COMMITMENT & 6 Ideas That Can Increase Giving and Community

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and the 2017 Missional Coaches Cohort, 2/1/17.

  • Annually teach on giving.
    • Teach as a two-week series [studies show one week isn’t enough; three weeks people get bored / annoyed]. Offer it in January or February, after everyone’s Christmas bills come in and household budget/resource allocation is a priority.
    • When teaching on giving, teach on graduated giving – meaning, if you don’t
      give at all, where could you start? If you do give, but give less than 10%, how
      could you increase to the next percentage? If you give 10% or above, could you begin increasing giving to the next percentage as a ‘legacy gift’ to the church?
  • Annually review tithes & offerings.
    • Who knows who gives, and how much? Who knows who’s not giving, or has
      slacked off in giving? John Maxwell suggests the Treasurer, Senior Pastor, and Exec Pastor know in order to pray for givers & giving, and lean into those needing encouragement.
  • Annually review ministry priorities.
    • Get key staff and board together for a half-day or full day of ministry review. Are you most important ministries getting significant resources for ministry?
    • If they’re not, they might not be as high a priority as you think they are. Make adjustments as necessary.
  • Offer Stewardship classes.
    • Twice a year, offer Financial Peace Classes [or similar program].
    • Rather than a staff or board member, attempt to have a key layperson whose financial affairs are in order teach the class, in order to avoid people viewing church leaders as greedy for resources.
  • Expand giving options.
    • Do you offer a variety of ways to give such as: text-to-give, webpage for
      automatic giving, or giving kiosks? What does live giving look like in your church?
    • Do you have special giving opportunities – a campaign to pay down debt / faith promise giving for missions? Beyond weekly / monthly giving, what special giving emphases could be created?
  • Tell stories about giving.
    • Who’s willing to share live or via video a story of how God stretched them to give more generously/sacrificially? Who’s been blessed by receiving a gift through the church? What ministries could you highlight that wouldn’t exist without giving?
    • Interview some older folks who are long-time members. Ask about the vision and mission of the church, and how they see it being fulfilled. Ask them how they prayed and gave in the early days for God to bless and expand the church’s reach.
    • Interview younger folks, families, or individuals who are new. Ask about their experience being welcomed or helped. Use questions in these video stories to connect the dots between giving and outreach / mission accomplishment.

© Bob Whitesel DMin PhD & #PowellChurch

GENEROSITY & More Devout Means More Giving

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 1/30/17.

A survey from Pew Research found a correlation between religiosity and giving of time and money to others.

Religious individuals are more likely to have volunteered and donated to the poor in the last week compared to the irreligious. Highly religious Christians are also more likely than other self-identified Christians.

A third (33 percent) of Americans say they volunteered in the past week. However, 35 percent of religious individuals volunteered versus 27 percent of the unaffiliated.

Much of the difference comes from church involvement. Twelve percent of Christians say they volunteered mainly through their church and 21 percent say it was primarily through another organization. For the religiously unaffiliated, 24 percent volunteered outside of a church and only 2 percent say they served mainly through a church.

While church participation provides a built-in advantage in opportunities for volunteering for the religious, a similar gap exists in donating to the poor.

More than half (52 percent) of Christians say they donated money, time, or goods to help the poor in the past week. Fewer than a third (31 percent) of the unaffiliated say the same.

The most giving were among the adherents of non-Christian faiths (56 percent), evangelical Christians (55 percent), Jews (54 percent), mainline Protestants (49 percent), and Catholics (49 percent).

Read more at …

GIVING & 7 Traits of Churches with Increasing Giving #LifeWay #ThomRainer

by Thom Rainer, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 5/5/16.

1. Increased emphasis on belonging to a group. Members in a group, such as a small group or Sunday school class, give as much as six times more than those attending worship services alone.

2. Multiple giving venues. Per-member giving increases as churches offer more giving venues (e.g., offertory giving in the worship services; online giving; mailed offering envelopes to all members and givers; automatic deductions from members’ bank accounts; giving kiosks).

3. Meaningful and motivating goals. Church members give more if they see the church has a goal that will make a meaningful difference.

“Increasing total gifts by 10 percent” is not a meaningful goal. “Giving 10 percent more to advance the gospel in the 37201 zip code” is more meaningful.

4. Explaining biblical giving in the new members’ class. New member classes should be an entry point for both information on and expectations of biblical church membership.

Biblical giving should be a clear and unapologetic expectation of church membership.

