May 26, 2015

Generosity Lessons from My Mom

Graphic for Todd's Mother's Day blogI recently published my first book, Leading A Generous Church, which I dedicated to my mother and father. A year and a half ago I lost my father to Alzheimer’s and Congestive Heart Failure. During this time of loss I screened countless calls on behalf of my mom and was blessed to hear so many touching stories of how my mom and dad lived a life of significant impact. I especially remember one caller whom my mom and dad took into their home along with her family during a very difficult personal struggle. The caller shared through tears that my parents are “the most generous people she had ever met.” I want to share a few generosity principles my mom has modeled for my family.

  1. Start each day ready to be generous. My mother is constantly meeting people and learning how she can be helpful to them. It can range from inviting them to a group she attends or a place she volunteers. Or it could be to connect them with my wife, the realtor, or to help someone earn a little more money by selling their crafts without charge. Any day, any person becomes an opportunity to be generous. It’s that Proverbs 31 thing.
  2. Share a meal. I would be hard pressed to tell you what my mother’s favorite foods are. We have a family with a wide variety of unique dietary needs. My mom knows exactly what you like or what you are allergic to. She will hunt for substitute ingredients or recipes and create a meal just for you. (Or an experiment as she calls them.) Then she will sit and eat with you as if it is her favorite meal.
  3. Don’t let principles get in the way of serving. My mother is a very principled woman. She definitely believes you reap what you sow. This principle can be used by some to provide a reason not to serve others. However, my mom is faithful to disciple the hurting while serving them. I have seen her time and time again reach out offering generous grace, after being intentionally wounded by others.
  4. Don’t let church get in the way of the generous life. I know this sounds strange, but church activities can sometimes guilt you into a false perception of participation equaling the “good Christian life.” One of my favorite stories to hear my mom tell is the time she and my father had to resign their church positions because they were keeping them from serving their community.
  5. Don’t stop giving financially even when it’s scary. Some would say that through the journey of watching my dad leave this earth in a hospital bed in his home and the expenses it created, then to embark on the path of a widow, she could take a pass on financial generosity. Many months while she was home bound I was blessed to carry her offering to church then watch her continue to think of ways she could physically bless others while her life was so hard.

Generosity isn’t for the rich or special occasions. It is the path of freedom, impact, and happiness every day. (Photo is an image of a wool rug hooked by my mom of my house.)

April 28, 2015

You Gotta Want It

Man climbing mountainPastors continually share with me their desire for a generous culture, but very few know what it really is and are willing to do the work to experience it. They tend to default toward doing nothing (except complaining) or executing yet another quick fix, short-term remedy. I want you to know that true generosity is absolutely possible if you pursue these three ingredients at the same time and do not quit.

1. Possess such a powerfully clear vision that you know what not to do as confidently as you know what to do. Vision is not a generic mantra on your wall, but a clear path plainly seen by all. It should naturally propel you forward, hold you accountable, and engage the masses.

2. Align your strategy to be very simple, yet radically focused on this vision. This means your resources will be invested more than they are expended. Doing a few things very well in a repeatable process has seriously positive ramifications.

3. Chase discipleship and not money. Generosity is the fruit of a growing Christ-follower. Money can come fast enough with a well-articulated appeal or when a powerful fear is exposed. However, it stops when the circumstance changes. Generosity never stops.

I promise generosity is possible for your church, but you have to want it. I mean really want it – enough to invest your entire staff. Enough to be willing to reframe your vision, realign your strategy, and to develop a solid discipleship path beyond just getting more people in groups. There is so much freedom and possibility on the other side of generosity.

April 14, 2015

Raising Your Generosity IQ

booksstackxxI am usually reading one or two books on the topic of generosity. I am thrilled that so many resources exist today that stretch church leaders both practically and theologically. If you feel a little behind the curve on the topic and want to catch up, here are four good reads. You may not agree with them all, but you can learn from them all.

