Reviewed by the Rev. Rosanna Anderson, Associate Director of Stewardship Ministries
The Church Money Manual: Best Practices for Finance and Stewardship
by J. Clif Christopher. Abingdon Press, 2014. (92 pages)
J. Clif Christopher is well known for his books Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate (2008) and Rich Church, Poor Church (2012). His new book, The Church Money Manual, presents current issues in church finance and giving, grouped together in discrete units of several pages.
Christopher lifts up the church’s mission as central. He reminds us that the “majority of persons who give money to the church really do want to see Jesus’ work being done, not the budget balanced” (p. 38).
He urges readers to share stories of impact, rather than statistics, to encourage giving. Ask each week if you help people “to feel in their heart what sort of impact their generosity is having” (p. 38). Provide opportunities for those who attend worship on Christmas and Easter to contribute to a wish list for the church (p. 39-40) or a special offering focused on a local mission project (p. 81-82). When nominating financial trustees, Christopher counsels that exhibiting a heart for the mission of Jesus is more crucial than having a background in secular business or finance.
Plan now to take action in the new year: write personal thank you notes, make appreciative calls, and establish steps to “grow an endowment equal to five times your budget” (p. 33). Boldly preach about giving in January and September, when people are considering priorities and commitments (p. 33). Being proactive early in the year will reduce anxiety for everyone and may help to alter the typical narrative of church finances struggling at the end of the year.
Pastors may need to assess and change longtime stewardship practices. Christopher says a pastor should “Know Your Numbers” and get away from “The Secrecy Sham” (the pastor blindly guessing who among the congregation are the top donors) in order to make better decisions for your church (p.15-17). He suggests that undertaking a “Ninety-Day Tithing Challenge” could make a significant difference in the life of your congregation. This is based on Maximize: How to Develop Extravagant Givers in Your Church by Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson. Such a challenge encourages people to tithe as well as pray and read Scripture in April - June (p. 51-54). These practices help us remain focused on the spiritual benefits of giving.
J. Clif Christopher is an ordained minister of The United Methodist Church and CEO of the Horizon Stewardship Consulting firm. Many of the short chapters of this book originated as blog posts or newsletter articles. Topics include advisable debt ratios, capital campaigns, wise endowment policies, reservations about using bonds, and trends in electronic giving.
Christopher concludes with an annotated bibliography of selected books in key categories. He highlights several books that could serve as the basis of an educational series or as good thank you gifts for donors in order to help spur productive conversations about giving in your church.