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Our New Idol for the American Church - The Economy

Our New Idol
Have you been hearing what I have been hearing since October 2008? The sky is falling, the sky is falling! It's the economy, stupid.

But I want to challenge and even chastise our American church (by church I mean all of us, not just pastors and denominations) about this topic. Our pastor was teaching through the Ten Commandments and when we got to the Second Commandment I was struck: Thou shalt have no other Gods/idols before Me. We have a new idol in America! (And I do not mean the one on TV.)

It's the economy.

So what is an idol? I believe it is anything we go to for comfort, peace, and guidance instead of going to God.

What I hear and see today in the church and church leadership: We will give more when the economy is better. We will be more involved when the economy is better. We will be happier and more content when the economy is better. And from pastors: I know a lot of you are struggling with the economy. I know a lot of you are really down about the economy right now.

My response is a little confrontational. (It's my eNewsletter!) Who is your God? Who is your source? Who is your provider? Where does money fit with contentment and joy? Why does our generosity and contentment depend on an outside, nonspiritual source like “the economy”?

To address this critical issue I suggest a few things to consider in your ministry of development:
Do a personal bible study on how God is our source and provider, so that YOU are sure of what you believe.
  1. Read The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. Note how one of his principles relates to how money has an emotional or psychological grasp on us.
  2. Consider why Jesus spoke so much about money and its hold on us. Consider how happy Satan is with the American church right now.
  3. Yes, we have hurting people among us. What did the early church do when people had needs? See the book of Acts. What were those who had much asked to do? To give more! Yes, we are called to be MORE generous during tough times. God knows who has what. And he is watching!
  4. Look at the apostle Paul's teaching in Second Corinthians 8 when he shared about the church at Macedonia. They begged him to be able to give to his ministry. But the key point is – it was during their most severe trial. During difficult times they begged to give to his ministry! If only we had stewards doing that through this economic down time. What would the church look like then?!
  5. Take a real look at the numbers regarding giving, unemployment, and the “real” economy. We are not suddenly a poor country. Did you see people fighting over things to buy at Christmas sales? Did you see how strong the buying is right now? Did you see how much people gave to nonprofits during the 4th quarter of 2011? Did you know the average giving per American household is still only 1.9% of annual income?
As ministers of development we must be educators, researchers, and willing to share about the front lines of our ministry. So often untruths become facts when we let media or even our Christian publications lead the way. An annual study from a friend of mine at Maximum Generosity leads with the statistic that 38% of churches reported their giving was down in 2010. But as you read further you see that 62% of the churches met or exceeded their goals in 2010! There is good news out there. But some believe the bad before they study it.

I have read projections that 2012 looks to be good for philanthropy and then I read another that said just the opposite. Who knows? God does. So be faithful and help your stewards and donors be faithful.

Who is our source?

Praying you see Him as your source in 2012,


Dr. John R. Frank, CFRE, CCNL

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Why I Teach Generosity Rather Than Tithing

Why I Teach Generosity Rather Than Tithing

This is a huge topic and has had much discussion and debate. My personal conclusion having read and studied a bit, is that Jesus completed what he came to do, and now the new church is to be concerned with generosity in all areas of life, rather than the law of the tithe.
Jesus was not only about being a follower, or a Christian, but was also concerned with our motives and our thoughts. He said if we even look at a woman with lust in our minds, we have committed adultery.

So it is important that when we give, it is with a generous motive, a generous heart. In the 9th chapter of the 2nd letter to the Corinthians, we read about giving with joy. I take that to mean if we do NOT have joy, God is not happy with our gift. Our heart motives are important to God. He does not need our money.

