Stewardship Presentation by Paul Adams, Diocesan Stewardship Adviser.
It has been well-researched and documented over many years and thousands of churches within the Church of England that churches which get to the point where they are in a comfortable position with their finances (we’re not in the business of making a profit, but we do need to pay our bills) are those which follow these four practices regarding Stewardship and giving.
It will come up in the lectionary on a regular basis – there is an enormous amount in the bible that talks about giving and generosity – but teaching is key. We are in the business of encouraging new folk to come and join us, and they may not have heard, so we need to keep teaching what the bible has got to say about giving, so that new people can hear as well as those folks who have been in the congregation for 40 or 50 years!
If you can keep things going quite comfortably every three years, then fine, keep doing that, but a lot of churches find that three years isn’t enough – they need to look at it each year, and just give that encouragement. It doesn’t need to be a huge full-blown stewardship campaign, but just a reminder about it, and an opportunity for people to respond. In fact, if you did have new people coming in, which we hope is the case, it’s a long time for them to wait for three years to find out how to give to the church on a regular basis, so we want to give them that opportunity a little bit more often, so perhaps think about what you can do in the interim two years that’s a little bit more low-key, and enables people to be able to respond each year.
As a church, here in this community in Oakham, what is God calling us to do to grow his kingdom, and to encourage new people to come in, and encourage you to go out and meet people wherever they might be in the local community? What are the things that you are doing as a church that perhaps you want to grow? What are the new areas of ministry that you might like to get involved with? Thinking about those, normally there is a cost involved, so we need to plan if we’re going to be doing that something new – if we want to increase our work with children and families, we might want ultimately to employ a children and family worker, or a part-time worker. There are lots of different things that we could be doing – there could be any number of things that God is calling us to do.
If we can begin to communicate those well to the congregation, what we are doing is giving people more reasons to give. There’s a whole lot of psychology around giving, and within your congregation, and I’m quite sure within yourselves, there’ll be a wide spread of what you think about giving, how you give, how much you give, why you give, and that will be the same for everybody. And so we need to try to cast the net as wide as we possibly can, give people as many reasons as we possible can to give, because not everybody is at the stage in their Christian walk that they’ll think, well, I give because the bible tells me to give; I give because of my relationship with God. Not everybody is at that stage, so we need to find more reasons for people to give.
The national figures say that about 60% of your congregation will be in the ‘I want a reason to give’ mode. The other 40% are much more in the ‘I’ve been to church for a long time, I’ve got a relationship with God, and I understand what the bible says about giving, and I’m quite happy to give because of that’, so they will be the ones who give generously and sometimes sacrificially, but of course, we need everybody to think about their giving, consider how they give, and make their responses. So the link with mission is really important.
And again, the link with mission, a lot of that is about how we communicate. I visit many churches where it’s a little bit of a secret society; nobody knows what’s going on, and what happens over there in the corner, no-one tells anybody, the finances come up, and oh, nobody wants to talk about that, because that would really upset things. But actually, if you get to communicate with people, and tell them what’s going on, and why we want to do things, again that also tends to stimulate people’s responses and makes them think about increasing their giving. And if we then link it all in together, I know you’ve just had your APCM, and have possibly, possibly not, thought about some of these things, but if we begin to move forward, linking all these things – how we view parish share, is it a tax for the diocese, or is it the thing that enables us to do all sorts of things, visit bereaved relatives, go into the school and teach children about Jesus, that they may not have heard about, all these sorts of things that we link together, to draw everybody’s focus in, it helps.
An annual letter to say Thank-you for your giving. Who’s duty is it? Well, there are only a limited number of people who can do it, because obviously the information around giving is confidential. But each year, it is good practice to write and say thank-you to your givers, and this might be the thing that you can do in the interim years. Have a big stewardship campaign in year 1, and in years 2 and 3 use the thank-you letter to just give people that nice soft reminder. Perhaps what we can do is just write the letter and say “Thank you for what you have given”.
People are much more likely to increase their giving if you have said thank-you to them. We could then, perhaps, use it a bit more creatively, to say thank-you for what you’ve given, and this year it’s helped us to be able to do A, B and C, it’s helped meet our parish share in full, and it’s helped us to increase our work with children, and it’s helped us to be able to do something else. Give them three things, there’ll be three things that you can name, quite comfortably. And again, it’s just getting good communication, so that that 60% I mentioned, have got their reasons to give. And then, perhaps, the next stage after that, which again fits in with this nice soft approach, is to say, well this year it’s enabled us to do A, B and C, and next year, we’d really like to be able to do D, E and F, and now this is your opportunity to respond, and maybe think about increasing your giving, or for new people coming in, it’s their first opportunity to join in with the stewardship and giving towards God’s work. So, saying thank-you is a useful thing to add to your armoury.
What do we do in a stewardship campaign? When I’m working with a parish, this tends to be my approach; it’s really important that people know what it costs to run our church, and it’s often easier to break it down to a weekly figure, because if we look at monthly figures, they’ll be massive figures, and be much more unachievable, because people look at the headline figure and say, no we can’t do that. But if we break it down to weekly figures, it becomes much more achievable. And here is the shortfall, £168 per week, but if we look at the numbers involved, and maybe what they might give, start giving anew, or increase their giving, it soon becomes achievable when it’s broken down into small parts. So again, it’s about helping people to understand; you’re not looking to everybody to contribute £100 per month, or £30 per week, or whatever it might be. There might be somebody that can only afford an extra £5 per week. That’s fine. Everyone can play a part, and we need everyone to respond.
