The Importance of Vision

July 3, 2024Inline Text Rod Irvine

Need Money for your ministry. Ask your friendly Robot.

Just for general interest I decided to ask AI about raising money for ministry and so I typed

‘How do you raise money in churches 1000 words’ into ChatGPT to see what it would say. This was the result.

Raising money in churches is essential for maintaining facilities, supporting ministries, and serving the community. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

1. Traditional Offerings and Tithes

Regular Collections

Regular collections during services remain a primary source of income. Emphasize the importance of tithing and regular giving in sermons and communications.

Tithing Education

Educate the congregation on the biblical basis for tithing. Use scriptures and personal testimonies to illustrate the impact of tithing on the church and individual lives.

2. Special Fundraising Campaigns

Capital Campaigns

For large projects like building renovations or new constructions, launch capital campaigns. Clearly communicate the vision, goals, and timeline. Use brochures, presentations, and meetings to keep everyone informed.

Pledge Drives

Organize pledge drives where members commit to giving a certain amount over a period. This helps in planning and ensures a steady flow of funds.

3. Events and Activities

Bake Sales, Rummage Sales, and Car Washes

These activities not only raise funds but also foster community spirit. Encourage all age groups to participate and contribute.

Dinners and Auctions

Host dinners, auctions, and galas. Sell tickets, solicit donations for auction items, and provide an enjoyable experience. Local businesses often support such events through sponsorships or donations.

4. Online Giving and Digital Tools

Online Donation Platforms

Set up online giving options on the church’s website. Platforms like PayPal, Venmo, and specialized church giving apps make it easy for members to donate anytime.


Implement text-to-give services. This allows members to donate via text messages, making it quick and convenient, especially for younger, tech-savvy congregants.

5. Grants and Sponsorships

Religious and Community Grants

Research and apply for grants from religious organizations and foundations. Many offer funding for specific projects, programs, or general support.

Corporate Sponsorships

Seek sponsorships from local businesses. Offer recognition in church bulletins, websites, and events in return for their support.

6. Merchandise Sales

Church Branded Items

Sell branded items like T-shirts, mugs, and calendars. These not only raise funds but also promote church identity and unity.

Books and Media

If the church produces books, music, or other media, sell these items. Highlight the spiritual and educational value to encourage purchases.

7. Monthly Giving Programs

Sustained Giving

Encourage members to join monthly giving programs. Regular, smaller donations can be more manageable for members and provide a steady income for the church.

8. Legacy Giving

Planned Giving

Educate the congregation about including the church in their wills or estate plans. Planned giving can provide significant support for the church’s future.

9. Crowdfunding

Online Campaigns

Use crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe for specific projects or emergencies. Share the campaign through social media and email to reach a wider audience.

10. Volunteer and In-Kind Contributions

Time and Skills

Encourage members to volunteer their time and skills. This can reduce costs for the church and involve more people in its activities.

Goods and Services

In-kind donations like food for events, materials for projects, or professional services can be as valuable as monetary contributions.

Implementation Tips

Clear Communication

Communicate clearly and regularly about the church’s financial needs, goals, and the impact of contributions. Use sermons, newsletters, social media, and personal testimonies to keep the congregation informed and engaged.


Be transparent about how funds are used. Provide regular updates and financial reports to build trust and demonstrate accountability.


Show appreciation for every contribution, big or small. Personal thank-you notes, public acknowledgments, and recognition events can foster a culture of generosity.

Prayer and Faith

Emphasize the spiritual aspect of giving. Encourage members to pray about their contributions and trust in God’s provision.

Leadership Example

Church leaders should lead by example. When leaders are visibly committed to giving, it inspires the congregation to follow suit.


Raising money in churches requires a multifaceted approach that combines traditional methods with modern tools and techniques. By fostering a culture of generosity, clearly communicating needs and goals, and showing appreciation, churches can effectively raise the funds needed to support their mission and serve their communities.

Rod’s Comment

There is quite an extensive list here. I have seen most of them attempted in many churches. However the theological undergirding and methods of communicating and asking are absent. For more on these see my book Giving Generously. https://givinggenerously.com/

The Importance of Vision

May 4, 2024Inline Text Rod Irvine

Ask for It

In a former post I related the story of my lovely daughter-in-law Natalie who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer last year. ( Prayer for Healing https://givinggenerously.com/prayer-for-healing/). At time of writing Natalie is doing as well as possible for someone with her illness but we continue to pray.

Natalie and her family have decided to take a take a holiday to London in August. Now Natalie has a clever mother, Kate, as you will see. Under Kate’s direction Adam wrote a letter.

Dear Queen

My name is Adam Irvine. I am seven years old.  I live in Tarrawanna Australia. Sorry to hear the king is unwell. My mum is unwell like the king. We are coming to London in August/ September. We visit the Palace to see inside and maybe visit you both. Please it would be a wonderful surprise for my mum. Please take care of each other

Adam Irvine.

Some short time later Adam received this reply.

Thank you very much for your lovely letter. I was sorry that your mother is unwell, but I do hope that you will have a wonderful time in London in August.

I have asked my office to be in touch with you to arrange for you to visit Buckingham Palace as a surprise for your mother!

Best wishes

Camilla R

 The next day Adam received a follow up communication from Queen Camilla’s staff confirming the invitation. Natalie said that her mum had always taught the family when she was growing up: “If you don’t ask you don’t get”.

Kate would not see herself as some sort of prophetess but her words have a certain similarity to those of Jesus who said in another context:

‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you’.                   Matt 7:7

It certainly takes a certain amount of boldness to write to the Queen, and I know I would not have thought to do it.

However this principle of asking is more than an open sesame to Buckingham Palace. It is true in scripture as well. There are at least three significant times where biblical leaders address God’s people and ask them to support God’s work.

  1. Building the temple required an enormous sum and while David does not build the temple himself, he does raise the money. I Chronicles is not necessarily one of the go-to books of the bible for devotions, but it contains some inspiring material. You can read of the upfront, bold way David addresses the issue of money for the temple in 1 Chronicles 29.
  2. Moses had a similar problem in raising resources for building the tabernacle. He approached the issue in the same forthright way. His request was so fruitful that he even had to ask people to stop giving because they had oversupplied the need. Ex 25:1-9 & Ex 35:4-36:5
  3. In the New Testament, believers in Jerusalem were in dire financial distress and the apostle Paul devoted space in a number of his letters to bringing this need before other followers of Jesus. His instructions and manner of asking in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 have given subsequent generations a model of the theology and practice of asking for support for Christian ministry.

So don’t be backward in laying the financial needs of the ministry before your congregation. Remember the principle, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Kate has spoken so it must be true!! And even more, remember Jesus and ‘ask, seek and knock’.

For more on raising resources for ministry, see my book: Giving Generously.  https://givinggenerously.com/buy-the-book-2/

The Importance of Vision

March 25, 2024Inline Text Rod Irvine

Gold in them thar’ hills

There was a 1931 song by Frankie Marvin about the urge to go prospecting in California: ‘There’s gold in them thar hills’. The yellow ore is there and all you have to do is go out and get it. I suspect some of our major retailers work on a similar line: There’s gold in them thar purses.

Recently I decided to purchase a new pair of long cargo pants to wear in winter. My wife and I embarked on a shopping expedition to a major department store in the Brisbane CBD. I really had no idea what price to expect but I was about to find out. I examined the offering on one table where the price tag was around $ 250. I gulped. Surely that could not be correct! So I moved on to another brand on another table where the price was over $500. I was astonished. Who buys this stuff?

My wife pointed out that a couple of stores up the mall was a different shop that may be more promising. However, on our way out I passed a rack of designer jeans, the type where material is ripped and proudly displays the resulting holes. I saw a tag saying ‘Reduced’ and paused to see the bargain. Yes it was reduced from an original price of $1465 to the fabulous steal of $1019. I kid you not! I went away thinking I was obviously very old and very much out of touch. Soon we entered a store close by where I was able to purchase a perfectly satisfactory pair of long cargo pants for $29.95. It wasn’t a fashion accessary but then I am not a clothes horse. The other department store must only cater to the gold in bulging wallets.

The backdrop to this story is that I hear repeatedly that people are doing it financially very tough in our current economic environment. Petrol, power bills, rents, groceries are all sky rocketing and putting enormous pressure on households. Politicians are incredibly sensitive on this subject as clergy can be. So in such times ministers can be very nervous about appealing for resources for ministry and just hope giving will magically get better.

Yet while financial hardship is certainly around in our congregations, it is not the whole story. There are also many people who are not financially stretched. The music icon Taylor Swift recently visited our shores and I read of one fan from Adelaide who outlaid $10,000 to see all seven shows. I googled to find how cruise ship numbers are going post Covid and what immediately hit my eye was the heading: Cruise Bookings hit record levels.

Thus I believe ministers should not let the gloomy headlines paralyse them from casting a compelling vision for the church and asking people to support it. Notice I say cast a compelling vision not complaining about the latest financial black hole.

 By all means acknowledge that money is very tight for some people. You might consider saying something like:

‘I understand that in this congregation with prices spiralling out of control that some of you are stitched to the limit and you are already giving generously as much as you can. I get that. So thank you for what you are doing and don’t feel obliged to do more at this time. But there will be some of you who do have resources. You’ve just got a raise. Great Aunt Sarah remembered you in her will. The stock market has shone favourably on you, your business is humming or your super is doing very well and you can give generously again to further the ministry of the gospel here. If you are someone like that then I am asking you to give even more generously now.

So offer to help those who are struggling and ask those who are not to give generously. Give for a holy cause rather than holey jeans!

For more on raising resources for ministry see my book: Giving Generously. https://givinggenerously.com/buy-the-book-2/

The Importance of Vision

December 10, 2023Inline Text Rod Irvine

Fifty Two Years and Counting

Helen and I have recently celebrated fifty two years of marriage. It has prompted me to reflect on marriage in general and our marriage in particular. Many years ago, in 1995, we visited the then famous Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles, where I was attending two weeks of seminars in Church Growth and Preaching.  Wandering around the campus I chanced into a back office for some forgotten purpose. My attention was drawn to a large sign on the wall. It read something like: The Top Twenty Factors to bring happiness in your Life. I will always remember the first one at the top of the list.

  “Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.”

I have subsequently discovered by the miracle of the internet, that the quotation comes from a book, P.S. I Love You by H. Jackson Brown Jnr. I can’t verify the statistics. However I do believe its general principle. Of all the crucial decisions in life, this decision is of the highest gravity.

I have repeated this saying many times in subsequent years and reflected at length on how such decisions get made.  Despite the inevitable ups and downs, of which there were many, I believe our marriage has been highly fruitful and successful. We have supported each other through the ebbs and flows of life. Yet we made this decision when we were incredibly young and with much growing and maturing to do. I was two months over twenty three and Helen was a few hours off nineteen. We were at an age when we didn’t really know ourselves, and so it was almost impossible to fully reveal who we were to each other.

There are many reasons why our marriage has worked but a foundational one was that we both believed at a very deep, existential level in keeping our promises. That concept pertains to every area of life but it particularly refers to the promises made in marriage which are about as important and sacred as a promise can be. So from the very earliest discussions that we started to have about our relationship’s being permanent, we believed in the sanctity of marriage. Later, as we progressed in maturity, we both came to understand the real basis of marriage is the commitment we made to each other. I read quite a number of modern secular books about marriage and while some of them are very helpful the idea of promises and commitment is almost completely absent.

In the old Anglican 1662 prayer book service, when the man concludes his vows to his intended, he says,

and thereto I plight thee my troth.

 To ‘plight a troth’ is an archaic way of saying, to make a covenant. The word covenant is the Hebrew term that describes an agreement made between two parties and a marriage is one such agreement. The Hebrew idiom is actually to ‘cut’ a covenant. The 1662 Anglican marriage service is the one from which many protestant marriage services are derived, and is the departure point for modern, secular services. It has a robust covenantal structure, containing a promise (the vow), the swearing of an oath, a sign (the ring) and made before witnesses, (God and the congregation). I labour this point because in later years when I was preparing young couples for marriage, I specifically taught them this covenantal form. I also emphasized that they would affirm their promises with the words, “I will” rather than the popular but inadequate, “I do”. This is because the promise is for the rigours of the future. It is not merely an affirmation of what a starry eyed couple may feel today.  My reason was that it is crucially important to have a firm idea of what marriage is, rather than some vague understanding that it is a flimsy bond of love that can disappear like a transient vapour, as soon as the frantic, hormonal coupling evaporates, and real life descends.

Many years later we went to a Marriage Weekend designed to strengthen couples’ relationships. One of the exercises we were given was to draw our marriage. That was an unusual but helpful task as it made us ponder our relationship from a different perspective. We ended up drawing ourselves as trapeze artists cavorting on the high wire with a strong safety net beneath. The high wire was our life with all its thrills and spills. The strong safety net was our life-long promise to each other that we were committed to keeping.

So for those intending to marry, please choose ever so carefully. And for those on the journey, on the high wire please secure your safety net.

The Importance of Vision

January 24, 2024Inline Text Rod Irvine

The Bible and Raising Resources

There was an article in the press at the end of August 2023 reporting on a survey of clergy. Apparently a significant portion of the clergy of an historic and famous overseas denomination is advocating  for major departures from classical Christian teaching on morality. What was of particular interest was that the report stated the reason was to ‘bring the church more in line with public opinion’. It also reported that this particular denomination had been in decline for seventy unbroken years. All of this is a tragedy for a church that has over time produced some of Christendom’s most famous leaders and martyrs.

This has all sorts of ripple effects and one of these is the implications for raising resources. Some years ago I was invited to present a series of seminars to church leaders from a denomination where most, not all, had ‘progressive’ views similar to those described above. Clergy generally welcome such seminars because in this secular age money is hard to come by and clergy training tends to focus on other areas. I was somewhat ambivalent about giving my presentation as I wondered how people with progressive views about scripture could put much of it into practice.

When I wrote my book Giving Generously which explains the seminar material in depth, I certainly tried to look at what secular fundraising sources had to offer. Yet that was not my main approach,. My focus was to attempt to distil what the bible was saying about raising resources and to apply it to contemporary church life. And naturally while there will be some overlaps, the two approaches are distinctly different. I once heard the U.S pastor, Rick Warren, express the difference in the expression, ‘we are not fund raising but faith-raising’.

In a similar vein, church leader John Maxwell would say before each commitment series he conducted in his church that he expected people to grow more spiritually in the series than at any other time of the year. This is because giving and generosity challenges us at our deepest spiritual level.

As Jesus said, ’for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Matt 5:21

Of course the reason it will be difficult to nearly impossible to raise money in morally and theologically progressive churches is that the most effective methods are based on the scripture. The challenge of giving places one in a psychological double think to reject the scripture’s teaching on morality, but embrace it on generosity. The approach I recommend in my book involves a five to six week preaching series and supporting bible studies. If one can’t preach and teach the bible with confidence in its basic authenticity, I suspect you will always struggle for money just to keep the church afloat, let alone to advance ministry. As to the above denomination’s apparent desire to bring is views into line with public opinion, it is difficult to see why people would entrust money to an organization that wants to become a religious mirror of the surrounding secular culture.

The apostle Paul wrote that ‘the holy scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.’ (2Tim 3:15) I contend that they will also make you wise in raising the resources to proclaim the salvation that is in Jesus.

 For more on raising resources see my book Giving Generously. https://givinggenerously.com/

The Importance of Vision

October 24, 2023Inline Text Rod Irvine

Praying for Healing

This year a close and treasured member of our immediate family became seriously ill. I mean seriously ill. She was really walking through the valley of the shadow. Of course I was moved to pray for her but exactly how? A number of verses jumped into my mind and I found that they guided me in my response. I recognise that these texts have been abstracted from their original context. However, I believe that they also have a broader, more general application.

  1. Cry out constantly to God for a mind-blowing miracle.

And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ’Grant me justice against my adversary.’ Luke 18:3

Jesus tells the parable of the unjust judge and how a persistent widow kept coming and coming and coming, pestering the judge. The Lord says that if an unjust judge will grant the request, how much more will a living and just God hear and grant the prayers of those who love him. The nature of the request for justice is different to a prayer for healing but the character of God is not.

Thus I feel emboldened to petition to plead to call out repeatedly to Almighty God to hear my prayer.

  • Have confidence in God’s awesome power.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Eph 3:7

Medical emergencies often have doctors shaking their heads with dire warnings and grim prognoses. They have statistics over numerous patients and histories of the progress of a disease established by many trials. So the chances of healing can appear almost negligible. Yet the God we serve is not limited by time or space or statistics and he is able to literally gobsmack us. I pray that he will.

  • Confess the frailty of my faith.

‘Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’ Mark 9: 24.

Praying for a miracle has always been a tug of war between our trust in the God revealed in the scriptures and our own mortal flesh which wonders whether something as mind-blowing as healing truly will happen. This internal war is magnified in our secular age that derides anything that cannot be scientifically verified. In this scripture the anxious father of a convulsive son puts into words what so many of us feel. It is a great comfort to confess our frailty as we call upon God to hear us.

  • Acknowledge the sovereignty of God whatever the outcome.

Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Job 1:21

Job, a man with an abundance of earthly goods, has been stripped of his possessions and family. He has truly been brought low but he does not lose his trust in God and acknowledges God’s blessings and God’s right to do as he wills. It is easy today to get conditioned by books, films and secular narratives that have heroes explaining how they once believed but lost their faith when tragedy struck. The story of Job is not so much a story of suffering but a story of faith in the context of suffering.  I do not wish to be only a fair weather believer.

During the American Civil War personal tragedy stuck President Lincoln and his family when in 1862, Lincoln’s greatly loved eleven year old son, Willie, sickened and died. Lincoln’s pastor, Dr Phineas Gurley greatly ministered to Lincoln with his funeral sermon which in its conclusion said:

Only let us bow in His presence with an humble and teachable spirit; only let us be still and know that He is God; only let us acknowledge His hand and hear His voice, and inquire after His will, and seek His Holy Spirit as our counsellor and guide, and all in the end will be well.

Those words were written over a hundred and sixty ago. They gave great comfort then and give great comfort now. Our family member’s journey is ongoing but there is every reason to praise God and continue to boldly cry out to him.

The Importance of Vision

September 4, 2023Inline Text Rod Irvine

Learning about life and money from Dad

I was blessed with a good father, Arthur Edward Kinkead Irvine. He was born on Sept 4 1910 in the Post Office at  Nundah, Queensland where his grandmother was post mistress. So he would have been 113 today as I write. He in turn had been blessed by a heritage of godly values that had been handed down by his Christian parents and grandparents. My sadness about my father is that he did not have a trust in Christ himself. However, he did embrace most of the values that faith in Jesus instils in Christ’s followers.

Thus I was taught right from wrong, the importance of telling the truth, honouring my mother, honesty and integrity and the value of hard work. He could be firm with his justice and quite blunt with his advice. Dad was a school teacher who had taken up that profession just before the Depression and when his generation had a job they stuck with it. So when I went to University and did a science degree he was concerned that it didn’t seem to be leading to any tangible employment. ‘All you will become is an educated idiot’, he declared. Not desiring that heinous prospect I took up a teaching scholarship, followed him into the profession, and ultimately was posted to the same school where he was teaching. The accompanying photo shows Dad and me obviously reconciled after my ‘idiocy’ moment.

Another lesson I learned from him was the careful, thrifty use of money and the folly of getting sucked into dubious hire purchase agreements. I was duly alarmed when he showed me how much interest a naïve young man could accrue with injudicious financing. Dad didn’t even borrow for his own house. Yes, he did own the house I grew up in but Dad built it!!! Thus I was given quite a profitable grounding the use of money, lessons I absorbed and were reinforced when I married Helen who was imbued with similar values from her parents.

Dad also taught me the value of delayed gratification and saving. He kept up to one hundred chickensin an enclosed shed in the back yard and as I got older I sold the eggs to neighbours around the district. When I got a little older he turned the entire operation over to me to do the work and receive the profits. It was marvellous training in industry and financial management.

As a smaller child I was expected to do various household chores for which I would receive pocket money. I remember in those pre-decimal currency days, I was given 9 pence per week. However, I could not go open slather and spend it all gratifying my taste buds. Instead Dad set up three jars, one for saving, on for buying presents for other people and one for spending. That I can clearly remember this nearly seventy years later shows its utility.

But I think I could have improved on Dad’s system. I would have made the amount 10 pence and had a fourth jar. But I would rearrange the order so the fourth jar would actually be the first. It would be one for tithing and thus acknowledging all I had was due to the blessings of Almighty God. It would be a marvellous way to impress upon a young mind the truth of Proverbs 4:9.

Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.’

Thanks Dad for your guidance your, love and your discipline. I miss you.