If you need to sharpen yourself practically, read How To Be Rich by Andy Stanley. It will turn generosity inside out and give you a very simple, yet powerful program to follow.

If you need to inspire yourself to live boldly, read The Blessed Life by Robert Morris. He will challenge you to live it yourself first. You will not be asked to dabble in generosity, but to give boldly and watch God work.

If you need to strengthen your biblical perspective, read Christians in an Age of Wealth by Craig Blomberg. It will thoroughly deepen your understanding of the biblical teachings on the poor, generosity, and wealth from the Old to the New Testament.

If you need to learn more about growing generous disciples, read Revolution in Generosity edited by Wesley Willmer. This compilation of 21 noted leaders exposes how modern secular fund raising techniques will rob church leaders from developing the spiritual trait of generosity.

If you are looking for a practical tool for you and your staff, please be on the lookout for my book, Leading a Generous Church, which will release the end of this month.

So you know, the number one trait of a generous church is that it is led by a generous pastor. I find this to be true everywhere I go. Step up and lead the way.

March 26, 2015

Born to be Generous

giving1You can’t stop generosity. It is natural, normal, and wired into the existence of every human being. So why are we so nervous about it at church? Give these thoughts some significant time to brew and see if they do not inspire, affirm, and empower a new direction.

1. God is a generous God. He is generous with everything from the act of creation to the sacrificial gift of His son. He is generous with His love, grace, life, time, heart, and heaven. The list could go on and on.

2. We are created in His image. This means that generosity is hard-wired into us. Not just limited generosity, but unlimited generosity that overflows. The kind that is unconditional. The kind that looks just like Jesus lived.

3. God made generosity fun. Just take an inventory of how it personally feels to be generous. Think of the personal gratitude and self-confidence that is gained when you go beyond yourself. Just remember the joy you felt the last time you watched someone open a gift you gave to them. How about the experience of freedom and release that comes when you are financially generous?

4. Problem: We are all fallen and struggle with the power of sin. It seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. It is trying to rob you right now of the blessings of God found in generosity.

5. Promise: We have the opportunity to be recreated in Christ’s image. This is the call of salvation and spiritual growth. Generosity is a discipleship issue, not a fund raising issue. The woes of your church budget could be a spending, vision, or discipleship issue and not a fund raising issue. It is a clarity calling that leaders need to see. The preferred life that every human being is chasing is found in the generous heart of God and His image being freed inside of us.

If we are born to be generous and your people are striving for a better life tomorrow, then how are you helping them connect the dots? Is your staff passionately generous? Are you living the generous life? You were born to be generous.

March 10, 2015

The Anti-Campaign: 4 Threads to Ramp Up Generous Giving

GeneriousGivingLoop(The following is a guest post by Clint Grider, Chief Integration Officer & Lead Navigator, Auxano)

Some churches view generosity as one of a number of important topics to cover over time. Though well intentioned, this approach actually hinders the ability of a church to create a meaningful culture of generosity, where a lifestyle of extravagant giving becomes the norm.

Instead, what if generosity were viewed not as a short-term teaching topic or campaign, but instead as a core ongoing part of discipleship? What if you found a way to create momentum around God’s unbelievable generosity toward us, translating into a lifestyle of consistently giving oneself to Him?

One tool we use at Auxano to help churches build this is called the Generous Giving Loop. The Loop provides scaffolding that allows a church to create its own model by integrating biblical principles of giving into the fabric of its ongoing discipleship process. When embraced, churches find the principle of the Loop to be transformational in the life of the church.

The Loop depicts both a rhythm and four ongoing threads that create this culture. The rhythm is shown by different sizes of the smaller loops in the overall thread. This conveys that more attention is given to cultivating different areas of generosity based on the needs, spiritual development, and overall calendar of the church. What is important to note, however, is the four threads never stop. They are not targeted emphases, but instead are intentionally woven into the fabric of the church’s approach to discipleship at every level.

