The Multiplying Our Gifts Challenge

A case study of a parish giving program

Fr. P. has done a lot of thinking, reading, and praying on the subject of stewardship. At the small, urban parish to which he had been recently assigned, finances were said to be a constant challenge. The giving paradigm long in place was membership dues with several fundraisers throughout the year to fill in the budget gaps. The overwhelming perception at the parish was that there was never enough money, and no more could be raised in the small community.  



Following one guiding principle – give stewards clear, Biblically-based guidance – Fr. P. began crafting a plan for a new stewardship approach at the parish.  New stewardship materials laid out the “Multiplying Our Gifts Challenge,” focusing on asking stewards to give a percentage of their income, beginning with the goal of 2%. For those already giving 2%, the challenge was to increase by one percent.  A letter to stewards laid out the program rationale:

Why have we chosen to give our stewardship challenge this exact form?  There are two reasons.  First, God clearly calls his people to give back to His church a percentage of the blessings that he has given them (c.f. Gen 14:20, Prov. 3:9, Mal. 3:8-10, Mat. 23:23).  As the Orthodox baptismal service states, “… it is in doing the will of God that man finds life.”

 Second, it is concrete.  We often find that people don’t know what criteria to use to determine how much to give for their stewardship.  Our challenge is both clear in that answer, and “fair,” in the sense that the millionaire can and should give more than the widow on Social Security.

 On several (not just one) Stewardship Sundays throughout the fall, Fr. P. outlined the characteristics of a good steward. He also employed a series of pie charts to show how the church budget could be covered by stewardship even at modest levels of percentage giving.  Most of the church budget would be covered with stewards giving only 3%, based on the local median annual income.  A final slide was based on stewards tithing, or giving 10% of their income, nearly triple the current annual budget.

Imagine what a parish could do if it could think beyond the yearly struggle to fund its basic needs to spread out into new ministries and new services to those in need!  In Fr. P.’s parish, this clear, Biblically-based guidance has taken root. Average stewardship pledge has increased nearly 30% over last year!

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