March 2017

March 1, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation

Change Your Church’s Narrative on Giving

Research shows that regular donors give more over time and are more loyal and engaged with the ministry. Setting up recurring donations for your ministry is easy through the Presbyterian Foundation’s online giving system. These gifts – weekly, bimonthly, or monthly – provide a steady stream of revenue to your church or organization and provide a way for faithful supporters to demonstrate their commitment.

Robert Hay Jr. leads session at NEXT Church on Creating a Culture of Generosity

Too often, church leaders make a pitch for money in the fall of each year that queues up a similar narrative: the church doesn’t have enough money, says Robert Hay Jr. of the Presbyterian Foundation.

Hay is a Ministry Relations Officer for the Foundation who assists congregations with financial matters, including changing the conversation about stewardship in churches. Hay spoke at NEXT Church on Tuesday, March 14. His Creating a Culture of Generosity workshop references Clif Christopher’s book, “Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate.”“For too long, we have stood in front of our congregations and said, ‘We don’t have enough,’” Hay says. “We tell them, ‘We need you to give a little more, so that we can keep the part-time children’s director, so we can keep the lights on, so that we can buy a new air conditioning unit.’”

Hay encourages congregations to look at all they’ve been given instead of what is lacking, changing that narrative from scarcity to abundance. “Look at all that God has given us,” Hay notes.

It is more challenging to get members to give these days, but Hay emphasizes that people aren’t giving less total dollars. They are dividing what they have to give between more causes. While households typically supported two nonprofits (including a church) in the 1960s, now families support five organizations on average. “The pie is the same size,” Hay says. “But it is sliced into more pieces.”

Nonprofits have professionalized in the past few decades, he says, and churches should learn from them, taking the best of what nonprofits do, such as story-telling, and bringing it back to congregations. Churches should also make stewardship a year-round effort, telling the stories of the church’s good work even when it isn’t the typical stewardship season.

Speaking of stewardship, retire that word, Hay says. Instead, make liberal use of the term generosity, and be sure the generosity team is entirely separate from the financial team. Generosity, he says, is about story-telling and promoting the good work that the church is doing, and in most cases, financial experts who handle the church books aren’t creative types who can tell stories. Some churches have called their committee the Generosity Team or the Gifts and Gratitude Team, Hay says. Ideally, there should be people on this team from all sectors of the church so that they will know the stories that need to be told from all across the congregation.

“If you can’t possibly have another committee in your church, designate one person as your generosity elder,” Hay says. Make that person the one who is on the lookout for great stories of the church, and make sure you tell those stories. How do you tell the stories? Put the stories in sermons. Present a minute for mission before the offering is collected. Print the stories in a brochure or church newsletter. Create a video about the stories to share in church and in social media.

Make sure the stories sometimes are told without an ask, but are just offered as a simple testimony of the church’s good work. Just tell about activities within the church and end with a thank you for supporting the church, Hay says. Do this year-round, and keep generosity on the forefront of the congregation’s mind all year.

Part of good storytelling is presenting the church budget in new and more engaging ways, Hay says. Use a narrative budget, not a line-item, that describes the activities of the church and illustrates each with photos. Present it to the church as a brochure or annual report style document. If you’re concerned someone will miss the line-item budget, you can provide copies of it. Hay says at his own church, no one even bothered to pick up the line-item budget the last time it was offered.

Should the pastor know how much individuals and families give to the church? Hay says many church members and pastors have strong feelings on this. In one church in which the pastor said he didn’t know specifically how much people gave, he added that the church bookkeeper will tell him when a giving pattern changes drastically. In one case, the pastor asked someone who had always supported the church if she was doing OK, and discovered her family was in crisis. The church was able to assist her. You may not want to know exactly how much someone gives, but it can be important to know when financial situations change as it may signal something much larger.

While the front-end request is important, the final step is crucial: saying thank you. Be sure that everyone who pledges gets a thank you note. Thank them not only for their monetary gift, but the gift of their presence in church and any additional activities they take on that helps the church, whether that’s singing in the choir, working in the nursery, serving as a greeter or serving on session.

Big Tent – Registration Now Open

As part of the Big Tent activities, July 6-8, the Foundation will offer a number of workshops on ways to support Christ’s mission. Two will show churches how to use e-giving to increase their offerings and create a culture of generosity. A third extends a call to effective stewardship among Black Presbyterian churches. A fourth will offer a guided conversation on ways to support the future of ministry in the PC(USA) among the changing needs of congregations.

Encouraging Women Toward a Life of Generosity

By Chris Willard with Warren Bird  

The problem might stem from a matter of convenience more than anything else.

Pastors and ministry leaders — many of them men — find it easy to grab coffee with other men to talk about the church’s vision and how to plug into it with generosity.

There is a missing link in many of these crucial conversations about giving: the women in your church who have a heart to invest in the Kingdom, but might not be as easy to connect with.

My friend Sharla Langston is on the forefront of understanding this issue. As one of the founders of the organization Women Doing Well, she has a unique perspective fueled by her group’s research with women around the country.

She offers some great advice for church leaders who want to engage women in generosity.

Have the Conversation
“Women want to talk about their giving,” says Sharla, who is also the Director of Ministry to Women at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas.  “They want to be heard. It’s not so much that they just want to yack; their voice is part of the church.”

Sharla says her organization took the posture of “listening first” when discussing giving with women. Those conversations unearthed some roadblocks to more joyous and generous giving for women— roadblocks that can be overcome starting with including women in conversations about generosity.

