Nov. 29 - Dec. 5, 2004




Is your church contributor-friendly?


A 37-cent stamp brought me an urgent letter from my home congregation, its message essentially this: Costs up, donations down, please send money.


I wanted to help. For a long time I had intended to become more regular in my offering through "Simply Giving" – a Lutheran program that automatically transfers weekly donations from your bank account. So I cruised onto my congregation’s excellent website to get more information.


But not only was there nothing about Simply Giving, there was no mention whatever of the financial needs of our church or opportunities for helping to meet them.


This is not to criticize my congregation's leaders or dedicated web volunteers, because my church is hardly alone in this oversight. An admittedly unscientific sampling of dozens of church-related websites showed only a handful providing comprehensive guidance for giving.


The issue is important because experts say a smaller percentage of church donations comes via the traditional check-in-the-collection-plate. In fact, a growing number of people (I am one) do their banking electronically and simply loathe writing checks. Others would rather give their via credit card. Still other donors would be happy to give in-kind donations, stock, real estate or bequests, but they don’t think of it or don't know how. Does your church give them guidance?


Several items in this week’s resources stress donor outreach and education. An article in Planned Giving Today says many wealthy Christians do not remember their churches in their wills simply because they are never asked to. Another piece from the United Methodist Church suggests a five-year-plan for educating members about alternative giving.


What to do? Churches with websites could start with a page listing options for giving. For inspiration, check out the great stewardship pages of Trinity Episcopal Church, BostonAll Saints Episcopal, Atlanta; and Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia. Other ideas for education: Bulletin inserts. Brochures and posters for the narthex and bulletin board. A  handout included with every contribution statement or financial appeal. Newsletter articles.


These possibilities boil down to two essential actions: Ask your people to support God's ministries and educate them about their options for contributing. 


--Rob Blezard, webmaster and editor


 New This Week:


Planned giving awareness in the local church
"It would appear that God and the IRS agree on one thing ¾ we can't take it with us," says this compelling article that explains why churches are frequently overlooked in their members' wills -- and how pastors and stewardship leaders can change things. Good, practical insights and tips from Planned Giving Today -- a newsletter for philanthropic professionals.


Teach a new way of giving
 Stewardship planners know there are a number of alternative ways to give to the local church than the annual pledge, but do your congregation's members? This article suggests a five-year plan for educating folks in the pews about opportunities for contributing to their ministries. From the United Methodist Church's Center for Christian Stewardship, which has lots of other great resources worth checking out.




Does your church website make it easy for donors?
If members want to find out about giving opportunities at your church, would they find the information on your congregation's website? Sadly, the answer is often "no," and congregations lose out on chances to educate and inspire their members to contribute to the ministries. Here are webmaster's choices of several churches and a seminary that do a good job explaining ways folks can donate:
Trinity Episcopal Church, Boston - Well-crafted "giving back" page.
All Saints Episcopal, Atlanta - Detailed menu of options and links.
Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia - Options, including credit-card giving.



The liturgy of abundance, the myth of scarcity.
A must read by Walter Brueggemann, the respected Hebrew Bible scholar who brings searing Scriptural insight into American consumerism and religious life. "Christians have a long history of trying to squeeze Jesus out of public life and reduce him to a private little Savior. But to do this is to ignore what the Bible really says. ... When people forget that Jesus is the bread of the world, they start eating junk food -- the food of the Pharisees and of Herod, the bread of moralism and of power. Too often the church forgets the true bread and is tempted by the junk food." From The Christian Century. This week's Recycling Bin feature.



 Economics 101 for your congregation
Churches may be in the unique business of saving souls and proclaiming the reign of God, but financially they function under the same principles as other types of business. In this monthly column for ELCA's Stewardship Resources, Tuck Aaker says how business-savvy can help churches maintain and grow their ministries.