Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why the fuss over the tithe?

As most churches present their budgets in the next few weeks I think it is a great time to ask the question which I used as the title of this post: Why the fuss over the tithe? Do we really understand where those who promote the New Covenant version of no tithe are leading us? Do we really understand how little substance their positions has?

This post is the beginning of a series that will unveil the truth surrounding the fuss being created today and the truth about what should be taught in our churches. We will look at misconceptions and misrepresentations along the way while also highlighting the deception being applied to discredit the truth of the tithe.

For a beginning point, we will break down the issues involving taxes and tithing. Are they the same? Are they different? How do we know?

For certain I believe in the tithe. I pray you will stick around and join me as we step by step search the Word of God to see what God has to say.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Proof for Stewardship/Lordship Education

The following information can be helpful to you and your people. This test and the results show beyond any doubt that we as leaders must return to the teaching of Stewardship/Lordship in our churches.

Topics like credit scores, retirement plans and debt are popular conversations in the U.S.'s uncertain economy, but you might not know how your financial status compares to that of your fellow citizens. Take this quiz to find out how you measure up against other Americans, and learn some informative facts behind the statistics.

1) How Much Credit Card Debt Does Your Household Have?

A) Less than $5,000
B) Less than $10,000
C) More than $15,000

If you answered C, you are in the same boat as the 54 million American households that have credit card debt. The average credit card debt total per household is $15,788.

2) How Many Credit Cards Do You Have?

A) 0
B) 1
C) 3 or more

If you answered C, your stack of credit cards is the same size as the average American with 3.5 open credit cards. Approximately 51% of the U.S. population has at least two credit cards.

3) What Kind of Credit Card(s) Do You Have?

A) American Express
B) Visa
C) Mastercard

If you answered B, you have the same credit card as more than 270 million Americans. The second most popular form of plastic cash is Mastercard with 203 million card carriers. In 1958, American Express became the first widely accepted charge card, but now it falls behind Visa, Mastercard and Discover (54.4 million) with 48.9 million in circulation.

4) What Do You Spend Most of Your Annual Paycheck on?

A) Housing
B) Transportation
C) Food

If you answered A, your annual expenditures match those of the average American. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008), the average American consumer spends 34% of their income on housing costs which include shelter, utilities, household supplies, and home furnishings and equipment. Transportation expenditures such as vehicle purchase, gasoline and public transportation take up 17% of the average annual budget. Food, both at and away from home, comes in third at 13%.

5) What Percentage of Your Annual Income Do You Save?

A) 6%
B) 15%
C) 10%

If you answered A, you are right on target with the average American. At 6%, American savings habits are ranked last among China (30%), Switzerland (14%) and Germany (13%). Less than half of Americans report that they save regularly. The highest rate of savings was during World War II when Americans were stashing away 26% of their earnings. During the Great Depression in 1932, Americans weren't saving at all with a rate of -1.1%.

6) What is Your Annual Household Income?

A) Less than $20,000
B) Less than $30,000
C) More than $40,000

If you chose C, you are earning as much income as the average American household. In 2009, the median household income in the U.S. was $49,777. Income tends to be highest in the Northeast and West part of the country at a median of $53,073 and $53,833 respectively. The Southern region of the U.S. has the lowest annual income median at $45,615.

7) What is (or Will Be) the Source of Your Retirement Income?

A) Social Security
B) Employer sponsored retirement savings plan
C) Employment income

If you chose A or C, you expect to get retirement money from the same source as 77% of working-aged Americans. Nearly the same amount of Americans, 75%, will use an employer-sponsored savings plan for their retirement income, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

8) What is Your Credit Score Rating?

A) Less than 600
B) 600 to 700
C) Greater than 700

If you chose B, your credit score is within the range of the average credit score in the U.S., which is 692. This is considered to be a fair to good credit rating. A credit score below 600 is generally labeled as a poor rating. A score in the 750-850 range or higher is an excellent score that will usually qualify you for the best interest rates on loans. According to Experian, residents of New England have the highest credit scores in the country at an average of 712. The West South Central region of the U.S. has the lowest average credit score at 673.

