I really don't like talking about money.
Like most pastors I like tobe liked and I know that as soon as I talk about money there will be some in our church who won't like me!
Rather than speaking too much about money in the church we end up speaking too little, if anything, regarding stewardship
This is a serious omission which stymies the growth of people as disciples and in turn the mission of the church.
Over the last few years Newlife has grown steadily, including in its generosity.
While we still have a long way to go, through trial and error we have learned some key factors that foster healthy church stewardship.
I love alliteration (sorry!), so here are our "Four Cs":
CALL People to Biblical Stewardship
The scriptures are full of principles and insights on how followers of Jesus should steward their financial resources.
Jesus often addressed our obsession with material things.
Despite this wealth of material possessions, many people in our churches are ignorant of biblical stewardship principles like generosity and tithing.
Given this ignorance, and our culture's obsession with material comfort, it is critical that we teach regularly, practically and systematically on money matters.
Perhaps the area converted last in us is our hip-pocket, bank account or property/share portfolio.
In calling people to biblical stewardship we devote at least one Sunday a year to teach the principle of tithing.
We aim to teach an extended stewardship series (four to five weeks) every three years.
Teaching biblical stewardship is not an event – it is a continuous process.
COMMUNICATE a Vision
People do not give to a program; they give to a vision.
In exploring why people do not give more to their local church, researcher George Barna identified that a key reason is that churches fail to provide a compelling vision for how the money will make a difference in the world.
As our church has become more engaged in mission, so too has our giving increased.
We all know the biblical warrant that without vision, the people perish.
Equally, without a clearly articulated and compelling vision, people will not give – at least not generously.
As lead Minister I must connect the vision of our church lives and communities changed by the gospel – with people's giving.
When there is spiritual movement in a church people are more likely to open their hearts and wallets.
People will give when they see their money connected with changed lives.
CREATE Multiple Opportunities
Perhaps the most significant learning we have made in recent years is the power of providing multiple giving opportunities.
This principle is based on the understanding that people are motivated in different ways to give.
In a church context, some people are motivated by bricks and mortar – they love to give to building or major capital programs, while others are inspired to give to special mission projects and others still are faithful, steady contributors to ordinary church operations.
At Newlife we have a "five-bucket" approach to stewardship.
The five buckets are normal tithes and offerings, local mission through Newlife Care (counselling, emergency relief), overseas mission, church planting and Time to Build – our major capital program.
Our experience of providing multiple giving opportunities including the use of appeals has been revolutionary for us as a church in these ways:
Rather than detracting from tithes and offerings (Bucket One), promoting special appeals and other giving opportunities has not seen a dip in normal giving.
In a couple of cases, this giving actually increased through the period of the appeal.
For example, last year we raised $3.7 million dollars in pledges and gifts for a major expansion of our church facilities.
Since then our normal giving has increased by 12per cent.
Special appeals have uncovered new donors.
People love to be challenged to meet a target that will stretch the community, especially when it will benefit those outside the church directly.
Successful appeals are a shot of faith – adrenaline for the church.
CULTIVATE a Generous Culture
While we have so far to go, the thing I celebrate most in our church regarding stewardship is that God is cultivating in us a culture of generosity.
A few years ago a local school chaplain visited our church and shared about her work.
A recently retired couple were decided to support her ministry, even though she had made no financial appeal.
They contacted her employing body and made a $30 000 donation, which six months later they followed up with another donation of $30 000.
I only found out about the donation when contacted by the employing body.
I have never been so thrilled about a donation that did not contribute one cent to our church's bottom line!
I loved telling the story (with their permission and they remained anonymous) to the church.
As I see people in our church giving generously, sacrificially and spontaneously, I know that God really is doing something wonderful in our midst.
God is helping us along the journey towards excelling in the grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7). And isn't that how it should be?
This article was first printed in New Times.