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Current Events
Tim Schraeder has written a wonderful synopsis of Joel Osteen’s appearance on Oprah’s new show over the weekend.  I think it’s worth your read. Some of the more interesting things to me: On preaching prosperity: Why would people think preaching prosperity is a bad thing?
  • I don’t know who would say that you aren’t supposed to leave your children better off than you were.
  • Prosperity isn’t just financial… it’s abundant life… body, soul, mind, and spirit.
  • You can’t be a blessing if you are poor, broke and depressed.
If you are poor, broke, and depressed is it because you aren’t praying enough or aren’t in alignment?
  • It’s a mixture of things.
  • I think there are forces trying to hold us all down.
  • A lot of it is just that we choose to accept things as they are.
  • We have to choose to rise out of it.
On criticism: You have been criticized by fundamentalists about the lack of doctrine or Christ in the messages… 
  • I try to search my own heart every morning.
  • I feel like if I am pure before God and my heart is right, I don’t have to listen to my critics or answer to them.
  • I answer to God.
  • I try to stay focused on what God has called me to do.
On money: Where does the money you live your life with come from?
  • We don’t take a salary from the ministry.
  • It comes from books sales and other things like that.
  • I don’t make apologies for God’s blessings.
  • We’re big givers, we practice what we preach.
  • Money should never be the focus of your life.
  • Your focus should be to be a blessings to others.
  • Wishing you were someone else is an insult to God.
  • He made each one of us as a masterpiece.
Universalism and Homosexuality: Are there many paths to get to the one God?
  • Jesus is the way to the one God.
  • And I believe there are many paths to Jesus.
  • I’m not into excluding people.
Are gay people also included?
  • Absolutely.
  • I believe gay people will be accepted in Heaven.
  • We look at being gay as being a bigger sin than being prideful.
  • I don’t believe God categorizes sins.
  • We are all changing.
  • We need to be willing to change and grow.
  • Heaven is open for all of us.
Are you saying that being gay is a sin?
  • I believe homosexuality is a sin, according to the Bible.
  • When I read the Scripture with good faith, I see it as being a sin.
Overall, it looks like a good performance by Osteen. Your thoughts? Take a moment to read more of Tim’s synopsis of the whole interview here…      
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Tithing to mainline Protestant churches as a percentage of income is at its lowest level in at least 41 years, according to a new report, and churches are keeping a greater share of those donations for their own needs. Parishioners gave about 2.38 percent of their income to their church, according to “The State of Church Giving through 2009,” a new report being released this month by Empty Tomb inc., a Christian research agency in Champaign, Ill. Just over 2 percent of income went toward congregational finances, such as operating costs and building expenses. Only 0.34 percent of parishioner income went to what Empty Tomb calls “benevolences,” such as charities and seminary training beyond the four walls of the church. Those are new lows, at least going back to the first report in 1968. via The Washington Post. QUESTION:  Do you even have any idea what the average person in your church gives?  Is it more than 2.38%?
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I’m not sure where this statement came from, but many churches have said it.  I think our church still says this regularly… but it’s something that Casey Graham says you should NOT say this weekend or ever… because it’s simply not true: If this is your first time here, we don’t want you to give. Casey says:  Let EVERYONE in attendance know that the offering is a time for people to support the mission and vision of your church. via Do NOT Say This In Church This Weekend. What do you think? Todd
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Trends
From the CNN Belief blog: Thou shalt not be required to financially support your church – but you should anyway. That’s the upshot of a new informal survey of evangelical leaders finding that less than half believe that the Bible requires church members to tithe, the practice of giving at least 10 percent of one’s income to the church. The survey, conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) among its 100-member board of directors, found that 42% of evangelical leaders believe the Bible requires tithing, while 58% do not. The National Association of Evangelicals, the nation’s biggest evangelical umbrella organization, would not say how many of its 100 board members responded to the survey, which was conducted in February. The board includes such influential figures as the heads of the Salvation Army, the Assemblies of God – a major Pentecostal denomination – and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Dan Olson, a Purdue University sociology professor who has studied tithing, says the new survey doesn’t mean Christian leaders think those in the pews shouldn’t give. “Most of those leaders would probably say, ‘you really ought to tithe, but the term ‘requires’ gets at a theological point,” he said. “Most Christians would say the laws of the Old Testament are not what save you – you’re supposed to be giving out of a spirit of freedom, not because you’re bound to laws,” he said. The National Association of Evangelicals’ survey found that 95% of evangelical leaders say they give at least 10% of their salaries to church. A recent study by group that tracks church giving, called Empty Tomb, Inc., found that evangelicals on a whole give an average of 4% of their income to their church, though Olson suspects the average is much lower, around 1% or 2%. via CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs. // What do you think?  Does this study surprise you?  Do you hold to the view that the New Testament demands a tithe, or is that strictly old testament?  And… if you believe the tithe… do you subscribe, as some do, that the entire tithe needs to be given 100% to the local church?
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Staffing
I found this over at ChurchThought.com and thought it was a great question. It’s based off a recent Dave Ramsey quote: @daveramsey said:
“Don’t hire anyone without seeing their home budget. If they can’t live on what you can afford to pay, don’t waste each other’s time.”
What do you think of that? Is that reaching too far, or is it a prudent move as you hire your next staff person? More here…
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I am often asked to support my recommendations that ministries offer technological solutions to giving. Let’s look at the flipside of the question – what happens when we don’t make it easy for our constituents to contribute financial support?

