Free Advice: Congregational Excellence Leaders Become Consultants
One of the quickest ways to bring conversation to a halt in church is to bring up the subject of money. However this is one of the topics Rev. Jeff Powers, Westminster UMC, Houston, loves to talk about as often as he can, hence he serves as the Chair of the TAC Extravagant Generosity Committee within the Center for Congregational Excellence.
Notes Jeff, “Our committee has been commissioned to teach about giving as a spiritual discipline, and serve as a resource to the local congregations and our committee is excited to do just that. We are ready and able to help churches understand how and why they should talk about money.”
He speaks from his heart -- and from experience. “I did not come out of the womb as a tither,” he admits. “I had to grow into it after studying it in the Scriptures, and being convicted to lead by example.” By viewing the tithe as a spiritual discipline, he says Westminster UMC has developed a giving-centered culture in recent years. “Our congregational giving has gone from the national average of 2.3% (adjusted gross income) per person to 4.88% in four years, and our pledged tithes this year are projected to be 17% higher than last year,” he adds. “I think we are living proof that we have a spiritual need to give, and that casting that vision by examining this spiritual discipline keeps money issues from paralyzing the church.”
The Extravagant Generosity Committee has a “portable” training workshop with handouts ready to share with any congregation wanting to know what tithing looks like and how to empower ministry exponentially in this way. He adds, “Churches of any size and individuals on any budget can all start where they are and covenant with God to increase even a percentage a year – to grow toward a tithe. Just think what that will do for the congregation both individually and collectively!” he adds.
Coming to a 2015 Lay Training Near You
In January of 2014, Jeff led a workshop at the Central South District Lay Leadership meeting and will return, by popular demand to repeat this discussion for Central South leaders – as well as almost a half-dozen other district training events in January. Committee members Rev. C.J. Taylor and Carla Leavelle of Heartspring Methodist Foundation are also trained and ready to be consultants to clergy and lay leaders anywhere in the conference. Adds C.J.,
“Heartspring Methodist Foundation was created by the Texas Annual Conference to offer financial and stewardship resources. We are happy to provide consultations, materials, literature, annual stewardship campaign leadership and more to help churches and individuals grow in stewardship.”
Casting the Vision
The Extravagant Generosity consultants have books and links and insight to share so that local congregations can benchmark their giving in the context of their community in hopes of elevating tithing as a lifestyle. “At Westminster UMC we share with members the ministries that are changing lives thanks to their tithes and offerings,’” Jeff shares. Westminster makes it easy to give in several ways and intentionally ties finances to ministry success by celebrating the offering time in worship year-round.
The book the committee most often recommends is Consecration Sunday, by Herb Miller. The question he is asked most often is if pastors should know anything about the giving records of the members. “Pastors are trusted with the most personal of information in a church setting,” he shares, “so if money is deemed too sacred to talk about, it almost becomes more sacred than God.” He adds, “In effect, pastors are CEOs of nonprofit businesses. They need to know who is most passionate about the church and growing as a disciple -- and who they can continue to thank for their extravagant generosity.”
Other Committees Also Providing Expertise
Dr. Craig Gilbert, chair of the Passionate Worship Committee is also a willing servant when it comes to serving the local congregation in his area of expertise. Jeff Hobbs and the Faith Forming Relationships Team is yet another leader who encourages churches to tap into any resources this team might offer. Rev. Jack Womack and Rev. Christie Hale have also been prepping to share their expertise in Radical Hospitality and Age-Level Ministry. Contact any of these volunteers if you have a question or want to request resources, materials or a training workshop.
“The whole idea behind the committees at the Annual Conference level, is to be in support of the local church,” notes Dr. Jesse Brannen, Director of TAC Center for Congregational Excellence, “and our committee members are truly excited about the opportunity to serve others as resources in this new way. The Conference exists to serve the local church, not the other way around.” To reach Jeff for questions or consultations: jpowers@Wumc.com.