5. Willingness of leadership to talk about money. While it is possible to communicate financial stewardship in an overbearing manner, it is inexcusable for leaders to be silent about financial stewardship by Christians.

6. Meaningful financial reporting. Many churches provide financial reporting that only a CPA or a CFO can understand. Church members need to be able to understand clearly how funds are given or spent.

7. Transparent financial reporting. If church members sense pertinent financial information is being withheld, they tend to give less or nothing at all.

Read more at …

MARKETING & 5 Common Pitfalls in Non-Profit Marketing

by Roman Kniahynyckyj, JULY 11, 2015.

lw_5_pitfallsWhen it comes to increasing donations for your non-profit organization, begging, pleading and coercion are not the answers. In fact these techniques are more likely to turn potential donors away. Here are some solutions to addressing common pitfalls to avoid in online marketing for non-profits…

1) Not Being Social...Pick one channel. Facebook is probably a good place to start. Setting up a social channel isn’t the end though. You may not have a lot of people interacting with you but when someone does ask you a question or comment on your page it’s important you respond appropriately…

2) Not Telling a Story.  Sharing a heart felt story about how donations have been used offers a powerful trigger for other potential donors… Help your website visitors understand and envision the impact of their donations. The more personal stories and long term community impact you can show the more likely you’ll keep people reading and move them towards a donation.

3) Not Creating A Wish List… Creating a non-profit wish list is a useful way to do this. Remember, any ‘ask’ must have a solid rationale for it – if you are asking for a new office computer make sure you let folks know your current computer is almost obsolete or is having trouble running the latest software.

4) Not Offering Social Proof.  In addition to showing where the money goes it’s important to show how the money already raised is being put to work. One of the best ways of offering this sort of social proof is through infographics that can be shared. Infographics are the perfect way to present a variety facts, figures and ideas in an easily digestible format…

5) Not Making it Insanely Easy to Donate.  If your website visitor has to click more once to get to a donation page from any page on your site they’re clicking too much. You will certainly have some visitors landing on your site ready to donate. If someone is ready and willing to donate don’t make it a challenge for them.

Read more at …  (image: )

BUDGETING & Benchmarks for Church Finances from 4 Scholars

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “Below are excerpts from writings of five nationally-recognized scholars on suggested benchmarks for church budgets. Compare these with your budgets and expenditures to measure your fiscal health.”

Thom Rainer, Jun 16, 2012, retrieved from

What is the amount of personnel expenses that should be in a church budget? First, I’ll give the simple response. Personnel expenses typically should not exceed 55% of a budget. But such guidelines are subject to a number of caveats. If the church has debt obligations in its budget, for example, those payments will reduce the amount a church can put toward personnel costs. The average personnel costs are about 40% of budget, but averages can be misleading as well. As a general guideline, however, I would say the broad range of personnel costs should be 35% to 55% of budget.

What are the sources of income for most churches? As you would expect, the tithes and offerings are the dominant source of income for churches. About one-third of all churches have no other sources of income. But many church leaders may be surprised to know that, on the average, churches receive 13% of their income from other sources. These sources include investment income, ancillary ministry income (such as a school or mom’s day out program), denominational support, and rental income.

How can I know if the amount our members give to the church is healthy or not?   Begin with an average and work from there. The average weekly per capita giving (WPCG) in an American church is $26. That is the amount, on the average, that every adult and child gives to the church each week. To calculate your church’s WPCG, divide your average weekly undesignated receipts by your average worship attendance (including children). For example. If the average weekly budget receipts are $4,000 (roughly an annual budget of $200,000), and the average worship attendance is 150, the church’s WPCG is $26.67 ($4,000 divided by 150). That number would be very close to the national average. The economic demographics of your church, however, could affect this number significantly

Kent E. Fillinge, 5/02/11, retrieved from Christian Standard Magazine,

Average Weekly Giving Per Person

Weekly per person giving (that’s general fund giving divided by average weekend worship attendance) increased among three of the four church size categories last year.

After taking a slight dip in 2009, the weekly per person giving average in megachurches rebounded to surpass 2008 levels, but still fell short of 2007, prerecession giving figures. The average megachurch attendee put $26.77 per week in the offering plate last year. The average weekly giving ranged from a high of $40.66 per person at one megachurch to a low of $12.93 per person at another.

Emerging megachurch attendees were the most generous givers last year, with average weekly per person giving of $27.48, a 16 percent increase from 2009. Giving at emerging megachurches ranged from $76.30 per person to $13.31 per person.

