Finances in the Church: Fundraising

Church Fundraising Efforts
(Click image to enlarge in Pinterest & repin.)

When someone visiting the Church Budgeting & Finances category in the TrainChurchLeader.com Practicum asked if I would share some fundraising ideas, I couldn’t stop at just listing ideas. I felt the need to provide a filter through which to examine those ideas. We need to make sure we are lining up with God and His Word and trusting Him.

Fundraising efforts in the church have taken on many forms:

  • capital campaigns in which pledges are taken
  • sending out letters of appeal for funds
  • finding a generous donor willing to gift a certain amount that will only be given as matched by others
  • having auctions or rummage sales in which people donate goods that will be sold and the money given to the church
  • having a banquet or dinner for people to come and make donations
  • selling products or services of some sort (i.e., car washes, bake sales)
  • holding walk-a-thons, run-a-thons, rock-a-thons, etc. in which people get pledges from friends and family to be given for every mile/hour accomplished
  • joining organizations like iGive and encouraging people to make their personal online purchases through it for the church to get a commission

Of course, you can also get into wills, trusts, endowments … legacy types of gifts that have more of a long term objective rather than raising immediate cash.

While all of the above ideas have been done at churches, we need to stop, think, and pray about what we should implement and how often. The intent of this post isn’t to pass judgment on any of these specific ideas but rather to challenge us to work through issues related to fundraising in the church.

Questions to ask when it comes to fundraising in the church:

1) How does God feel about your fundraising efforts?

  • Are you examining the whole of Scripture, reconciling what you want to do with passages like Jesus’ anger over money changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17)? Or, are you merely doing what others have done or what you think will work?
  • Are you promoting the kind of giving God looks for which is giving from a cheerful and willing heart (2 Cor. 8-9)? Or, are you promoting giving that is coerced or done merely out of obligation?
  • Would He say that you are being a good steward of not just your money but also your time and people resources (Matt. 25:21-22)? Or, are there other ways He would want you to invest the time and effort spent on fundraising?

2) What impression do your fundraising efforts give people about the Church?

  • Do they get the idea that all the church does is ask for money? Or, do they feel as though the church isn’t merely looking for what they can get but rather what they can give to God and people (1 Cor. 10:23-24; Jn. 15:13)?
  • Do they view the church as no different than any other organization looking for money? Or, do they see a living organism whose trust is in the Lord to both lead and provide for His people to do His will (Prov. 3:5-6; Col. 1:18)?

Bottom Line: The Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not have fundraisers” but it does give us plenty to think about regarding motivation, means, and effect.

More: Stewardship Resources

Finances in the Church: Goals

Like it or not, churches and ministries need money to operate. Even if you have a house church with no building and facility maintenance costs, salaries, or other expenses found in a traditional church, you still need funds to cover resource materials for study, outreach, and other miscellaneous needs. I’d like to suggest that no matter how big or small your church budget might be that church leaders seek to implement the following goals.

Financial Goals for the Church:

Goal #1: To Encourage People to Give Voluntarily Out of a Cheerful Heart

To manipulate or coerce people into giving goes against God’s heart.

God Loves a Cheerful Giver
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Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 9:7)

This goal requires that we be careful of tactics used to get people to give.

Goal #2: To Build a Culture of Generosity within the Church

Generosity is not determined by the amount people give. Look at the example of the widow. Though she gave very little she was considered more generous than those who gave much.

They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on. (Mk. 12:44)

Also consider the example of the Macedonian churches.

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. (2 Cor. 8:2-3)

Our goal should be to build a culture of generosity within people, based on truths of God’s Word and a desire to give back to our great God, in which they give through regular tithes and offerings so there isn’t a great need for constant fundraiser tactics. With that said, there certainly might be times for people to go over and beyond their normal giving. The next post will look at fundraising. (Sign up to be notified of new posts.)