As we begin the new year in 2011, here are 11 reasons to not offer online giving:

1. You want to frustrate those who no longer use checks or carry cash. Many today, especially those under age 30, do not carry or use checks. Nor do they carry much cash. Their financial lives revolve around the use of debit and credit cards. So when offering time comes, they are frustrated, even embarrassed that they are unprepared to participate.

2. You do not want to link stories of life change to generosity. After watching a video you’ve uploaded that tells the story of a new life in Christ that occurred as a result of your church’s ministry, why not provide a link to your online giving page? Help your donors connect the dots between their generosity and the impact it is having through your ministry.

3. You would prefer people give to other non-profits who DO offer online giving. Just a reminder – there are over 1.2 million charities in the United States alone. If one is led to give and doesn’t find an easy, convenient way to give to your mission, they will find another one that does and make their gift there.

4. You do not want to tempt your donors to use credit cards. That’s great! You don’t have to. Several online giving providers offer the option of accepting debit cards without taking credit cards.

5. You do not want to pay transaction fees – while there is a small percentage fee (less than 3%) for contributions made from debit and credit cards, those fees are more than covered by the new money you will receive from donors who begin to give to your ministry now that this option is made available to them. Many invite online donors to add 2-3% to their gift to cover the transaction fees.

Know too that electronic funds transfers (EFT) and similar options a donor can select have a small $.25 – $.50 fee, but no percentage fees that credit cards charge.

You will save money in at least a couple of ways, including administrative time saved not having to manually enter gift data or processing checks each week along with occasional insufficient funds charges.

6. You want people to view giving as if they are paying bills. People can use online bill pay through their bank so we don’t need to offer online giving. Yes, they can. I pay most of my bills that way each month. But do we really want our people to view giving to God as if they are paying a bill? That truly is not the heart position from which we want our people giving.

7. You do not want to receive impulse gifts – often a donor will be led to make a gift on the spur of the moment – perhaps due to a story they’ve read on your website, or a sermon they just heard online. Maybe they just finished their morning devotional and are moved to be generous. With a link on your site to make an online gift, they can do so quickly and easily. Without an online giving option, the urge passes and the gift is lost.

8. You do not want gifts from Unique visitors to your site – the webmaster at our church tells me that our website had 12,000 UNIQUE visitors to our site in the first six months of this year. That is an incredible number. Many are accessing our pastor’s sermons weekly. An online giving portal would provide a way for those visitors, people who may never cast a shadow on our physical campus to offer generous support for the ministries of our church.

