Last night I attended a meeting arranged by the Diocese of Winchester called "Generosity in Discipleship" which promised to look at issues of giving in general and money in particular.
The meeting was held at Christ Church, Chineham near Basingstoke - it was my first visit to the church and I was really impressed by the facilities they have. As a modern building it is a real contrast with my usual church - St Catherine's, Littleton.
The evening was led by Dr John Preston, National Stewardship Adviser, and Rev Steve Pierce, head of Stewardship Money. They did a fantastic job of guiding us through a presentation that covered biblical models of giving, key tasks for PCCs and church leadership in teaching on giving, a range of ideas on how to analyse giving as well as pointers to a wealth of resources to help - and a few jokes along the way :-)
At one point in the evening we were asked to estimate how the "average" church expenditure broke down between 5 categories. As treasurer for our church I was relieved that my answers were close to what they had which were...
Supporting other organisations (eg charity donations) - 7%
Maintaining inspiring centres for worship - 17%
Mission and Ministry - 51%
Administration - 6%
Running costs - 19%
I have already done some of the things they suggested, particularly around how we analyse the breakdown of giving to the church. They did however have other ideas that I think would be well worth investigating further including making some changes to how we structure our annual report - something to remember come 1Q2010 when we have to write it.
It is interesting to consider the lessons from the corporate world and mainstream charities and think about how they do or do not translate into the church. For example, much of the giving analysis suggested is straight out of business text books on how to look at clients and assess their relative contribution to your organisation's profitability. The difference though is what you do with the outcome of the analysis - in the church context rather than the absolute level of giving we would see giving in proportion to what you have as more significant - widow's mite and all that. We certainly wouldn't want to focus our attentions only on those who gave the most and ditch the low contributors.
As well as doing more to provide teaching on what the bible says on giving I think our focus needs to be on creating a compelling vision for our church and what we want to achieve.
I long for us to have such a strong sense of what we want to do that our next budget has a huge hole in it that we need to fund from reserves because we just can't wait to get on and realise the vision.