The Presbyterian Foundation
Pastors’ lives are extraordinarily complex. Multiple, often conflicting demands present themselves daily: Pastors are expected to be excellent preachers and knowledgeable teachers, effective managers, caring visitors and wise counselors, visionary leaders and volunteer coordinators … the list is endless.
All of this is made more difficult by the sometimes byzantine web of relationships that exists in every congregation. To top it off, there is no clear, shared conception of what a pastor is supposed to be and do – not in the congregation, nor the denomination nor among colleagues. The insight needed to navigate the shoals of pastoral expectations cannot be overstated.
John Calvin was convinced that reform of the church is based on the three pillars of “doctrine,” “administering the sacraments” and “governing the church.” He was also convinced that pastors are essential to the revival and maintenance of the church’s faithful theology, worship of God and ordered mission.
The Presbyterian Foundation shares Calvin’s confidence in pastors. In March of 2013, the Foundation celebrated 214 years of service to the Church – cultivating and stewarding financial resources to serve Christ’s mission. We often associate birthdays with gifts – and in that spirit, the Foundation has three gifts to offer the pastors who faithfully serve our congregations.
Financial Health Assessment
There’s no shortage of advice on ways churches can improve their finances. The array of possibilities can sometimes seem dizzying. Should we revamp our annual stewardship campaign? Work on paying down debt? Tend to our endowment? Some pastors may not be sure where the trouble spots are to start with.
The Foundation has created a Financial Health Assessment tool to offer pastors and their congregations an organized look at their financial health and a way to prioritize where to start.
The assessment starts with a short survey – just 13 questions – about the church’s stewardship practices. The tool then considers responses to these questions, along with the church’s last five years of statistical reports, in comparison to best practices, peer and national trends. Within a minute or so, a detailed report is generated and emailed to the pastor (or other church leader completing the survey).
The report offers something of a road map to financial health, starting on the first page with a checklist of best practice areas and alerts to any areas where the congregation appears to be struggling. “What do we need to do first?” Look for the areas marked for immediate attention.
The pages that follow offer assessments, best practices tips and resources for follow up in areas including stewardship participation, leadership, planning, preaching and communication, deficits and debt, endowments, major gifts, capital campaigns and planned giving.
Charts and graphs offer visual cues and comparisons. How does your congregation’s giving compare to regional peers, or to the national average? How’s your ratio of investment income to other sources of funds? How does your mission giving compare? All of these and more are covered in the report.
Each section contains links to online resources in the Foundation’s ministry toolbox which can help address areas of need or concern. In addition, steps for follow-up and contact information for your area’s Ministry Relations Officer are also included.
To take the assessment for your church, visit http://assessment.PresbyterianFoundation.org.
Does it seem like the offering plate brings in a little less every year? There are several reasons why this may be true. First, “regular” attendance is far less regular. Children’s sports, business travel and countless other distractions cause even the most committed churchgoers to miss one or more Sunday services each month. Second, fewer people write checks these days. For many, the weekly offering may be the only check they write. Younger members may not even have a checkbook. That leaves pocket change as the funding source available for the offering. Which leads to a third reason: People carry far less cash today, relying instead on debit and credit cards to make most of their purchases.
Financially healthy churches recognize that their worshipers often want additional ways to give. Specifically, dozens of pastors have asked the Foundation for help with online or electronic giving. And the Foundation has developed a solution: the Presbyterian Mission Exchange.
The Mission Exchange makes online giving easy, safe and readily available for any Presbyterian congregation. The system facilitates gifts via debit or credit card, or through electronic funds transfer directly from the donor’s bank account. Donors can set up recurring gifts so that the church doesn’t suffer on weeks they cannot attend.
All contributions are automatically acknowledged, and gift reports are available to the church treasurer or pastor. And unlike many systems which provide only monthly transfers, the funds given can be requested for transfer to the church’s bank account at any time.
There are no set-up fees or monthly maintenance charges. The system is paid for through a 1 percent fee on gifts made. Any card or bank charges are also deducted from the gift.
To learn more, call the Foundation at 1-800-858-6127 or visit www.PresbyterianFoundation.org/partnership.
The Pastor’s Life
While excellence in financial management is central to the Foundation’s mission, we are aware that the faithful leadership of pastors is an essential component of the church’s faithful ministry and mission. The third gift we offer is one with that leadership in mind.
The Pastor’s Life is a twice monthly email designed not to talk about the Foundation’s ministry, but to provide brief resources that we hope will be helpful to pastors in their ministry. These range from reviews of books we think pastors will enjoy, to excerpts from contemporary novels which could make good sermon illustrations. Others include brief Bible studies to enrich the pastor’s own walk with Christ, and teachings from the Confessions or from early church writings with application to the world today.
We hope to contribute to the fidelity of pastors’ preaching, teaching and leadership, as well as provide nourishment for their souls. Our greatest purpose is to serve the Church, and its pastors, in support of their vital ministries.
To subscribe to The Pastor’s Life, email serving@PresbyterianFoundation.org.