Question: If your church has 100 givers in it, and a budget of $100,000, how many of those givers would it take to account for half ($50,000) of the budget? All things being equal, it stands to reason that 50 givers would give half, since they amount to 50% of the total givers. The thing is—all things are not equal. The sooner we wrap our head around that, the better.
I discovered in my own ministry, as well as working with churches around Indiana, that it is not uncommon for 50-60% of the budget to be given by 10% of the people. I pastored one church where more than 70% of the giving was done by 10% of the givers. For a while I worried and fretted over such a disparity, then I realized a few important things.
First, it is a fairly common giving pattern in most non-profits. Whether a Boys & Girls Club or the local animal shelter, a lot of organizations reflect this pattern. Indeed, they use this information to help them know who is a strong supporter and who might yet become one. The church is not an anomaly. It is rather normal as these things go, and that should keep us from thinking we are doing something “wrong.” We can work to change it, but at least we shouldn’t feel like our local church is out-of-whack!
Second, the Bible tells us so. Scripture reminds us that some have giving strengths, some have prayer strengths, some have teaching strengths, and so on. Certainly, my own churches were being taught by 10% or less of the members. When we had big prayer needs, we went to the 10% of the people who prayed 50-60% of the prayers. 10% of the people led the Vacation Bible School. It is unreasonable that everyone has every strength and desire in the same amounts.
Third, it reminded me that half my congregation’s money was coming from some very faithful people, and I should make sure to know them, thank them, and ask them about their giving. It only takes a few of these folks to die before we realize that we should have had a conversation with them about a bequest at their death.
Fourth, many of these people were not just strong givers, they were strong in understanding finance. If the church was in difficulty, or deciding whether to adjust the budget up or down in a big way, or planning to add a new ministry, they were among the most wise and willing.
Fifth, I discovered that many of these people were not always strong givers. They grew in their faith and commitment, and often their stories are helpful. I was reminded that many in our congregation may yet become healthy givers if kept on the path of discipleship. Very few of us start as full-grown Christians and full-blown givers. Grace, growth, and patience goes a long way.
Growing giving across all your membership matters. Work on it. However, don’t forget to celebrate what God has given you, and the people who have felt the call of God to step up and lead the way.
Wanting a greater understanding of stewardship and giving? Your Foundation is here to help and serve your congregation. Contact us here or by calling us toll free at 877-391-8811.
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Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana