Photo Courtesy of Todd Lovell, Youth Worker Movement
Do you know about Kickstarter?
Maybe you’ve heard your kids talk about it or seen it on the news. It’s been around a while but is quickly gaining popularity.
Check out this description from Kickstarter’s website at www.kickstarter.com
“At this very second, thousands of people are checking out projects on Kickstarter. They’re rallying around their friends’ ideas, backing projects from people they’ve long admired, and discovering things that make them laugh and smile.
Every project is independently crafted, put to all-or-nothing funding,
and supported by friends, fans, and the public in return for rewards.”
It’s actually an incredibly interesting website. You can search for projects in your local area or by topic such as art, dance, technology, etc. Everybody has the freedom to put together a plan and submit their idea on Kickstarter. Then people volunteer to support the project by giving their money. If the project is funded within a determined time limit (usually several days) then the project is green lit and the invidual or group can proceed with making their dreams a reality.
Kickstarter is taking advantage of an important culture trend. Perhaps as a symptom of consumerism, people want to give their money to specific projects that they support. They want to know exactly what their money is going to do and how it will be used.
I’ve heard many a pastor talk about how people no longer give to God. They, instead, give to their own pet projects. When this happens, established programs often suffer because monies are earmarked in ways that prevent their support.
But is this such a bad thing? Allow me to challenge this idea a little bit…
I completely understand the theology behind the idea that our gifts should be giving solely to God and that the church should use them as they deem necessary. This unfortunately has been abused too long by church leaders and now an unhealthy skepticism exists about churches and, more specifically, church leaders. This has, in a sense, broadened the gap between congregants and their willingness to “give to God”. Church leaders, we only have ourselves to blame.
So what can we learn from trends like Kickstarter about the giving of the culture at large?
1. People want to give to something they are passionate about. This is not a bad thing! People want to know that they are supporting things that they believe in. We should learn from this. If a program or ministry is suffering financially, take time to analyze why. Are funds being misused? Has there been a lack of planning? Or perhaps congregants are just not passionate about the task. Is this a program or ministry that “we’ve always done” or is it something that is new and exciting? Does it have the support of the congregation? We have to be willing to look at these things objectively. To be a good leader is to find ways to inspire people to rally around a singular purpose. What can you do to inspire those in your ministry to give abundantly?
2. People want to know how their money will be spent. This is not a bad thing! I’ve heard church leaders say that those that want to know how their money is going to spent simply lack the faith to trust God in their finances. Might I suggest that these people do trust God. That’s why they’re giving. It’s us they don’t trust. And that is our burden to bear. Wanting to know how your hard earned money is going to be spent is not evil. If anything it is a matter of grace that God gives to us as church leaders. This sentiment forces us to do careful budget preparation and also holds us accountable to those entrusted to our care. Providing an abundance of information about how monies are spent will help to regain the trust of congregants and will make you a better leader.
3. People want to spend their money. This is not a bad thing people! The problem in our culture right now is not that people aren’t spending their money. It’s that they’re not spending it at the church. It’s been said that churches don’t have financial problems. They have spiritual problems. I believe that’s true. Unfortunately for church leaders, correcting this trend is not as simple as leading a 12-week study on tithing or changing the time of year when you talk about stewardship. Growing up I heard that you can tell what people worship by looking in their checkbook. If that’s true, what does your budget say about your ministry? Is the majority of your money spent on missions? Games? Food? Bands? If congregants were to look at your budget, would they be inspired to give? What about your churches budget? Is the majority of money spent on staff salaries, building maintenance, and fellowship events or missions, ministries, and outreach? These are important questions. Be above reproach when it comes to handling other peoples giving. People want to spend their money. How can you inspire them to give to the work of the church?
What do you think?
What lessons have you learned about budgets? What things have you done to inspire people to give?
Todd Lovell is a certified youth worker in the United Methodist Church, new father, and a husband that married way out of his league. He thoroughly enjoys a good theological discussion, surviving as the only male in his household , and downloading obscure free books on his Kindle. He also takes pride in being able to say that he drinks his coffee black...no cream or sugar. Over the past decade, Todd has worked in several different youth settings such as conferences, camps, retreat centers, and churches and strives to use all of his experiences in offering a unique style and approach to connecting young people to God and the church.