Goal #3: To Provide a Good Reason / Purpose for People to Give Generously

Yes, the Old Testament does command that a tithe be given (Mal. 3:10). And, the New Testament encourages giving based on how God has prospered us (1 Cor. 16:2) which often could take us well beyond the tithe. But, for people to get past the commands of Scripture, or a sense of duty, to giving because they truly want to is a wonderful goal. Imagine a church full of people who give generously because they believe God is worthy! Imagine a church full of people so committed to working in cooperation with God that they would willingly sacrifice to see His work move forward! That’s a church God will use to impact the world.

To Read: Do You Have a Worth-Giving Church?

Goal #4: To Give an Accounting for How Money is Used

If we see our role as being stewards of the money brought into the church, we will acknowledge that the money is not ours to do as we please. We will understand that we are accountable first and foremost before God but also to others. As a result we will be wise in the handling of church finances. We will be transparent with people about how it is used. We will maintain integrity. This goal will be reflected similarly to what the Apostle Paul wrote regarding the handling of money the Corinthian Church would give.

We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. (2 Cor. 8:20-21)

To Read:

You’ll notice that the above goals relate more to the heart of the matter than figures or percentages for that’s what most concerns God. When our heart is where it should be, finances tend to fall into place for us to do what God has given us to do.

For More: Stewardship Resources

God at the Center of Your Church Budget?

Church BudgetExcited about working on your church budget? When seen as more of a process with God at the center, it can turn into more of a reflection of His work in your midst which can be exciting.
For that to happen make the following a part of the budget process:

Based on God as the Provider

Under God’s Supervision

Developed in Light of the Future

Guided by Reality yet Full of Faith

Enveloped in Prayer

Treated as a Group Endeavor

For more on developing a church budget with God at the center, check out the Train Church Leaders Practicum where it is being looked at in light of God’s purposes and design for the church and more.

Making Embezzlement Too Easy?

Some time ago I was asked if it was acceptable to have one person as both secretary and treasurer in a church, particularly because the church was small. I thought it would be good to share my response for others who might face a similar situation. The person specifically asked about having the same person both record and deposit money, count collections and pay bills, etc.

What does the Bible say about it?

I couldn’t provide a biblically definitive answer as the Bible does not talk about secretaries and treasurers in the church as we know them. But, I definitely could pull on some principles from Scripture like:

  1. to be careful of even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22)
  1. to not put stumbling blocks/temptations in front of people (2 Cor. 6:3)

Those principles do not necessarily mean the role of secretary and treasurer must be kept separate, though that would undoubtedly be the ideal. There are churches that combine the two roles into one person and have had no problems. That, however, doesn’t make it right or good. They hold on to the pragmatic value in combining these positions as their rationale. Again, that doesn’t make it right or good.

Here is why it might not be a good practice:

Points of conflict open the door for temptations.

  • The same person purchasing supplies is paying the bills.
  • The same person could potentially be reimbursing themselves.
  • The same person could be signing checks that go to family or friends who submitted reimbursements.
  • Etc.

In addition to potential temptation, the lure of power in this kind of situation can also be a problem.

One individual in the church knows an awful lot. By virtue of secretarial duties, the person would often be privy to confidential information. A treasurer knows the finances and giving. With knowledge can come an illusion of power which can lead to a host of indiscretions.

What do you do if you see no other choice?

Whether or not to abide by biblical principles is where you lack an option. To have the same person as secretary and treasure, you would need to build in some checks and balances right from the start. Don’t wait until you have a problem to enforce accountability. Establish guidelines like the following:

  • This person could not sign checks.
  • Certain kinds of receipts would need approval.
  • Etc.

You would need to think of all the potential and/or possibly perceived conflicts of interest and develop these kinds of checks and balances. I would even recommend putting it in writing so that if there are questions, you have something to fall back on.

This is in combination with other financial precautions that should be in place whether or not you have two different people or one. Too many churches have made it too easy for embezzlement.

  1. The treasurer should not be the one counting the offerings, especially alone. It’s good to have several people who rotate in this responsibility.
  2. The treasurer should not necessarily be the one to deposit the money, especially not all the time.
  3. Good records and receipts should be kept and always be available.
  4. Certain kinds checks should require two signatures, especially larger amounts of money.
  5. Etc.