Large churches also saw weekly per person giving increase in 2010, to an average of $26.63, a 50-cent per person increase from the year before. Average weekly giving ranged from $42.28 to $15.59.

Medium churches experienced a decline in average weekly giving of more than a dollar per person, to $25.60. Average giving ranged from $39.28 per person to $10.66.

James D. Berkley, 1997, Christianity Today, “Is Your Church Fiscally Fit? Ten ways to assess you financial strength,” retrieved from

Total annual income

Church-expert Lyle Schaller provides a simple benchmark for annual contributions. He writes in The Interventionist: “A useful beginning point is to multiply the average worship attendance times $1,000.” If my church has 125 attenders on an average Sunday, and annual giving is $125,000, we’re in the ballpark.

Another way to look at the same figures is to multiply $20 per head in worship for any given week. If my church averages two hundred in attendance, it should be receiving about $4,000 a week. Of course such figures need to be adjusted for churches in particularly wealthy or poverty-stricken areas, for especially small or large churches, for new church plants—well, for just about any church, because there is no typical church.

The Typical Churchgoer Pays about $10 A Week For Personnel Costs

“The ‘price’ of church is rising faster than the cost of a movie ticket,” notes Schaller. “It used to be the per capita ‘cost’ of church was close to the cost of going to a movie. Now it’s closer to the expense of going to a professional sporting event—about $20.” Of course, no church charges attenders their proportion of the weekly church expenses (“Marge, I’ve only got two twenties on me. We can’t afford to bring Billy to church this week!”). But Schaller’s analysis does show the comparative costs of “doing church.”

Another way to look at annual giving is to compare this year’s receipts per attender to 1968’s figures. Between 1968 and now, according to Schaller, the Consumer Price Index went up roughly 400 percent, and personal income rose even more. So if my church received an average of $200 per attender per year in 1968, and now it receives an average of $900, we’re ahead!

A third way to look at annual receipts is comparing them with total household income. What percentage of members’ income is being given to the church?

A little sleuthing at the local planning agency will probably produce a figure for average household income. Multiply that by the number of households in the congregation (and adjust a little for the comparative wealth of a given church), and this approximates church members’ total earnings.

Then, divide the church’s total giving by its total earnings. If the result is 10 percent, the church is a biblical lot! More likely it’s under 5 percent or perhaps around 3 percent. If we can find the figures, we can compare the percentage of income given in previous years to establish a trend.

 Stephen Anderson, excerpted from the book, Preparing to Build retrieved 2013 from and

When initially working with churches that need to build, I always ask two very simple questions.

1) What is your average attendance, counting men, women and children of all ages?

2) What was your total income in tithes and offerings last year (or last 12 months)?

Once these two numbers are ascertained with reasonable accuracy, it is a simple process to divide the total income by the total average attendance to determine the average giving per person per year. A church with 150 average attendance and annual giving of $165,000 would be $1,100 per person per year.

Over the years, I became aware of what seemed to be an emerging pattern in the relationship between income and attendance. It appeared that for a significant percentage of churches, one could take their average attendance and by adding three zeros, come up with a very close approximation of their annual income. If true, this would mean that average giving in the church was approximately $1,000 per year for every man, woman and child in attendance. This happened so many times I decided to put my impressions to the test. Over the years I had accumulated hard data, including giving and attendance information, from churches into a database. I exported the information into a spreadsheet and did the simple math. I was pleased to discover that mathematical analysis confirmed my anecdotal estimate.

An analysis of nearly 200 churches, with average total attendances ranging from 9 to 2,500 persons, indicated a median giving per person per year of $1,038.

There appears to be no significant correlation between the size of the church and giving per person. In fact, 80% of the churches that ranked in the top 10 for giving per person had attendance of less than 500 with 2 of those reporting attendance of less than 50 persons and 2 reporting 1000 or over. The average attendance of churches in the giving per person top 10 was 305, with an average income to the church per person per year (counting men, women and children of all ages) of $2,250.

It is important to remember that averages are just that, an average…

Church giving drops $1.2 billion reports 2012 Yearbook of Churches, retrieved from

New York, March 20, 2012 — Churches continue to feel the effects of “the Great Recession” of 2008 as contributions dropped $1.2 billion, according to the National Council of Churches’ 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

Membership trends in denominations reporting to the Yearbook remain stable, with growing churches still growing and declining churches still declining, reports the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, the Yearbook’s editor.

The 80th annual edition of the Yearbook, one of the oldest and most respected sources of church membership and financial trends in the U.S. and Canada, may be ordered for $55 each at

Not all churches report their financial information to the Yearbook, Lindner said, but the downward trends are reasons for concern.