The four essential threads represent different contextual initiatives and practices to cultivate generosity:

  1. Inspire: Serves as the catalyst for culture shaping to inspire and motivate. While this can happen in many different creative environments, most occur in corporate worship settings.
  1. Teach: Provides stewardship teaching based on spiritual development stages. Curriculum is chosen and/or developed based on measures of where your people are, and integrated into small groups, mid-sized
    groups, and other connection formats.
  1. Advance: Gives focus to key donors and leaders to disciple those with higher capacity or the spiritual gift of giving. This helps move people to deeper levels of maturity and discipleship.
  1. Manage: Equips churches with accountability and back-office systems to achieve and maintain the culture of generosity. This helps ensure the rhythm of the church’s Loop is tracked and implemented consistently.
March 10, 2015

Beggars Can’t Grow Choosers

beggars can't be choosers photoI attend more church staff meetings in a given month than you can imagine. I have been consulting for years, so it has become easy to quickly discern culture. Sometimes I can even tell the staff member’s job title by how they are dressed, what they bring (or don’t bring) to a meeting, or what time they arrive. Culture can’t be stopped and is easily caught.

The most pervasive cultural element that transcends church size, denomination, or location is a culture of begging vs. leading. Here are a few examples:

• “Our people are so disengaged.”
• “We have such a hard time getting people to participate in groups.”
• “It’s the same people who volunteer for everything. We need more volunteers.”
• “Our people just don’t give like they should.”

This kind of language can result in blaming, shaming, and begging. It can promote a negative language that creeps out from a staff meeting to the people without you even knowing it. When you find yourself on the wrong side of the problem, you can become event, sign up, or emphasis oriented. Seeking these quick fixes and short-term solutions will only dig a deeper hole – even if you gain immediate relief. This is fool’s gold.

You must change your leadership language and culture and be able to confidently tell your people things like this:

“We do not need more volunteers or money! You are so generous and our leadership is so faithful that we run a surplus. However, we encourage you to serve and give for your sake. It is where you will find many blessings. It is where you grow, connect, and make a difference. You will find freedom, joy, and victory.”

Don’t expect to just show up this weekend saying these words as if they magically create culture. You must grow vision culture and develop strategy before you have a problem. This gives you the freedom and power to direct your resources (e.g., emotions, words, people, time, and money). You want your people to feel like they “get to do something great” instead of feeling that they’ve “got to do something painful.” Make powerful leadership decisions before you have a problem. If you already have a problem, then own it as a leader. Don’t run to the quick fix, feel good, high-pressure emphasis. Fix it right over time with process.

March 3, 2015

How to Move People From the Sidelines to Full Engagement in Your Next Campaign


Mike Gammill

The following is a guest post by Mike Gammill, Lead Navigator at Auxano.

My first memory of a capital campaign forms the image of a 2×3 foot poster neatly taped to a wall with a hand-drawn thermometer on it. I was ten years old and my church was raising $50,000 (an inconceivable sum and thus an insurmountable goal) to “save the camp.” I still remember my surprise when success was announced. What had I missed? Is a camp really worth $50,000? Somewhat awestruck I asked myself, “Who among us has that kind of money to spare?”

As a Vision Clarity Lead Navigator with Auxano, I also help clients with capital campaigns from a clarity first perspective. I’ve found that the two questions I asked myself as a ten-year-old get more sophisticated, but they don’t really change. Until our folks internalize why we are doing this project right now, they will be watching from the sidelines wondering why we’re talking about money (again) and who is going to step up.

A Clarity First, Vision-based Capital Campaign prioritizes why and how the project will advance your church’s mission. Follow the classic campaign principle to make the project clear, but make sure the vision that is driving it shines clearer. A clear and properly ordered connection between your vision and the project will not only help you reach your campaign goals, but it can also prevent the project from replacing the church’s vision. A building-first vision has long been a danger to the people of God and transforms a necessary provision of your vision into a significant obstacle. At worst, a congregation can lose its identity entirely and degenerate into a not-for-profit charity or construction company.