So we are told to excel in the grace of giving—generosity.  Why is generosity so important? Here are a few thoughts to guide you with your donors.
  1. Generosity is important to God.  God is the most generous. He desires His followers, His children to follow in His ways. Generosity is godliness.
  2. Generosity is about money and more. Yes, we are to be generous with our money. Our resources do not belong to us, and when we see a need and God moves in us to give, we are to respond. And generosity goes beyond money to our time, relationships, talents, and so many other areas of our lives.
  3. Generosity affects the giver. We know Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. Why? What happens to the generous giver? What changes us when we give? It is a spiritual gift to the giver from God. That spiritual gift involves peace, a sense of accomplishment, a joy, and other gifts to us from God.
  4. When we are generous we are less likely to covet, be greedy, and be jealous of earthly wealth and riches. When we are truly generous our views change. When we let go of the need to have more, a peace comes over our spirit as we see things as God sees them, temporary and of this world.
Those are just a few thoughts on generosity. I believe the current and future church must move from the "tithe talk" to multiple messages throughout the year on generosity. As it is written in 2nd Corinthians 8:7, we are to excel in the grace of giving, along with love, and faith. Combined with these two pillars of our Christian lives (love and faith) being known as a generous church could really change our world. Being known as a generous person because of your faith in Jesus Christ will change you. And when as a minister of development you live a life of generosity, you will find a new connection with every one of your donors.

Go and be generous!

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Skeptical of Giving?

Now is the season of generosity. But through the last few years when I share with people I meet about what I do, the first thing they say is."That must be very rewarding work.". The second thing they say is, "That must be very difficult work with all of the abuse and misuse of funds, etc."

We are in a time of great skepticism of nonprofits, especially from anyone age 40 and under. They are hesitant to give for a number of reasons.

Are you skeptical of giving? If so, can you identify why? Media stories? Personal experience? Think about it and let me know.

Dr. John R. Frank

Preparing for Year-End Giving

Fall is the most productive time for ministries when it comes to receiving gifts. Many of your donors want to help meet the needs of the ministry and will determine how much to give based on what is left at the end of the calendar year.

As you plan for the influx of gifts, let's take a minute to think this through to see whether there are problems.

One of the tenants of good stewardship is "To be easy to give to." That sounds pretty simple, but there may be ways in which your gift acceptance procedures can hinder its reality.

What we mean by easy to give to is that the donor shouldn't have to jump through any "extraordinary hoops" to make a gift. If they have been motivated to make a gift, the mechanisms they use should be "simple", without complications or hurdles.

Certain types of gifts can present a problem here. We all know that mailing a check is probably the most common type of gift. But what about the person who wants to transfer stock, make a distribution from their IRA, give you the extra car in their driveway, or use a debit card? Those gifts take a little extra effort.

So, when you think about your gift acceptance processes, does anything stand out as being difficult?

For gifts of stock and other securities, do you have a standing policy that authorizes your business office to open an account at any brokerage, with orders to immediately sell the security and close the account?

For donors who make distributions from their IRA, they may need information about how their investment firm can transfer a distribution to you. Donors who are age 70 or older can make this distribution without realizing any income eliminating any tax impact. Do you have materials ready to help these donors?

What about car donations? The rules have changed, but organizations like Cars-For-Causes, and similar organizations have adjusted. Rather than you receiving the car, how about recommending them and providing the donor with a local contact phone number?

Finally, some organizations don't yet accept credit cards as a form of donation. Even if it costs you a few percentage points to process a gift, you need to remember that more and more of your donors are transitioning to electronic payment methods. Debit Cards used as cash and reward points for using certain cards are driving a lot of this. Have you kept up with the technology trends of your donors?

We hope that this fall is significant in the ministry. Let's remember to thank your donors for investing in what God is doing through your ministry. They are a gift from God.

Is it Time For A Tune Up?

I don't know about you, but my car always seems to run better after a tune-up. For most development plans though, it seems like this is an area that gets overlooked. A Development Audit can bring your program back to top performance.

Fundamentally, a Development Audit is an internal assessment of your fundraising program and your readiness to embark on new development opportunities.

The Audit looks at involvement of the board, staff and volunteers in the fundraising process and offers recommendations on how to best use the resources available to the ministry. It further evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of your current development systems, including fundraising software.

The Audit also offers suggestions to help improve donor communications and stewardship.

Many ministries consider a Development Audit when they are:
  • Preparing to embark on a major gifts, capital or endowment campaign.
  • Not satisfied with the results of their annual giving program.
  • Seeking to increase Board participation in fundraising efforts.
  • Attempting to compare their results with similar organizations.
  • Looking for an objective evaluation their development program.
  • Trying to diversify their funding streams.
  • Engaged in the strategic planning process.
  • Looking at restructuring their Development Office.
  • Seeking to take their program to a higher level of professionalism.
If it's time for a peek under the hood, we would be glad to help.

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