9. You do not want to receive larger gift amounts – Dave Ramsey’s organization reports that users of debit/credit cards at McDonald’s spent 47% more than those using cash. Statistics exist that people typically spend between 18 – 30% more when using a debit/credit card over cash or check. Would not the same trend hold true when giving with a debit card? Consider the Salvation Army – when they began testing electronic payment machines at their kettles in 2008, average donations jumped from $2 to $15. Big surprise…they are rolling out those payment machines in more locations this year.

10. You are not interested in receiving year-end gifts – According to Network for Good, 22% of all online giving occurs during the last two days of December! This seems to indicate that tax implications may be a bigger motivation than some believe. In Australia, where the tax year ends on June 30, there is a similar bump in online giving the last few days of June. So if a donor desires to make that last-minute tax-implication gift online and doesn’t find an option on your webpage, she will find another place to make that gift.

11. You do not need offerings on weekends when you have to cancel services. We had snow last weekend – did you? The list of cancelled worship services scrolling on the TV screen was really long. With online giving, you can offer a reminder and a link to your people reminding them to remain faithful with their giving even when they physically are unable to get to your campus.

Rusty Lewis, CFRE

Senior Generosity Strategist, Generis

www.rustylewis.net

Twitter: rustylewis

Rusty Lewis joined the Generis team in 2001, following a fourteen-year career raising money for schools and non-profit youth groups. With experience in education and as vice-president of a $22 million corporation, Rusty’s breadth of experience fuels his calling to serve churches and faith-based non-profits.

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An article by David Briggs over at Faith and Leadership presents a pretty glum scenario.  It starts out:

You know the bad news.

The recession is taking a toll on religious groups, with giving down and layoffs extending from denominational headquarters to local churches.

Now comes the worse news.

Even after the economy recovers, it is unlikely that church budgets will quickly rebound to pre-recession levels.

Sylvia Ronsvalle of empty tomb inc., a Champaign, Ill., organization that researches religious giving, has long been sounding an alarm about a downward trend in Protestant giving in recent decades. Per-member giving declined from 3.1 percent of income in 1968 to 2.6 percent in 2007, even before the latest economic downturn.

There is not a “creeping crisis” of relevancy in American Christianity, she said.

“It is a galloping crisis, and it’s immune to the economy,” Ronsvalle said. “The church needs to dig in and figure it out.”

What do YOU think? Many of the churches I work with really aren’t seeing much of a giving crisis.  Granted, most of those churches have great vision and leadership… are actually growing… and are doing quite well, even during these tough economic times. But I think this may be the exception to the rule. If a church doesn’t have a clear plan… a clear vision… and strong leadership, I’m guessing that they may be getting hit very hard. And there are some parts of the country, regionally, that are getting hit harder than others. Now that said, I think most churches, even the ones that are doing well, are a little shell-shocked.  They are being more prudent with expenditures and are watching things closely.  But overall, their giving is steady or increasing slightly. How’s your church doing during this financial climate?  Is giving way down, holding steady, or up slightly? And what impact does vision and leadership have in how churches do financially during the tough times? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments… Todd
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You may have seen them advertised, or thought they were only for larger churches.  But do those automated, ATM-like giving kiosks really work?  Tim Stevens reports that giving is up around 3% at Granger Community Church since they’ve added the kiosks… Here’s some other things that Tim shares that Granger has learned in their first months of utilizing the kiosks:
  • Between September 11 and December 31, we took in almost 1,250 donations on the kiosks. The average donation was $80, and the gifts totaled around $25,000 per month. (We have around 5,000 attending each week–so you can scale this up or down for your situation.)
  • Kiosk donations accounted for 4% of our overall donations in the last four months of 2009.
  • We have 3 machines. 2 at our Granger Campus and 1 at our Elkhart Campus.
  • Prior to September, we averaged 42 new givers/month to our General Fund. Between September and December we averaged 67 new givers/month to our General Fund.
  • Average monthly giving increased 3% in the last four months of 2009.
  • During this time, we had 69 people give for the first time on the kiosks. In total, those 69 people subsequently gave $15,225 through the end of the year.
Is YOUR church using kiosks?  What have your results been? Have you been thinking about utilizing giving kiosks?  If you’ve been thinking about it… what’s held you back? I’d love to hear your input… Todd
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