Monday, February 19, 2007

5 Qualities to Look for in a Stewardship Consultant

With only 4 percent of American church members tithing, many churches badly need a boost in offerings. Unfortunately, most of us pastors have no training in stewardship development and have no idea how to lead people to generous, biblical giving.

The Bible tells us what to do in this situation: Hire a stewardship consultant. Okay, that's not exactly what it says, but the message is there. In Proverbs, the wisest man who ever lived tells us that 'Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed' (Proverbs 15:22). And when the apostle Paul wanted to make sure the Corinthians gave generously to the famine-relief collection, he sent men to Corinth to encourage the people.

  • 'So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work [the collection] as well.' (2 Corinthians 8:6).

  • 'So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness' (2 Corinthians 9:5).

Titus and his unnamed companions were the first church stewardship consultants. Just as we hire church staff members with specialized skills in music or youth ministry, so we should not hesitate to engage the temporary services of a minister with stewardship expertise.

All right, you're ready to take the plunge and look for help. How do you know how to find the right consultant? Having hired consultants while pastoring, and now serving as a stewardship consultant, I've concluded that there are five indispensable qualities you want in your stewardship consultant.

1. Biblical.

Above all other qualities, you want someone who builds their stewardship ministry on the word of God. In the Christian world, fundraising isn't primarily about raising money; it's about discipling people.

A good stewardship consultant deepens your people's spiritual walk by building the entire consultation on biblical principles--in both the methods used and the content delivered. God's people respond with great generosity when a pastor or consultant faithfully teaches what the Bible says about money and giving.

2. Pastoral experience.

I'm always amazed at the number of men and women who have never pastored a church, yet glibly dispense advice about how to do it right. You want someone who understands just how important it is that your people be approached tastefully and respectfully about money. Only someone who has been there can really understand the level of discomfort we pastors feel about talking about money, or the Byzantine complexity of internal church politics.

When the church I pastored interviewed stewardship consultants I wanted someone I could talk with pastor to pastor. We ended up hiring someone who had extensive pastoral experience. He had a wonderful ministry to me and our people. And we are good friends to this day.

3. Proven track record.

You want a stewardship consultant who can give you case studies with specific churches, pastors, phone numbers, email addresses, and dollar amounts raised. When the church I pastored was searching for a capital fundraising consultant, one of the biggest and most expensive companies was vague about how much money we could expect to receive. We found that unsettling.

We chose to work with Stewart McChesney of Titus Stewardship Ministries, because Stewart had a track record of raising 2.7 times a church's annual giving in three-year commitments. He charged two-thirds as much as the bigger company and he had years of experience. Under Stewart's wise guidance our people pledged over three times our annual giving in three-year commitments.

When looking for help with increasing weekly offerings, search for a consultant who has consistently helped churches increase giving by at least 30 percent.

4. Great references.

I just fired an Internet marketing coach because a friend alerted me to the fact that none of the references listed on her website checked out. (I had hired her through a larger organization who I-wrongly-trusted.) When I called her she told me her former clients didn't want to be bothered with phone calls. She wasn't at all moved when I pointed out that if a reference can't be contacted, it is worthless.

Insist that any stewardship consultant you are interviewing give you many excellent, contactable references. If she is evasive or makes excuses, you are in danger. Flee!

5. Personable.

You want a consultant who is warm, friendly, and easy to communicate with. Believe me, I have met more than one socially abrasive church consultant! Likeability is an especially important quality in a stewardship consultant because you've hired him to help you navigate the emotionally charged waters of asking for money. If your consultant isn't a warm people person, he may cause unnecessary conflict.

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I believe it is God's will that every church reach its full giving potential. The secret is bold, biblical, pastoral leadership. And often that leadership is most effective when guided by the wise, biblical counsel of a godly stewardship consultant.

The Valentine's Gift of Stewardship Teaching

Here's a great Valentine's Day gift idea for the couples in your church: present them with a sermon series on financial stewardship. I'm not kidding. You can renew their passion for each other by teaching them God's principles of financial contentment, wise money management, getting out of debt, generous giving, and true prosperity. So, what's so romantic about getting your finances in order?

It is widely recognized that couples fight more about money—how much to spend, how much to save, how much to borrow, and how much is enough—than about any other topic. Check out these stats. According to the National Survey of Marital Strengths, 80 percent of happy couples agreed with the statement, "Making financial decisions is not difficult." Only 32 percent of unhappy couples agreed. Agreement with the statement, "We agree on how to spend money," for happy couples was 89 percent. But only 41 percent of unhappy couples agreed.

Obviously, conflict over money is a powerful romance killer. Happy couples share similar philosophies of how to manage and spend money. Unhappy couples do not. Clearly, we can renew marital happiness by creating unity on this touchy topic. But how?

The best way I know to get couples on the same financial page is to teach them the financial stewardship principles in God's word. My wife Marisa and I have had our share of conflict over the last 20 years—because she's not yet fully sanctified ;-)—but we've almost never fought over money. That's because we each entered marriage committed to living out biblical standards of financial stewardship. In the fifteen years I pastored in Denver, Colorado, I saw many couples find new marital peace and happiness as a direct result of my annual stewardship series. When couples learned that they are stewards, not owners, of God's money and possessions, when they learned their responsibilities to give, and when they learned to live without worry, while trusting in God's promises to provide, they quit fighting over money. And their marriages were transformed.

This Valentine's season, instead of preaching from the Song of Solomon, try teaching stewardship principles from 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. It's certainly not your normal Valentine's banquet topic. But in the long run it might just prove to be more romantic.