According to a survey conducted by Brian Kluth of over 1,000 churches, 29% of the responding churches reported giving was down in 2008, and 53% of churches reported giving was behind budget for the first quarter of 2009. The amazing finding was in the face of these statistics, only 14% of churches made cuts to their 2009 budget. At face value, this would seem to indicate that at at least 15% of churches are going to be faced with severe budget shortfalls this year.
However, if the 53% of churches who were behind budget early in the year don't architect a financial turn around, many of them could be seriously behind budget for the year. This could put a number of churches in the position of needing to take some drastic and painful steps later this year or early 2009. One thing is certain, no pastor or board wants to fire staff or reduce important programs and ministries. One might consider this situation to be "the rock."
Churches that are having a hard time meeting budget, are struggling to pay mortgages, or can't afford to hire needed staff have only three options: reduce expenses, increase giving, or a combination of both. Two of the three solutions depend, in whole or in part, upon increasing giving to the church general fund. This brings us to the "hard place"; the Lilly Endowment Studies report that 85% of pastors feel uncomfortable and/or unequipped to preach on giving.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?" The same question might be asked about giving; how can anyone expect to increase giving in the church if 7 out of 8 pastor's are unwilling or unequipped to preach on biblical stewardship?
The Kings James Bible has 64 verses that mention hell, and 334 that mention love, however there are reportedly over 2,000 verses (depending on the source quoted) that deal with money and possession. Pastor Randy Alcorn's book, The Treasure Principle, puts the number of these verses at 2,350. Now there are those who will dispute that number, and it is certainly open to debate, but even if the number of verses was overstated by 100%, there would still be 3x more verses about money and possessions than love and hell combined.
Being unwilling to preach and teach on money is not a new problem. Malachi begins in chapter 1 by rebuking the priests for failing to properly oversee worship (particularly the offerings), and failing to properly instruct the nation in God's Law. He goes on to call the people to repentance, not the least of which was the famous "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings."
So what are pastors to do when they feel caught between a rock and a hard place?
The answer is to clearly and unashamedly preach and teach on biblical stewardship and not be afraid to challenge the people to respond. In 1 Chronicles 29:5, King David, after proclaiming his financial support for the building of the temple then clearly challenges the people to give by boldly asking, "Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the LORD?" David clearly threw the gauntlet down and the people responded.
Pastors and church leaders who wish to become equipped to lead their church in biblical stewardship, should consider the Dynamic Giving Toolkit. Pastor testimonials report increases in giving of 10-30% the first year and double digit increases yearly thereafter. The web site asks a very good question, "What would your church do with 10-30% more money?"
The core of the program is the book, Pastor Driven Stewardship by Dr. Rod Rogers. Used by over 1,000 churches in 13 countries, these materials have transformed the members and the giving of churches around the world. If your church needs to retire debt, hire staff, expand ministry, or you just want to avoid painful budget cuts, we think these stewardship materials will teach, equip and challenge you to lead your church in biblical stewardship.
Post a comment and let us know what your church could do with a 30% increase in giving...