You might already be doing some of this because of legal liabilities. But, we still read of embezzlement happening in churches. We don’t want to think someone we know and love would be capable of such a crime. However, we are all human who have the potential of breaking under temptation or going on power trips. Let’s not make it easy for one another. Let’s think through the implications of biblical principles to these kinds of situations.

Do You Have a Worth-Giving Church?

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  (Ps. 145:3)

God is worthy of all praise but He is also worthy of our best efforts, time, and resources.  Do we, His church, get that?  Do we truly realize how worthy He is of our all? Does our worth-giving go beyond some expressions of praise in a worship service?

Let’s check some gauges:

Serving:  When Isaiah grasped who the Lord was, he realized his own unworthiness, and volunteered to serve — “Here am I Lord.  Send me!” (Isa. 6:1-8)

How are recruitment efforts going in your church?  Are people willing to invest even a degree of the same level of worth they give to jobs, relationships, and other activities in terms of time and stamina?

Equipping:  The Apostle Paul told Timothy how the Word is used to make us “thoroughly equipped for every good work”  (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  God’s desire is to “equip you with everything good for doing his will” (Heb. 13:20-21).

How are training efforts going in your church?  Are people willing to invest some of their time to learning how to serve or are they too busy and stressed out by other things?

Giving:  Paul commended the Corinthian church for their generosity informing them that “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God”  (2 Cor. 9:11-12).

How are stewardship efforts going in your church?  Are people giving as God has prospered them?  Are people willing to invest their resources into the work of the Lord or is most of their money going toward the latest gadgets and technology, eating out, recreation, and the like?

Perhaps you are a ministry leader and understand how God deserves our best.  You might be discouraged and ready to give up if the above indicators are low or running on empty in your church.  Rather than throw your hands up in despair, reflect on the following questions:

  • Are you thinking outside of the box, trying different means, getting more creative in how you approach people?
  • Though you can’t control other people’s responses, are you at least working with those who do want to give God their all?
  • Are you leading by example in personally being a worth-giver?
  • Most importantly, are you presenting to people a God is so great that they can’t even fathom His greatness, a God who is worthy of our all?

Stewardship of All, in All, and Always

God has always expected people to be good stewards of all He has provided.  That has not changed.  Good things happen when we are faithful.  What we do to His glory will not be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).  We may not always see the results in this life but we can trust Him to keep His promises.

Stewardship Always Expected

Beginning in the Garden of Eden, God gave mankind the responsibility to manage earthly resources (Gen. 1:27-31).  When God called the descendants of Abraham to be His people, He entrusted them with further responsibility, that of being faithful in spiritual matters.  Jesus taught about accountability (Matt. 25:14-30) when he lived on earth and will actually bring us into account for what we have done at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:9-16).  In the interim, the expectation is for His Church to be “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:10).

Stewardship All Inclusive

We are stewards.  Whether physical or spiritual resources, “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).  Time, talent, money, spiritual gifts, our physical beings?  … all to be used to the glory of God (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 10:31).

Stewardship Always Relevant

If we truly understand that all we have is from God (Ps. 24:1) and we are merely stewards of it, then it should affect our attitudes and the way we walk through life.

  • Shouldn’t we learn to be content within our means … whether that be little or much?   (Phil. 4:11-13; 1 Tim. 6:7-9; Heb. 13:5)
  • Shouldn’t we be wise in how we live and how we use what we have  … proactive, not merely reactive?   (Prov. 22:3; 24:3; 27:23; Eph. 5:15; Col. 4:5)
  • Shouldn’t we be generous with what we have … rather than stingily hang on to it or waste it like it belongs to us?  (Ps. 37:21; Matt. 5:42; Mk. 12:41-44; 2 Cor 8:2-3, 9:6-7; 1 Jn. 3:17)

Get More Help on Being a Good Steward:  Biblical Stewardship Resources Page