The Bottom Line

We need more stewardship/lordship education and we need it fast. As Pastors and lay leaders the time has come for us to step up the plate and teach the Word of God. We will never reach the lost in the world by living the way most Americans live.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Faith and the Budgeting Process

One of the loudest complaints we here from members of churches is that the presentation of the annual budget in many churches is presented with a hard line FAITH sermon or lesson to the members in an attempt to persuade them to vote YES. Why is this an issue? How does faith play out in the process and in the communication of a new budget to the members?

Important to remember in the process is a simple fact - people are not as ignorant as we may think. They know when priorities are in the right place in most situations. To hit people with a message of FAITH in expecting them to pass a budget that flawed in it's inception NEVER works in the end. There is a growing sentiment among some of the newer models of churches and leadership structures to use this approach. The end result is failure of trust and lost of respect.

Some key helpful thoughts as you work through the process and delivery:

1. Be realistic with what is ministry - to promote things that are NOT ministry as such will not work.

2. Teach Stewardship - you will accomplish more with teaching than with beating the FAITH message.

3. Live Stewardship - a staff must practice faithful stewardship. Look for ways to save money.

4. More money does not mean more ministry - don't be materialistic.

5. Keep missions and true ministry at the forefront - people will respond to these.

6. Be careful with the latest and greatest - you probably sold that last year. They remember!

7. Build trust and respect with the process - it will lead to developing stewards.

8. Vision cannot be sold - it must be shared and developed. give your people time to grow.

9. Be transparent - people are hurting. Show you care. Wastefulness says you don't.

10. Get God's heartbeat in every area - pray and search your own heart. God will approved what He orders and He will fund what He needs.

Remember that communication is key in the whole process. Share with your people as the process develops and get more than yourself involved in the sharing. Faith in the process and development will grow the faith in stewards lives.

Friday, August 20, 2010

2011 Budget Insights

If you look at the calendar the realization that planning of the 2011 church budget should already be in progress; or soon to start. Churches across America are experiencing tough times in the area of finances. Tithing (Budget Income) is down to some of the lowest levels in decades. Pastors are failing to preach on Stewardship more than one to two times annually (if that). Expenses verses income in many churches are riding high. Some churches are cutting ministries and some are considering elimination of staff positions or redefining them while lowering salaries.

In tough times it is important to remember some key insight into church budgets. Members of churches with backgrounds in business will be quick to jump on the latest models being implemented in the secular world without understanding the effect those models will have on ministry and missions. Implementing key principles in planning your 2011 church budget will make a difference in the life of your church. It will make a difference in missions around the world.

1. Remember that the church is in business to do ministry and missions. Cutting ministries means reducing the job that we have been called to do.

2. Every church has waste in the budget. Be honest in your process. Waste is not ministry - it robs ministry. Look for the waste and eliminate it. Golden calves in church budgets are Satan's tools.

3. Evaluate how you do ministry. Often we spend money on things that we are too lazy to do ourselves. The "how" of your ministry should require effort from human beings more than it does money.

4. Salary issues will be tough this year. Be smart when considering raises and cuts. Staff leaders should practice Stewardship in their daily lives while churches should care for the servants God has led their way. You may not be able to give much in the area of raises this year yet remembering this and planning for future raises is vital to maintaining a great staff.

5. Do not cut missions or ministries that are reaching people. Look for the multiple small areas in your budget that you can in actuality do without or do different. Literature such as magazines etc. are a prime example of things that can be cut and applied in areas of ministry and evangelism.

6. Teach Tithing and Grace Giving. The tithe is ten percent of the gross income. Is the beginning point in giving. When taught correctly, teaching on Stewardship will free your people from all types of bondage. A church that is taught biblical stewardship will become a generous church.

7. Pastor and staff must lead the way in giving of the tithe and offerings. Live what you preach. If you are not living it, repent, live it, and preach it! Do so in that order.

