bowman, and J. Skipp Machmer (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014). Used with permission.
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