For more on raising resources for ministry see my book Giving Generously. https://givinggenerously.com/

The Importance of Vision

June 29, 2023Inline Text Rod Irvine

Dealing with Debt

Recently I was in another state and went to a new church one Sunday. It turned out that they were in the middle of their annual end-of financial-year vision series. The pastor spoke enthusiastically and gratefully about how the church family, by their generosity, had reduced debt on their building from over $6 Million to a bit over $1 Million in ten years. Good on them! This is a significant achievement. It is not the easiest issue in church life to reduce debt. So what principles come to mind when addressing this subject?

I had to grapple with this subject a couple of times in my work as senior minister of Figtree Anglican Church in Wollongong. When I arrived in 1987 the parish had a debt of over $200,000 That had been incurred to fund a new building that had been constructed a couple of years earlier. That does not seem much in today’s dollars but was a formidable amount then and was a millstone around our necks for the next seven years. Fortunately the process of raising the money and making repayments had been set in train prior to my coming and all I had to do was keep the machinery working till we finally paid it off and had a celebration party.

Over a decade later I was the one initiating and presiding over the debt process when Figtree parish embarked on a $5.5 Million building programme. The congregation gave magnificently but the building cost far exceeded our ability to complete the project debt free and a debt of around $2.6 M was incurred. When I left some years later I bequeathed this burden to my successor, Ian Barnett, who led the completion of the process of paying off the loan.

There are some pastors who feel that all debt is bad and will not embark on a project unless it can be accomplished without borrowing. Of course this is a laudable aim. However, sometimes a church may be so strangled by property concerns that to address this issue may require a building campaign and a loan as was our case at Figtree. I do not believe this sort of debt is wrong. What I would advise against very strongly, is debt for paying operating expenses, staff salaries for example. That is a slippery slope to financial shipwreck.

Another important issue is the attitude of the congregation to debt. In any family or electorate or group of people there are some who have no problem embracing debt and are quite happy to kick the can along the road into the future as far as repaying the amount is concerned. There are others who view debt as an oppressive yoke and are highly motivated to get the money monster off their backs.

With these ideas in mind, the key principle to remember is that ‘money follows vision’. Yet debt doesn’t seem very visionary. So it is extremely important to demonstrate clearly how debt fits in with the broader vision of the church. It is a great mistake to pay off the debt and hope that the loan repayments will automatically still keep coming in and can be used for future purposes. Generally parishioners will be happy church debt is paid off and may throw a party but won’t keep giving at the old rate unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Thus it is important to have the next exciting gospel oriented, life changing, vision fulfilling project, clearly before the congregation. Then you can point out how the debt is not an end in itself but the impediment to the realization of the church’s dreams. You need to be able to say, “look what we hope to do next after the debt is paid off. Look at how lives will be transformed.’

Recognizing the contrasting views about debt, I advocate having half a dozen projects to present to the congregation each year. If the church has a building debt, I would also have repayment of the debt one of the projects each year. In that way the debt can be chipped away culminating, in a final major assault when it is has assumed a digestible bite-sized chunk.

To conclude, the critical point to re-emphasize is that money follows vision. It is vitally important to show how the repayment of the debt will take a millstone off your neck so you can pursue the next exiting stage of ministry. For more on raising resources for ministry see my book Giving Generously. https://givinggenerously.com/

The Importance of Vision

March 30, 2023Inline Text Rod Irvine

Taking Up the Collection

I can still vividly remember sitting in church as a teenager during the 60s. The time would come for the offering. A very worthy elder (normally the same one) would start and somberly intone, ‘Your frugal offering will now be received’. Frugal! Seriously! Did he really say that? Actually he didn’t but that is what my 16 year old ears heard him say. What he did say was, ‘Your free will offering will now be received’.  That is a big difference. I interpreted his meaning as, ‘Put your pathetically tiny amount of money in the plate now’.

What to say when you are taking up the collection and having a collection in church at all, has been quite a source of debate over the last generation or so. During that time many churches were influenced by the church growth movement and would preface the collection with a statement that the offertory was for our members and visitors should be under no obligation to give. Some churches stopped passing the plate around. Some made a vague reference to a bucket placed somewhere at the back of the church that sometimes required a GPS to discover. Many churches in this digital age just receive the money online and don’t mention money in the services. In some churches, as a visitor, I have no idea how to give if I wanted to.