8. Get creative in highlighting the ministries that the church budget supports. Creative and positive fruit will do wonders to the development of cheerful givers.

9. Get a vision for what God is calling your church to do. Share this vision and commit to this vision. Never forget that God always pays for what He orders.

10. Know with confidence that God will bless a church that is faithful to go after His vision. Stop the sin of worry and share with your people the joy of seeing God do some God size things in your midst.

The team at Eklund Stewardship is here to assist you in the area of Stewardship. Budget development and formation assistance are available. Give us a call. We would love to partner with you!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Coming Out of Summer

I know it is only July. Thoughts to August and the fall however will reap huge rewards if done now. Here are just a few things that hopefully will assist in your creativity:

1. Plan a "catch up" Sunday in September or October. If you do not send out Tithing Reports already, do so before this planned Sunday. Encourage people to evaluate their giving records in comparison to the amount that God asks.

2. Begin to promote the coming budget planning for 2011 in October. Share the highlights of 2010. Share vision related to the needs of 2011.

3. Have people share a testimony related to their giving and the fruit they have seen. These testimonies should be 3 to 4 min in length and focus on the fruit not on the person.

4. Do not hide from teaching Stewardship. Your people need to be stewards. Your ministry needs for more stewards to be developed.

Take some time this summer to plan for a smart fall. It will "pay off" in your budget planning and promotion and it will reap huge benefits in the giving of your people!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time for Budget Planning - NOW!

Start your 2011 Budget planning NOW. Are you kidding me? No! One of the key aspects of being a good steward of the money that God provides for ministry is to do a GREAT job at budget planning. I know that June is still a week away. Yet beginning to discuss budget issues with staff and key leaders is vital today!

Staff should already be seeing areas that need to be examined when looking at 2011 vision and needs. Giving trends for 2010 are now easily detectable. Getting started now will save headaches down the road in the fall. How is 2010 going? What does this say about 2011?

Satan is waging an all out war on stewardship right now. Even in Christian groups there is much confusion as to what a church should teach and how a church needs to respond to the economic times. Satan loves to get us distracted and then force us into poor planning and thought at the crucial times in the fall. It is important that we do not accept poor stewardship from God's people by excusing the waste and lack of discipline on the economy. Yes people are struggling. Yet many are simply NOT being stewards.

Take some time during the next 30 days and get a head start on budget planning and review. Evaluate the effectiveness of stewardship education. Look at options needed for the fall. Don't settle for a summer slump.

Be bold in teaching tithing and stewardship. Your people will become better stewards and your ministry and missions will be where God desires them to be.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stewardship - A Word We Need!

Try looking at any type of news media that does not reveal a growing distaste for the economic waste occurring in America at almost every stage of life. For this current time in our history we have the most money EVER being handed down from one generation to the next and the debt of the receiving generation FAR out weighing the money changing hands. It can be a little scary to think about.

The thoughts of this incredible time reveal a need for a word that is about to be extinct in our vocabularies - STEWARDSHIP! It is a great word. I have been trying to grasp why we are approaching it's demise when this word offers the answers to all we need in economics on a national, job, world, home, individual, and church level.

Sixteen times the word Steward is used in the Bible. The principles of being a steward are taught innumerable times through out the Word of God. Clear is the teaching of this simple passage:

Luke 12:42-43

42 And the Lord said, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward , whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?

43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

Clearly as we approach the return of Christ, being a faithful STEWARD rises to the top of all we do and prioritize in our lives. One of the greatest questions that we can ask today is this:

Are we teaching and modeling being a Biblical STEWARD?

When we look at the younger generation surrounded by debt, materialism, and selfishness. When we seek to do more in reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are forced to look at this simple word which teaches profound actions, mindsets, and disciplines. We discover quickly that we need the word STEWARD in our lives more than we may have thought.

Generosity is the buzz word today. But I submit to your pondering that we will never be able to be generous until we first learn to be good stewards.