Vision Casting for a Campaign:

  • Frame the campaign in the context of God’s action in the history of the church.
  • Show how the project will help you advance the church’s mission.
  • Paint a vivid picture of the better future the project can help to create.
  • Connect your congregation emotionally with why we are doing this now.
  • Each person has a place in making the project happen.
  • Your mission is part of the larger Great Commission.

From three-minute conversations, to an entire sermon series, we want our folks to envision a better future and see how they can help make it happen.

Thinking back over the decades since my first memory of the $50,000 campaign to save the camp, I can see that I had no better ability as a ten-year-old to understand the real world value of $50,000 than I did a camp. However, if someone could have given me a glimpse into the future for me to see the role that camp was going to play in my spiritual formation (and thousands of others) over the following decades…the camp would have become priceless and $50,000 would have been transformed from an inconceivable sum into a mission-critical objective.

March 3, 2015

6 Best Practice Tips for the XP

David Putman

David Putman

The following is a guest post by David Putman, Lead Navigator at Auxano.

I was given a campaign manual on my first day as an XP. That’s right, I got my first assignment and it was to lead our growing church plant through a capital campaign that would allow us to double our space. Over the next six years, I found myself in back-to-back campaigns as our church attendance grew from 500 to over 2,000 people in weekend attendance. I learned some valuable lessons and some best practices during those six years that I want to pass on to you.

Slow Down in Order to Speed Up

When it comes to campaigns everyone is in a hurry. Proper prep takes time especially when it’s linked to expanding your space. Most of us pastor types (human types) want everything right now. Determining the scope of a project, the consultant, the lender, the architect, the site issues, along with a dozen more issues are critical to address if your campaign is going to be successful. The more focused you are as you begin, the greater the impact and results. Often the best way to speed up the entire process is to slow down.

Hire the Right Consultant

I’m not sure what would have happened if we had not hired the right consultant from day one. Failing to engage a consultant may actually cost you tens of thousands of dollars in the long haul. Yes, there are fees involved when you hire a good consultant, A good consultant can be costly, but I promise you it’s the best money you can spend if you want to maximize your campaign. You will find these characteristics in a top-notch consultant:

• Calling – Do they have a passion for helping the local church?

• Competent – Do they have a proven track record as a campaign consultant and do they have local church experience?

• Character – Do they do what they say they’ll do? What do are other people say about who they are?

• Chemistry – Do they understand and fit your culture?

Let the Senior Leader Call the Shots

First, the Senior Pastor must have buy-in and be engaged. Clearly, every senior leader leads differently. I’ve been in situations where the senior leader wanted to micro-manage every detail. I’ve been in other situations where he wanted to be told “when” and “where.” As an XP it should always be your goal to help the senior leader succeed. So lean into his or her leadership style to accomplish this. My starting point as an XP was, “What is it that I must have from the senior leader for this to succeed?” I made sure he was freed up to actually do that. My job began with his job.

Link Your Campaign to Vision

Campaigns tend to be too focused on money. The place we need to begin is vision. A good campaign will always start and end with vision. Vision clarity is a must. People give to vision, not to buildings unless it’s part of a larger vision.

Listen to Your Consultant

Don’t assume you know more about the campaign than your consultant. I have found that there are times when leadership resists listening to their consultant. This happens when the church has had a previous win or big success. Unfortunately, a previous win doesn’t mean the next one will go just as well. It often doesn’t.

Work Really Hard

Campaigns are hard work. Effective campaigns are even harder. The harder you work, the greater the results. Don’t take shortcuts during this season. Plan on working long, hard days. It will pay off.

I hope these tips will guide you to run a successful campaign that will help you advance your mission and make disciples.