The nearly $29 billion contributed by nearly 45 million church members is down $1.2 billion from figures reported in the 2011 Yearbook, Lindner said.

“This enormous loss of revenue dwarfs the $431 million decrease reported last year and provides clear evidence of the impact of the deepening crises in the reporting period,” Lindner wrote.

In terms of per capita giving, the $763 contributed per person is down $17 from the previous year, according to Lindner, a 2.2 percent drop. The decline “took place in the context of ongoing high unemployment and a protracted economic downturn,” Lindner wrote.

DONATIONS & Student Wrestles With Denominational Contribution

by Bob Whitesel, 6-7-15.

Many denominations require that a portion  of undesignated gifts be given to the denomination.  This has implications for a hypothetical “case study” I posted in this blog titled: DONATIONS & An Unexpected Windfall. A Case Study on Unexpected Donations .

However, other denominations allow moneys designated for Building Funds to be retained fully by the church.  This can lead to some unethical temptations.  Let me share what one student said about this, and my response.

Student Post:

I am actually not sure that in the (denominational name) we could get by with using (all) the monies as I speculated, because of the budget assessment.  I was told by our District Secretary if the money is not designated as a building fund income, we are supposed to pay budgets as general income.  Essentially, that would mean that 20% (the denominational cap for calculating budgets) of the money would be assessed the next church year as budget payments.  If I reported that we had received $500,000 in extra income, the District would allocate $100,000 in the following years’ budgets, which would include world missions, pensions and benefits for retired pastors, district operations, etc.  If I reported that we had received $500,000 as a donation for building, we would have the discretion to use it all for the building.  Any portion of that money that we put aside for other than building would be assessed budgets.  So, here is the bottom line.  I could choose to give the denomination $100,000 (20% of $500,000 counted as general income) if I don’t use the total for building purposes, or I can use $400,000 for building  and have $100,000 in additional income.  Budgets would be $20,000 (20% of $100,000 general income).

The $400,000 as building fund would essentially give us $80,000 unaccounted for so we could put some in savings and some for charitable contributions above the budget amount.  $500,000 as general income would give us $400,000 for whatever purposes we chose and $100,000 for the denomination to allocate for it’s works.

Personally, I would like to see my local church determine how the money is spent and that is going to be greatest facilitated if we apply the lion’s share of the money to a building project.

Now, I realize that other denominations operate differently and each case would have to be handled differently.  I do know that if we received a generous gift of $500,000, it would be difficult for the congregation to hand over $100,000 to the district to use at it’s discretion instead of working to accomplish a building that they have wanted to erect for a long time.
Here is my response:


Thanks for some soul searching.  You are right, many denominations have this same rule. And thus, since Miss Winnie gave it undesignated, ethically we should thus not designate it.  And, if all churches did this (instead of sometimes soliciting money for Building Funds that would have otherwise been undesignated) then the denomination would have more money and apportionments might be less.

Thanks for wrestling with this.
Dr. Whitesel

SPIRITUAL GIFTS & Links to the Most Popular & Diverse Inventories #WaypointsBook

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, “Waypoint 2: Ministry Emergence” in Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010, pp. 195-197).

Spiritual Waypoints [104KB]The Scriptures describe a variety of God-given gifts. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 along with secondary lists in 1 Corinthians 7, 13-14, Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4 describe many of the “gifts of the (Holy) Spirit” that God uses to empower people for service and ministry. Here is a brief, yet annotated list:[i]