“From the church stage, in groups, or in meetings with couples or individuals, include women in the conversations,” Sharla says. “Men and women approach giving so differently, but that’s OK. God designed us to be different. Including her in the conversation is first and foremost.”

Don’t Skip the Data  
You might think women are inspired to give only by the feel-good stories related to our missions. They do want to hear stories of impact, but Sharla says they also can be challenged to generosity by the return-on-investment and finances behind an initiative.

“Women may process at a much deeper level than some men do, and take in a lot more information before they make giving decisions,” Sharla says. “But it’s not that they are risk-adverse. They just may require a different set of data.”

Sharla adds that male brains can compartmentalize, and men can move in and out of financial conversations quickly.  Women, on the other hand, use a different set of filters—a family filter, a community filter, a church filter—as they process giving decisions.

“The amount of information may look different that she is taking in,” Sharla says, “but don’t assume she’s not going to be able to make a good decision.”

Women Desire Community  
For women especially, giving has a direct link to community. When Sharla’s group conducted its research in focus groups a few years ago, the women didn’t want to leave when the group was over. They wanted to stay and talk together more about the topic of giving.

“There is very little joy in giving alone for women,” Sharla says.

Relationship brings value to the giving conversation, whether it’s with a ministry leader, other women in the church or in a small group. Women often learn best about giving through community experiences where they can share the joy of and discover biblical truths about giving.

Putting women in conversation about their opportunities to give and support the work of the Kingdom of God can be powerful.

To that end, Women Doing Well created a six-session Bible study called “Extravagant God” by and for women who want to discuss generosity. The study features six stories of women in the Bible who were called to giving in different ways marrying that with a modern-day story that illustrates a giving principle.

“This is about discipleship,” Sharla says. “Your journey in generosity is just that — a discipleship journey. Any discipleship opportunity has to include giving and generosity.”

That journey is just as important for the women in your church as the men. As co-laborers and fellow-travelers on our discipleship journey, women deserve the same strategic, intentional thinking and planning as the men in your church. Don’t forget them.

Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to (

Donor-Advised Funds Streamline Giving

Early in life, Sherry Kenney learned from her parents and grandparents about the importance of giving. She uses a donor-advised fund like an online charitable checkbook to simplify giving to her church and other organizations and causes she wants to support.


Offer One-Stop Solution For Giving
by Eva Stimson

Sherry Kenney’s parents and grandparents taught her early in life about the importance of generous giving. Now she is putting those lessons into practice in her work as a Ministry Relations Officer (MRO) for the Presbyterian Foundation.

Her work got easier in June 2015, when she and her husband, Andy, an architect, created a donor-advised fund (DAF) through the Foundation. As a Foundation employee, Kenney uses payroll deduction to contribute regularly to the fund.

“It’s such a convenient way for us to put aside money for charitable giving,” she says.

DAFs can help busy people by providing a one-stop solution for giving. The suite of online tools offered with the Foundation’s DAF simplifies both the process of giving and the reporting of gifts on annual tax returns. The Foundation suggests that those wanting to establish a DAF consult their financial advisors about the possible tax benefits.

Foundation employees are not subject to the $2,500 minimum normally required to establish a DAF. They can open a DAF with as little as $20 if they use payroll deduction. Contributions can be made in any amount ($20 minimum) and are deducted bi-weekly with each pay period. Employees may change or end deductions at any time by notifying the Human Resources Department.

Tax laws require that a donor’s charitable gifts be irrevocable and unconditional in order to receive the associated tax benefits of a charitable deduction. Thus the Foundation has sole control over all investments and grants of the DAF. However, employees with DAFs can recommend grants for a minimum of $25 from their fund (the regular program amount is $100) to the charities they want to support. Grants can be set up to occur automatically — every 30 days, every 60 days, semi-annually, or annually.

In addition, employees with at least $2,500 in their DAF accounts may recommend investment options for their funds. Accounts with less than $2,500 are invested in the Money Market investment pool.

Currently, 10 Foundation employees have established DAFs and four are using payroll deduction.

As an MRO for the Foundation, Sherry Kenney serves a five-state region and is based in Denver. She says that setting up her family’s DAF and learning to use the online resources has helped her offer better customer service. “Knowing what the website looks like and how to use the tools that are there helps me explain it more clearly to people who need assistance.”

The Kenneys have used their DAF — the Hester-Kenney Family Fund — to support both secular and church-related causes. “Any 501(c)3 organization qualifies,” Kenney says. “Annual giving to your church qualifies as long as the funds have not been previously pledged (an IRS regulation).”

Organizations the Kenneys’ DAF has supported include Habitat for Humanity, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the Presbyterian Pan American School, where Sherry’s grandfather was a board member. The Kenneys make a point of giving to ministries in which their adult children are involved. Their son, Bo, is pastor of New Wine Christian Fellowship in Pasadena, Texas. Their daughter, Lauren, is on the board of Central Visitation Program, a family support program housed at Central Presbyterian Church in Denver, where the Kenneys are members. Both ministries have received gifts from the Kenneys’ DAF.

“One of our greatest joys is sharing our giving with our children,” Sherry Kenney says. “We love the flexibility of our fund and made almost all of our 2016 year-end gifts from it — more than 20 in total.”

Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community

In 2016 the PC(USA) 222nd General Assembly approved a Churchwide Antiracism Policy calling for the church to stand against, speak against, and work against racism. Learn more about the ongoing Facing Racism campaign resources – books, studies, training sessions and events – to equip your congregation to work against racism.
Contact a Ministry Relations Officer for assistance with stewardship in your congregation.