February 24, 2015

Not Top 10 Characteristics of a Generous Church

True:FalseI constantly hear pastors bemoan why their church is not more generous. “Our people just don’t give enough” or “We aren’t a rich church” are the two most common replies I encounter. It is so easy for expansive generosity to be considered a gift for someone else. Before you write off your generosity potential, here is my top 10 list of non-characteristics of a generous church.

1. Generous Churches are huge.

False: They come in all sizes.

2. Generous Churches are filled with rich people.

False: They are filled with growing people.

3. Generous Churches are in the Bible Belt.

False: They are anywhere.

4. Generous Churches are older and more mature.

False: They are changed, focused, and passionate.

5. Generous Churches are growing rapidly.

False: They are consistently aligned.

6. Generous Churches are only about numbers.

False: They are about impact.

7. Generous Churches have a charismatic leader.

False: They are a led by a visionary leader.

8. Generous Churches are in big cities.

False: They are where a generous leader is.

9. Generous Churches have a large staff and budget.

False: They have a leadership pipeline and spend strategically.

10. Generous Churches have small visions.

False: They pray and live boldly.

Consistently I find that one characteristic above all others can be found every time you encounter a generous church – a generous staff being led by a generous pastor.

February 10, 2015

Helping the Lead Discipler Talk About Money

MicrophoneMoney is an interesting topic. Everybody wants it, yet it tends to create so much stress. Example, payday feels great but bill day sucks. You might find yourself laying awake at night worrying about how you are going to a pay a medical bill or find yourself in pure joy watching your child rush to the mailbox to retrieve a birthday card. Then, you have men in your church that feel driven both at work and home to earn more and more – while their wives fear the insecurity of today will never end. Money is a powerful voice in our lives. We love and hate it at the same time.

If you are a pastor I would like to ask you a few questions about money, then offer some guidance.

1. Do you know the financial condition of your flock? People chase stuff that doesn’t really solve problems. They need help. What if the only financial wisdom your congregation ever received came from you? People need help, real help, and direction when it comes to money. They are looking for a leader. I’m sure you have read Proverbs 27:23-24 and applied it to your ministry. Read it again and take note that it is a passage based on taking good care of your business resources. It’s actually a stewardship verse. You need to take daily care of your resources or you will not have any. You need to help your flock or they will be hurting.

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.” (Proverbs 27:23-24 NIV)

2. Are you discipling your people financially? There are messages everywhere about money. If you watch the news you may think global calamity is right around the corner. If you read a magazine cover you may think that the path to feeling better is a new outfit. If you go to school you may learn the place of acceptance is in the car you drive. Yet money comes and goes. It can be rather uncontrollable. Is there something we can count on? Yes, it is God’s word. It is flawless and can direct our lives, even our financial lives. We need to help people make the great exchange from chasing the temporary to trusting in the permanent.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5 NIV)

3. Are you a confident stewardship leader? Most pastors I meet really struggle to confidently answer this question. It isn’t due to a lack of desire, but it is a lack of a resources, time, and understanding. Most of us have not even been discipled ourselves on this topic, so how can we confidently lead others? It is so easy to find yourself spinning your wheels. Your people and church can really struggle with how to handle the funding issue. Plenty comes in, but plenty also goes out. Will there ever be a time of financial peace or even surplus? Is it possible to enjoy a true enduring free culture of generosity?

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” (Proverbs 23:4-5 NIV)

Leading a Generous Church coverHelp has arrived. Several years ago I was reading through Proverbs and noticed that every chapter contained multiple jewels of wisdom about money. Recently, I took the time to put together a simple 31-day journey through Proverbs for a staff team to experience together. It contains a daily nugget and weekly team up exercise. If you are struggling with confidence in being the lead financial disciple, or if you just want to sharpen the skills on your team, click on the following link to submit a form to be contacted when Leading a Generous Church: Making Disciples without Chasing Money is released.