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Top Ten Excuses Not to Give

Twice a year, senior stewardship staff from across the province, General Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Diocese of Montreal gather for what we affectionately call our noon-to-noon gatherings.  These meetings play an important role in helping us identify trends in giving, organize stewardship related events and network with one another. The greatest benefit that I experience  is the sense of shared journey with my colleagues in the church.  I always come away feeling rejuvenated about the important stewardship education work that we do to help fulfill God’s work on earth.

At a previous meeting, Jim Newman, my retired counterpart in the Diocese of Niagara, shared some interesting statistics about giving patterns.  After analyzing church warden’s returns spanning several years he found that nearly 30% of givers are responsible for about 70% of all donations, many parishes depend so heavily on two or three donors, and close to 1/3rd of people listed on parish roles each year give no financial offering to the church.

The Reverend Canon Andrew Asbil, Incumbent at Church of the Redeemer, believes every person who comes to church should give something: ”not just because we live in such a blessed country with untold wealth, but because we are called to be givers.”   Andrew has probably spoken about stewardship more than I have and he is amazed that people still find reasons not to give.  So am I.

Over the years I have heard almost every excuse that exists for why people can’t or won’t give, the ten most common that I encounter include:

  1. I don’t like the church’s position on….
  2. I have nothing to give
  3. I’m on a fixed income
  4. My gift won’t make a difference
  5. Our parish is going to close anyways so there is no sense in supporting it
  6.  I’m saving for a ….. and can’t afford to give right now
  7. It’s not my responsibility to pay for the upkeep of the church
  8. I’ve given all my life, ask someone new
  9. The church has mistreated people, they don’t deserve my money
  10. I give enough through my time and talent, my treasure is mine

Each one of these excuses comes from regular attendees and reflects a very narrow understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  It’s as if church is merely theatre – and they are there to be entertained.  To make matters worse, if they were to go to any other type of theatre, giving would be obligatory at the entrance – and you would be expected to pay more for the seats closest to the front.

There is a solution to the current underperformance in giving.  In his book, Your Church Can Thrive, The Reverend Canon Harold Percy states that “the failure to make disciple-making a priority is the basic cause of our current malaise and stagnation.  It is the primary reason our local churches so often lack excitement and vitality.”  This misunderstanding  of discipleship is manifest in biblical illiteracy, lack of a meaningful prayer life and a disengagement from parish life.

I am convinced that many lifelong, well-meaning Anglicans don’t give because they are unfamiliar with what it means to be a Christian.   If you understand the very tenets of our faith then giving is merely a by-product.  We give because a generous God gave use the free gift of life.  We give because the model of generosity has already been laid out for us by Christ’s own example of service.  The church needs all of us to be joyful and generous givers in all walks of life.  It is an invitation that is central to the calling of a Christian.

Peter Misiaszek

About Peter Misiaszek

Peter Misiaszek, CFRE is the Director of Stewardship Development for the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. He is responsible for parish stewardship education, annual giving, legacies of faith, The Bishop’s Company of Toronto and oversight of The Anglican Diocese of Toronto Foundation. His department has produced numerous parish-based resources in support of stewardship education including: “The Narrative Budget – Writing Your Parish’s Sacred Story” and “A Program to Encourage Joyful Giving in Your Parish.” In 2010, the Diocese of Toronto launched a diocesan-wide major fundraising campaign toward a goal of $50,000,000 – the largest ever fundraising effort in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada. He and his wife Ginette live in Whitby, Ontario with their three young children. He is a member of Christ Memorial Anglican Church in Oshawa.
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5 Responses to Top Ten Excuses Not to Give

  1. Kyle Norman

    Thanks for this post Peter.  I very much valued (and agree) that stewardship is a deeply spiritual issue and not just a financial one.  The way forward is not simply to engage in a well ordered stewardship drive, but to work faithfully to connect people with Jesus.

    Blessings on your work and ministry.

  2. Great reflection Peter.  I served for several years as Chair of the Stewardship Committee in my congregation and well know of the types of figures and issues which you refer to.  I think one of the keys is to create a climate in a congregation where people know and accept that stewardship does not just happen in the fall during the annual pledge campaign, but is a year round spiritual calling to use all of the gifts that we have been given – time, talents and treasure – in God’s service at all times.  Once people start to engage in that mindset, then I think those that are reluctant givers or those that uses the excuses you have listed start to become better stewards of what they have been so freely given by God.  I have also found that a congregation needs to keep this emphasis on a consistent basis – you can’t just rely on doing it for a couple of years and then assume it’s locked in permanently.  We are sheep after all!  We do stray.

  3. Peter, how about a follow-up comment with your top-5 links for developing Stewardship in congregations?

  4. Not directly related to Peter’s post, but important…today the Alban Institute released some findings from a recent study in which they collaborated.  While it’s US-based and only about financial stewardship, the findings I suspect are applicable to us.  Here’s what they said:

    The Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Alban Institute, and others just released the long-awaited “2013 Congregational Economic Impact Study.”

    Responses from 3,100 congregations confirmed what many people are now experiencing: just like the economy as a whole, congregational revenue has been improving — but slowly, and often not fast enough to keep up with inflation.

    No real surprises here.

    However, two conclusions stand out:

    1. “Clergy uninformed about congregational giving are experiencing the greatest challenges.”

    2. “Congregations have more work to do in … educating congregations on financial planning and charitable giving”

    In other words: better informed clergy raise more money, and better informed congregations give more money.

    Speaks to the hard work we have ahead of us!

  5. Hmm… fascinating.Maybe these ‘top-tenners’ should take a course in ESL; or at least a NT Bible study course. Let’s start, perhaps, with Mark 12.41-44. Jesus tells the twelve about the rich guys making their donations; and then about the widow’s mite. She won’t be able to pay next month’s Hydro bill, nor hot school lunch for the kids; but – talk about weird!!!- God comes first and with no big fanfare, yet.

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