Worry less about money
A wise friend of mine who is also a priest, when I was expressing my distaste for stewardship campaigns, said, "but have you noticed that by and large the Churches which talk about money don’t seem to need to worry about it?"
That phrase has stuck with me for the last twenty years and is behind the way we think about our financial giving in Attleborough.
Before I go further, I need to acknowledge that people give to the Church in many ways. The word ‘stewardship’ is often seen as just being about money but it is also time and talents. Of course we need people’s volunteering skills in our churches and, by and large, we’re not bad at asking people to donate those. “Would you be able to…?” or “Would you mind…?” are phrases that are often used in ministry but we’ve too often been embarrassed to talk about money or think there is something too worldly or dirty about it.
The truth is simple: The Church needs money to function at both a local and national level. Acknowledging this truth has been part of our stewardship process in Attleborough over the last few years. We have gone for the ‘little and often’ approach. The PCC decided that once a year we would have a sermon dedicated to talking about the finances of our Church. We settled on Lent as there seems something appropriate about that time of year to talk about money, it is also when the last year’s accounts have been finalised for the APCM. Each year the sermon is accompanied by a leaflet or a letter to everyone in the Church as an aid memoire for what was said.
While we reflect on the financial situation of the Parish it is always stressed that the most important thing is for people to consider their giving seriously, taking 5% of income after tax as a target. When people reflect prayerfully on their giving some many realise they’re giving too much while others may realise they could give a bit more. Members of the congregation are asked to return a form or amend their standing order through their bank.
As incumbent I feel it is important not to know who gives what so that I can’t be accused of favouring the generous givers. I never see the forms people return and whenever I see a bank statement the figures of who gives what have been obscured with permanent marker first.
Does it work? In honesty I don’t know but in Attleborough we were £10,000 a year short of breaking even in 2013 when we started doing this. Last year we made a small surplus. Maybe it is right that churches which talk about money do need to worry less about it.