  1. Administration: Effective planning and organization (1 Cor. 2:28; Acts 6:1-7).
  2. Discernment: Distinguishing between error and truth (1 Cor. 12:10; Acts 5:1-11).
  3. Encouragement: Ability to comfort, console, encourage and counsel ( 12:8; Hebrews 10:25; Timothy 4:13).
  4. Evangelism: Building relationships that help travelers move toward a personal relationship with Christ (Luke 19:1-10; 2 Timothy 4:5).
  5. Faith: Discerning with extraordinary confidence the will and purposes of God. (1 Cor. 12:9, Acts 11:22-24, Hebrews 11, Romans 4:18-21)
  6. Giving: Cheerfully giving of resources without remorse (Romans 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:1-7, 9:2-8; Mark 12:41-44).
  7. Hospitality: Creating comfort and assistance for those in need (1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:9-13, 16:23, Acts 16:14-15, Hebrews 13:1-2).
  8. Intercession: Passionate, extended and effective prayer. (James 5:14-16, 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Colossians 1:9-12, 4:12-13).
  9. Knowledge: To discover, accumulate, analyze and clarify information and ideas which are pertinent to the well being of a Christian community. (1 Cor. 2:14, 12:8, Acts 5:1-11, Colossians 2:2-3).[ii]
  10. Leadership: To cast vision, set goals and motivate to cooperatively accomplish God’ purposes (Luke 9:51; Romans 12:8; Hebrews 13:17).
  11. Mercy: To feel authentic empathy and compassion accompanied by action that reflects Christ’s love and alleviates suffering (Romans 12:8, Matt. 25:34-36; Luke 10:30-37).
  12. Prophecy: Providing guidance to others by explaining and proclaiming God’s truth[iii] (1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11-14, Romans 12:6; Acts 21:9-11).
  13. Helps: Investing time and talents in others to increase other’s effectiveness (1 Cor. 12:28, Rom. 16:1-2, Acts 9:36).
  14. Service: A tactical gift that identifies steps and processes in tasks that results in ministry to others (2 Tim. 1:16-18, Rom. 12:7, Acts 6:1-7).
  15. Pastor: Long-term personal responsibility for the welfare of spiritual travelers. ( 4:1-14, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, John 10:1-18, 1 Peter 5:1-3).
  16. Teaching: Communicating relevant information that results in learning (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-14, Rom. 12:7, Acts 18:24-28, 20:20-21).
  17. Wisdom: To have insight into how to apply knowledge[iv] (1 Cor. 2:1-13, 12:8. Acts 6:3, 10; James 1:5-6, 2 Peter 3: 15-16).
  18. Missionary: Using spiritual gifts effectively in a non-indigenous culture (1 Cor. 9:19-21, Acts 8:4, 13:2-3, 22:21; Rom. 10:15).
  19. Miracles. To perform compelling acts that are perceived by observers to have altered the ordinary course of nature (1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Acts 9:36-42, 19:11-20, 20:7-12; Rom. 15:18-19, 2 Cor. 12:12).
  20. Healing. To serve as human intermediaries through whom it pleases God to restore health (1 Cor. 12:9, 28; Acts 3:1-10, 5:12-16, 9:32-35, 28:7-10).
  21. Tongues. There are various explanations of this gift. For instance it can be to speak (a) to God in a language they have never learned and/or (b) to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to his people.[v] Another option is that this can mean an ability to speak a foreign language and convey concept across cultures[vi] (1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 14:13-19, Acts 2:1-13, 10:44-46, 19:1-7).
  22. Interpretation: To make known a message of one who speaks in tongues.[vii] And/or it can mean “those who help build bridges across cultural, generational and language divides.”[viii] (1 Cor. 12:10, 30, 14:13, 26-28).
  23. Voluntary poverty. To renounce material comfort and luxury to assist others (1 Cor. 13:1-3, Acts 2:44:45, 4:34-37, 2 Cor. 6:10, 8:9).
  24. Celibacy: To remain single with joy and not suffer undue sexual temptation (1 Cor. 7:7-8, Matt. 19:10-12).
  25. Martyrdom: Ability to undergo suffering for the faith even to death, while displaying a victorious attitude that brings glory to God (1 Cor. 13:3).

Download the chapter here: BOOK EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints on GIFTS

[i] Adapted from the United Methodist Church’s Explore Your Spiritual Gifts (, 2009), Jack W. MacGorman’s The Gifts of the Spirit (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1974), Kenneth C. Kinghorn’s Gifts of the Spirit (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976), and C. Peter Wagner’s Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow: How to Find Your Gifts and Use Them to Bless Others (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1994).   For an extended discussion of these gifts see Waypoint 2.

[ii] For this gift there are several interpretations, c.f. Donald Gee Concerning Spiritual Gifts (Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1972) and Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow.

[iii] Here again there are several perspectives, c.f. Donald Gee, Concerning Spiritual Gifts and Kinghorn, Gifts of the Spirit.

[iv] Varied perspectives exist here as well, c.f. Donald Gee, Concerning Spiritual Gifts, Kinghorn, Gifts of the Spirit, and Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow.

[v] For varied interpretations, see Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow and Gee, Concerning Spiritual Gifts.

[vi] The United Methodist Church, “Explore Your Spiritual Gifts,”, 2009.

[vii] See Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, p. 256-257 for the Classical Pentecostal viewpoint.

[viii] For another viewpoint of this and other gifts see the United Methodist Church’s definitions in “Explore Your Spiritual Gifts,”, 2009