Here is just a snap shot of the current levels of giving, again often that’s an interesting benchmark – the top line is 6 givers giving on average almost £15 per week, the next one, 10 givers giving on average £7.33, 5 givers averaging £4.10, 16 givers averaging £1.39. This particular parish, their giving is quite low – 37 givers averaging £5.53 per person per week. The average in the diocese if £10.55 per person per week, so that’s almost half, so they’ve got quite a bit of work to do. Whether it’s achievable with the numbers they’ve got, and if they begin to think about the things that as a community God is calling them to do. I suspect, I haven’t looked at your figures, but I suspect they are just over the Diocesan average.
Now if we look at some average figures, I don’t know if any of you went to any of Bishop Donald’s recent roadshows, but he asked me to prepare some figures about that £10.55, what does it represent? It works out, using figures from the Office of National Statistics, that if we take into account everyone in the Diocese, it’s done by postcode areas and then added all together, and at the moment there are just under 10,000 givers in the Diocese, and look at the average income for everyone in the diocese, so that includes benefits, pensions, and working people, and they work out that this figure here of £10.55 per person per week, comes out at around 3.2% of the average income within the diocesan area. And so what we looked at, is if we could just encourage people in the parishes to look at giving just 5%, the Church of England recommendation of 5%, to their churches, what would that look like? If that did happen, it would mean that average giving of £10.55 would increase to around £16.50. So, about £6 per person per week extra. And again, we worked out that even if we just managed to achieve that with the existing givers, it would solve all of the financial problems of all of our churches straight away. If we take seriously the biblical teaching of giving a tithe, or a tenth, then it goes up to about £33 per person per week, and there are lots of people who give at least that and well in excess of that.
So present this information, that’s the inside of an A5 size leaflet – it’s really important that people know what it costs, and again there are some people that will respond to that. And there are a lot of people who look at the figures and think “I’m not interested”, and that’s life, that’s fine, so we need to give them something else to look at. So the other thing that I’ve been doing for 3 or 4 years is I work with the parishes to look at the visional, missional stuff that they’re looking at as a parish. I look to see if they have done a Growth Action Plan, or a Mission Action Plan, and if they haven’t just to think about it, and I say to them ‘What are the things that are going well in your church? What are the things that you’d perhaps like to grow? What are the things that you’d like to see that are new, and different, and just encourage people to think of just 4 or 5 things; and they can be very generic, or they can be very much more specific.
‘We want to be a happy, thriving church of committed people, increasing in number.’ I’m sure you could all sign up to that one! Very general, but that’s what we’re here for, to grow the church. On the right, a bit more specific – ‘We want to be able to repair our church roof and move forward with our plans for a new servery and toilet facilities.’ Much more money involved there, but that’s the important thing, that’s what we see as important for our ministry within our community. Again, on the left ‘We want to have a strong Christian presence in the whole Parish.’ This is Kettering – they’ve got a park, just opposite the front door of the church, and in the summer, on a nice day like today, instead of staying in the church, they got up, and they went, all of them, over to the park, and they had a service in the park, and they just walked around and asked anyone who was in the park if they’d like to come and join in their service with them. Again on the right, a bit more specific one, ‘We want to grow our Café St Leonard work on the third Saturday of each month, helping us to have a strong Christian impact in the whole village,’ and what they did is they opened the church on the third Saturday, and they served really nice tea and coffee, and refreshments, had local newspapers, and set a few tables out around the back of the church, and just invited people to come in. They didn’t do a service, they just sat and talked to people, and begun to make people feel comfortable in church, get through the door, so that, hopefully, at some point in the future, as the relationships grow, the people might feel able to come to church. Both of them wanted to be able to support external agencies, and give some of their money away to different good causes.
Again, two very similar ones at the top – quite generic, but good things to be able to sign up to, being able to grow through childrens and families work, one of the leading ways to grow our churches, through work with children and families.
And again on the right, a couple of more generic ones, all great things to do, let’s put them down on paper, let’s tell people that’s what we want to do, and that might just encourage someone else to give, because they’ll see that that’s God’s work being enabled.
And then a very specific one on the left, which took a little bit of time to work out with them. Fr Andrew was part time. They set out how many people they’d got in the congregation now, what the average giving was, did some sums, and decided, well, if we can increase our congregation by this amount, and people are still giving, then we should just about be able to afford to support or priest, so we can go from part-time to full-time, and continue to grow the church. So that was much more specific. they just sat down and worked out what God was calling them to do, and then presented that to the congregation, and again, the figures might not float everybody’s boat, and these things might not, but you’ve got a much better chance of reaching a much wider spread of your congregation, and give them more things to respond to.
Encouraging people to think about giving in their will to their parish church. In 2014, the latest year we have figures for, just over £50 million was left to parishes within the Church of England. That’s the highest amount, and obviously spread across many, many churches, but I’m sure if someone left you a gift every couple of years, however large or however small, it would be gratefully received and would help to increase the ministry and your capability here as well. So think through a legacy policy – much more of a long term part of stewardship, and obviously you don’t know when it’s coming, unless you send the boys round! It’s good to think about these things and plan forward.
Now the picture here, the RNLI, out of every 10 new lifeboats they put on the water, 6 out of 10 are paid for by legacies. 60% of the income of the RNLI is from legacies, so they know, and they put an enormous amount of work into legacy planning. When we were in Hunstanton we looked at the lifeboat station, and a notice on the wall said a relatively small lifeboat cost about £6.5 million to put on the water, so you can see the sorts of amount we are talking about. Now obviously, legacies can be anything from a few hundred pounds to many hundreds of thousands, and I know of a handful of churches that have had legacies in excess of 3 or 4 hundred thousand pounds. Now they don’t come along every week, but the small ones do. The average legacy in the diocese in 2014 was just over £11,000, and about 100 churches received legacies in that year. So if you received £11,000 every year, it means that there’s additional ministry that we can do.