Creating a culture of stewardship
In order to create a culture of healthy and generous stewardship within the congregation it’s important to include an appropriate amount of Biblical and theological teaching in the annual church sermon series and/or Connect Group teaching curriculum. The message is really for everyone to give what they can, however small that may be, and the aim is to have as high a percentage of your congregation giving regularly as possible. The size of the gift should never be a barrier to giving.
Although it’s important to encourage generous giving throughout the year, and regular monthly giving should be the backbone of every church’s income. For example, HTB focusses particular attention on giving twice a year at its Gift Days – one towards the beginning of September being the ‘start of term’ when many newcomers arrive, and one in February. Gift Days are an opportunity to increase regular giving by encouraging more of the existing congregation to engage with giving as well as newcomers to start giving, and an opportunity to raise significant funds in one-off gifts to either help reach that year’s budgeted giving or for specific one-off projects.
HTB’s Gift Days are normally part of a 3-part sermon series encouraging the congregation to: Pray, Serve and Give. The first week is on the importance of cultivating a deep personal prayer life as well as interceding for the Church and for others (Pray). The second week presents the vision for the church for the year ahead and the various ways you can practically get involved in the vision (Serve). The third is specifically around how you can develop a healthy attitude to money, practise generosity and the blessing of giving sacrificially, and presenting the needs of the church and how you can support the church financially (Give).
On Gift Day Giving envelopes together with a pen are laid out on every chair before the service, normally together with a review summary of the church’s budget, what activities its been involved in, how it has spent its money and highlights. After the talk several minutes are taken during the service for people to all fill in the envelopes together, normally with background music or a highlights video playing. Envelopes are then either collected in buckets or thrown into a hamper at the front of the church in an act of celebration. An example Giving envelope and Annual Review can be seen here.
Giving Envelope Example
HTB Annual Review Example
Standing Order forms will then need to be taken to the relevant bank addressed to the Standing Orders Department. Pledges should be followed up promptly with a thank you and the methods of giving (ie online, cheque, bank transfer, etc.). Credit card transactions (if applicable) should be processed as soon as possible. All gifts should ideally be thanked personally by the Vicar within a few days.
Giving Systems and Methods
There are several different methods congregation members can give to your church: cash, cheque, online, bank transfer, text, via giving agencies, direct debit. It’s important to be able to offer as many of these as possible, to make it as easy for people to give as possible, where appropriate and having considered the pros and cons of each.
We always try to encourage regular giving by bank transfer (ie by setting up a Standing Order) as by far the preferred method of giving by the congregation. Standing Orders have several advantages over the other methods:
They are very cost effective (no transaction or third-party fees, as opposed to online giving which use credit cards)
Easy to administer (standing orders come directly into the bank account every month and just need a unique identifier to then be able to automatically identify each month)
They continue indefinitely until stopped by the giver (credit card regular giving can be interrupted by expiry dates and failed payments)
The giver has complete control over it and can start, stop or amend it at any time
Please note: many people confuse Direct Debits and Standing Orders – these are not the same thing!
All giving, regardless of the method, then needs to be promptly and accurately captured and recorded on a reliable system which serves several purposes: to accurately record income, in order to be able to claim Gift Aid, to be able to thank givers, to be able to produce annual giving statements for your givers for tax purposes. It is a requirement for every church to keep accurate and up-to-date giving records.
There are many different databases and systems available depending on the size and complexity of the church. The system we would recommend for almost every church would be the Giving module of ChurchSuite. ChurchSuite is already our recommended church management system and database and the Giving module slots in and combines with the rest of the database reducing the need for multiple systems and reducing complexity. It also offers cost-effective online giving (using Stripe as the card payment processor which is the most competitive in terms of transaction fees), allows for one-off and regular giving, and offers text giving functionality if this is required. It enables you to track donor giving and has built-in Gift Aid claim functionality making the claim process very straight-forward.
It’s important to be registered with HMRC for Gift Aid as early as possible and to pro-actively gather as many Gift Aid declarations as possible in order to maximise giving income (Gift Aid gives you an extra 25%). Just because you don’t have a Gift Aid declaration doesn’t necessarily mean the giver doesn’t want you to claim it so it’s always worth reviewing and asking! Make this process as easy as possible by including an electronic Gift Aid declaration link on your website or having an email template set up that you can send. This is HTB’s Gift Aid declaration page.
Charitable Giving Agencies
If you consider there to be a demand for it, you may also want to register your church with some of the charitable giving agencies, the main ones being: CAF, Stewardship, Charitable Giving. Some donors, particularly larger ones, prefer giving this way as it is tax-efficient and easier to administer when giving to multiple charities. If they want to give to you this way then you will need to be registered with the relevant giving agency and have an account with them.
Please note: Gift Aid can only be claimed on gifts from individuals where you hold a valid Gift Aid declaration. Gifts from businesses, charitable trusts, organisations or giving agencies are never eligible for Gift Aid.