We are facing another year of struggles with money and
stewardship issues. Is there a way to break out of the
I WONDER if, like many families before the recession, we grew to
consider many luxuries to be necessities. Realistically, though, I
find that most churches are profligate only with tiny sums, such as
paper for notice sheets. Saving paper will not make a significant
difference, but you should review your planned spending and ensure
that it is all justified.
How much would you need to increase your income in order to stop
having to worry about shortfalls - at least for a while? By 15 per
cent? More? Review your budget and past accounts, and consider
whether there are sources that are not at present well tapped.
Stewardship by the congregation may be a potential source of
increase. Are most people still giving the kind of sums that they
gave a decade ago? An impassioned exhortation seems to produce
little change, as we are all accustomed to fending off impassioned
sales pitches, but a considered explanation of the state of the
finances and of realistic levels of giving will almost always bear
A structured approach, as in the stewardship programme TRIO, in
Southwark diocese, has historically produced an average 15-per-cent
increase in giving, and is re-usable in future years. It
facilitates a well-prepared and well-presented case for increased
Ad hoc donations may be a small item on the income side, but can
they be increased? At every event in the church, is there an
explanation of how much it costs to run the church, and how each
individual can help? At each event, display only the relevant
information (take away all the other posters and leaflets), and
place a donation envelope on each seat. Have a donations bowl as
the congregation leaves, if possible held by a friendly-looking
person who says "Thank you." On your envelope, print, for example,
"It costs £30 per hour to run this church; please help with your
donation." Unless you explain the current level of cost, people
will not realise that a larger donation is more appropriate.
It goes without saying that every stewardship programme should
also hand the church's legacy leaflet to every person who attends
regularly, and everyone on the church electoral roll. Use the
Church of England's legacy leaflet as a model (apart from the
uninspiring colours and line drawing), and you may become the
recipient of a legacy to assist in the sustainability of the church
in the future.
Spread the net wider. Most churches undercharge when letting out
their church or hall. The set letting-rate should cover the real
costs of using the building: utilities, maintenance, repair,
cleaning, and administration. Take the overall cost of these items,
divide it by the hours the church is in use, add ten per cent, and
then you will be getting close to a realistic fee.
It is more than unreasonable to expect members of the Sunday
congregation to subsidise the use of the church by community groups
on weekdays, by having to meet more than their fair share of the
costs. Set realistic and sustainable letting fees, and increase
them each year by at least the percentage annual increase in the
cost of utilities.
Remember, always, that discipleship is the underlying principle
for our giving, and that enabling people to be good disciples
through generous giving is part of their coming to maturity.
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