Book review: “Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate”

Written by Gerry Parker, Consultant to Stewardship and Financial Development Work Group, Presbytery of Chicago

Charitable giving isn’t what it used to be!  While people still have money and continue to give, they are not giving to the church.  Why not?

Some thoughtful answers are provided in Clif Christopher’s excellent book, Not Your Parent’s Offering Plate.  It is recommended reading for pastors and lay leaders responsible for financial stewardship in their churches.

Christopher lists three reasons why people give:

  1. Belief in the mission
  2. Confidence in the leadership
  3. Fiscal responsibility

Most important is that people want to know that their giving is going to make a difference.  They want to be a part of something that changes lives.  That is the business of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  If our churches are not doing that, “get out of the way and let someone else do it”, the author says.  And there are over a million non-profit organizations that are working to make a difference in people’s lives.  They are getting the charitable dollars.

Donors need to have confidence in the leadership of the organization they give to.  In the church, that is primarily the pastor.  Can he/she represent the vision and get the job done?

Thirdly, is the receiving organization (church) making it financially.  “People don’t give to a sinking ship.”  The church is the only non-profit that seems to believe that the more you cry that you are sinking, the more people will give.  The opposite is true. What this says is the church needs to tell the story of how they are working to change lives, not how desperate they are for financial support. “The best way to raise money is to DO YOUR JOB.”

This author goes on to talk about how a stewardship campaign needs a different approach for different levels of commitment.  A tither should not get the same letter as a non-giver.  He also emphasizes how important it is for the pastor to be a fund raiser. How a person uses their resources is a mirror into their soul, Christopher says.  If the pastor knows a member’s level of giving, it tells him/her something about their spiritual condition.

Another thing to remember is that there are several “pockets” of giving. All of these are possible sources of charitable giving for the church.

  • Earned income (wages, retirement checks, etc.)
  • Capital (property, insurance, savings, stocks & bonds, etc.)
  • Estate (what you will have left when you die)

What’s missing is the “ask.” Christopher says “Asking for money is evangelism.”  Asking someone to give for the work of the kingdom is inviting them to be a partner in changing lives.

Not Your Parent’s Offering Plate is available for loan in the Presbytery’s Resource Center or for purchase at a reduced cost through the Stewardship and Financial Development Work Group.  Contact Laura Cathey at the Presbytery office:  (312) 488-3013,

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