Clif Christopher, Horizons.

In this next seminar I will be discussing the impending crisis in financial stewardship that I believe has come and is still to get worse. At the same time, we will discuss ways that we can position ourselves to not fall victim to the gloom and doom. The primary text for our discussion will be the book Holy Smoke by Clif Christopher and Herb Mather, published by Discipleship Resources.

Here is what many of the experts are seeing:

John and Sylvia Ronsvalle in the annual publication Empty Tomb noted that church giving as a percentage of income has declined every year since 1968. Over a 30 year period giving has increased in total but declined by 21% as a portion of income. For a while this was most clearly seen in the mainline church, but today we also see this negative trend in evangelical churches.

Noted author and researcher, Loren Mead, wrote a book with the ominous title of Financial Meltdown in the Mainline. He presented the possibility that a financial meltdown has already begun to occur in the mainline church and it may be unstoppable.

Ronald Vallet and Charles Zech wrote a challenging book called The Mainline Church’s Funding Crisis in which Will Willimon noted in the forward, “Our churches face a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions.”

This could go on and on and on, but you should get the message. We are in trouble. For the first time in recorded history giving to religion is now less that 40% of all charitable giving. For decades it was around 60%. America is adding new non-profits at a rate of about 7% a year to where we now have over one million non-profits competing with the church for the charitable dollar. Many persons who consider themselves Christian also believe that their giving can go to God through the Rescue Mission, Boy Scouts, local hospital or other charity. Times have changed and the way that we promote financial stewardship has not.

My argument is that the church must learn from its competition, other charities, about how to receive the philanthropic dollar. We have the greatest message and the greatest mission, but very often we are going about promoting this in all the wrong ways. My firm raises over 50 million dollars a year with about one-half coming from churches and one-half coming from other non-profits. I can tell you the non-profits are winning the battle and laughing at what they see churches doing.
For instance, a solid non-profit would never do any of the following:

1.      Send out their line item budget to their donors.
2.      Put any kind of negative information saying they were behind in income in a public newsletter.
3.      Keep the CEO from having access to the donor records.
4.      Encourage the CEO to not get involved in finances.
5.      Only seek funds one time a year.
6.      Discourage planned giving because they think it might hurt the annual fund.
7.      Talk more about administration than mission.
8.      Put persons on their board who are not their leading contributors.
9.      Seldom, if ever, thank their donors with personal notes.
10.  Tell their donors that gifts of time equal gifts of money.