My belief is that giving should be should be mentioned unashamedly, but should be linked to the exciting ministry of the church and undergirded by an appeal to grow in generosity. One church I know does this very well. A large slide appears on the screen. The service leader reminds us that generosity is one of the values of the church. The slide proclaims, ‘WE ARE A GENEROUS CHURCH’. The congregation is often given an update about some life transforming ministry that the church is performing.  The slide also gives 5 different ways in which I can give.

1. Online

2. Giving Envelope

3. Giving Station

4. Push Pay App

5. Text to Give

I have never felt put out by this appeal. I have a great deal of confidence that the church does not waste money and that the leadership are people of integrity. I certainly don’t mind that I am being exhorted to be generous. I might be put out if I thought the church just wanted my money. But generosity is something quite different. Generosity is a noble virtue and one I am happy to aspire to. I am pleased that the church is encouraging me to have the very character that I want to have anyway and the character that the Lord Jesus Christ has demonstrated in his extraordinary sacrifice on the cross.

So ultimately this approach is a win-win. The church wins in that it receives with integrity the resources needed for ministry. I win as my character is further shaped to be like God’s. For more on generosity and raising resources for local church ministry see my book Giving Generously.

The Importance of Vision

November 30, 2022Inline Text Rod Irvine

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

On holidays some years ago I attended a church service at a church I had never previously visited. Afterwards in the foyer I was chatting to the minister and it emerged in conversation that I was a fellow clergyman. He asked for my frank assessment of the service. ‘Tell me the good, the bad and the ugly.’ They were striking words to solicit a comment and I have never forgotten them. I believe that minister really did want some genuine feedback and it was brave of him to ask because many do not. It was also very smart because it is an excellent way to improve ministry.

In the early 1990s I did a Business degree and studied a number of marketing subjects. During that time I came across an article, Complaints as Opportunities published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, February 1991, written by Jerry Plymire.  It contained the following arresting quotation:

            ‘….only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers ever give us feedback about their issue. The other 96 percent vote with their feet and 91 percent will never come back.’ What is worse is that 80 percent of those dissatisfied people will pass on their negative assessment to others.. ‘Ouch!’, as an influential academic once said.

Because most people have a natural aversion to hearing complaints, a normal course of action is to try to shut down complaining behavior. Plymire advocates an opposite approach: that is to actually stimulate complaints. In other words get people to tell you the issues rather than broadcast their displeasure to the four winds.

While I am fully aware that a church is not a business and the same dynamics do not  necessarily apply, a church has many of the characteristics of a not-for–profit, professional, service organization and so lessons learned in one sphere have some application to another. Armed with these thoughts I tried to encourage not whinging and whining but robust feedback, and to give it a considered hearing. Mostly the complaints were not a matter of profound theology but on irritating organization matters that could and should be remedied

One method I used was to conduct in June, an all-church survey where I would ask people to write one thing the church does well and one area we could improve. I phrased the questions in that way because I wanted to encourage a response that did not result in gratuitous carping. Further, I gave space for respondents to add their names.

I explained that I would publish the actual feedback so people could see what had been written. The exception was that I would not publish any negative personal attacks on anyone, which were negligible anyway. All went well with the first survey and the office posted the results on bulletin boards but I had forgotten to tell the office to post the comments without names which were for my eyes only. I certainly did get some real complaints and had to offer an obsequious mea culpa. The error was definitely remedied the next year.

The effect of this ongoing process was twofold. First, it helped produce a feeling of openness in the parish. People felt their concerns would get a hearing rather than be buried. Second, every year we raised money for ministry including special projects. This process gave us a clear idea of where the people felt there were areas that needed fixing.

If for example a survey showed 50 people thinking the music was too loud and 50 thought it was too soft and the rest did not mention it, I was reasonably certain that this was a non-issue. However if I received 150 responses urging me to fix the car park and fix it yesterday, then I knew this merited urgent action. My response would be to make such an item a commitment day project and when I did, it would generally be well supported.

Honestly, looking for feedback that includes the good the bad and the ugly can be a bit daunting. I remember one staff member saying that reading the regular feedback cards was like ‘pulling teeth’. Yet I do believe it is worth it. As it transpired, while there were good features to the service to which I was visitor, there was one issue that my entire family had thought of as ugly and the minister’s question provided a platform to give that feedback.

For more on raising resources for ministry see my book Giving Generously.  www.givinggenerously.com