Guest post by Mark Brooks, President of The Charis Group. He tweets here and blogs here. Enjoy his post.
I remember a few years back watching the Olympics and the 100 meter hurdle women’s final. One racer was only one hurdle away from finishing first and winning a gold medal. She had expertly and effortlessly cleared all the other hurdles. Yet as she approached the final hurdle she tripped on it and stumbled to the track. It was as if the hurdle had somehow grabbed her foot and tumbled her to the ground. The other racers swept by and the Olympic dream was over for her. So close to gold yet so far away.
Many churches experience the same difficulties on their way to establishing a winning stewardship strategy. They run a quality race in so many areas but fail miserable when it comes to the stewardship hurdle. Then when they need funds for a new ministry endeavor or simply to make ends meet they run out of steam or get tripped up by the last hurdle.
There are four common hurdles that I often see as I work with churches. Knowing the hurdles lie ahead of you is at least one way to prepare to handle them. See if you have experienced any of these hurdles.
Lack of awareness – The biggest obstacle that I deal with is the simple fact that most churches are not stewardship aware. By this I mean they seldom if ever think about stewardship. It is only when a crisis arises that they think of stewardship. The time to prepare for the hurdles of stewardship is before you get to the hurdle not after it has knocked you to the ground.
Lack of ownership – Too often no one owns the process of stewardship. When no one owns something nothing gets done. For many pastors they are already pressed for time and adding one more element to their busy lives simply will not happen. So the typical church gives stewardship to a lay committee that may or may not meet on a regular basis. If no one owns stewardship in your church you can be sure that is a hurdle you will never clear.
Lack of planning – Churches have plans for just about everything under the sun. Yet few churches have a stewardship plan. Some have plans and then fail to work their plan. If we see the value of planning in other areas of ministry why is it that we fail to see the need and value to have a stewardship plan. This hurdle knocks out most churches from being effective.
Lack of creativity – I recently advised a financial secretary at a church that they needed to have the ability to give online through their website. She was shocked at the idea. I find that we typically keep doing stewardship the way we have always done it. Then we are surprised that we are not getting what we have always gotten. Times have changed and your stewardship strategy must be creative to be successful. Too many churches simply keep doing what they have always done and then get tripped up by the hurdle of creativity and it costs them thousands of dollars.
While there may be other hurdles that churches face these are the four most common in my experience. The sad thing is that none of these are all that difficult to clear or master. In your quest for the gold don’t take your eyes off of the stewardship hurdle or you like the Olympic athlete might find yourself failing and falling only feet from the finish line.