Adventures in Generosity

The occasionally coherent ramblings of a Stewardship Advisor in the Church of England

Archive for development

Stewardship Soundings

To blog or not to blog – actually, I’d like to ask a question.

On Tuesday of this week I had a meeting, which could best be described as ‘possibly the most depressing conversation of my career’.

I have now moved on however and, ever the optimist, have chosen to take from it a selection of possible ways forward with regards to how we approach this whole giving thing here in the Jolly old Diocese of Wakefield ™.


My initial suggestion was that in the 12 months leading to our 125 Anniversay we ought to have a focus on Stewardship, or more broadly on Generosity; based on recent years of Mission Action Planning, which have borne much fruit but which have now begun to wane a little (due to lack of resources amongst other things) .  Our year would not simply focus on the ‘paying the bills’ ‘getting more cash’ approach but would look at what it means to be a generous Christian, the theme could be looked at through the lense of our work in the community, our links with Africa, through building up and developing our volunteer force, through thanksgiving, through liturgy and study and, yes, through campaigns to help parishes find the resources to fulfil their dreams, it would bring together the mission team, finance, communications, liturgy, prayer and spirituality and the lovely volunteer PGO’s  -and underpinning it all would be a year of prayer for growing Generosity in all aspects of our discipleship.

Knowing that ‘Diocesan Initiative Fatigue’ is an ailment virulent on my patch I did however recognise that in order to be of any use the theme would have to be broad and the options for engagement many so as to meet each parish on its own terms. A challenging year lay ahead to pull these threads together – or so I thought.

However, for some, in these depressing and negative times, even this was at risk of being dismissed as overburdensome and centralised – and another way forward was requested.

So lets look at option 2 –  what if I shift focus away from ‘the Big Diocesan Picture’ and instead focus energy on specific parishes, spending most of my time working one to one on campaigns.  To be honest, I like this idea because such campaigns always have an impact, the planning process is great fun (I love meeting parishes) and when it’s all over I can point to a tick in a box as evidence of a job well done.  The major problem with the approach is the average campaign requires 6 visits, often more, from me, I still have other elements of the day job todo and in most cases, colleagues in other Diocese  reckon on a comforable maximum of 25 – 30 such campaigns in a year.  The campaigns have an impact in the parish, but barely scratch the surface at a Diocesan level and can only really happen once every 5 years or so if I am to cover the whole patch and still see the bigger picture.

Option 3 came from a most unexpected quarter, and appeals greatly to me – what if, it was suggested, I book a WHOLE WEEK in one parish ? spending time with clergy,wardens,pcc,volunteers, maybe a Sunday sermon slot – pulling together mission, vision, budget and communication (and a selection of other goodies) – I could really ‘get along side’ the parish ‘make them feel loved’ – and the often daunting thought of 6 months of planning a campaign could be condensed into an enticing fortnight of focus.  Again, bonus for me, time in the parishes, measurable results, boxes ticked – but again, lets say, 20 parishes a year (I do need to see my desk occasionally, not to mention my family).

When I took on this job it was with a remit to provide resources to enable the whole Diocese to grow in its giving – Parish Giving Officers Networks, training seminars and conferences, newsletters, website, deliberatly fewer campaigns – all focused up to now on a Diocese wide, strategic approach – this week was the first time that I’ve heard that remit challenged – and it’s interesting because it chimes with something that came up last week at the National Stewardship Conference – perhaps the time has come to take stock and reflect a little …

So, I’m putting it out there – I know fellow Stewardship types occasionally pass this way, and I always value the opinion of the punters in the pews (and, ok, I admit it, the clergy often come out with some sense) what would you say was your favourite option of the 3 ? do you have any other suggestions to offer ?

Please bear in mind that if the answer is ‘all of the above’ (as it was here at CH towers ) then I would truly appreciate the blueprints to the TARDIS which I will assume must be in your possession.

I look forward to hearing from you.






Parish Funding Newsletter

Latest newsletter for Parish Giving Officers et al is available Parish Funding News January 2011.

Bit of a dry edition I’m afraid – much information about tax to be got out at this time of year (and especially this year !) , but feel free to nick any of the info for your own purposes if it will help.

Headline I guess is the end of Gift Aid Transitional Relief – if your PCC don’t already know this they need to know it now !

Hot off the press

Parish Giving Officers newsletter finally put to bed. 

A lot of the time managing PGO’s is a bit like blogging.  I try and produce something engaging, informative and attractive.  I sweat over phraseology, is it accesible ? is it trite ? does it inform, inspire and encourage.  Then when it’s finished off it goes out into the world and possibly straight into the bin. 

Parish Giving Officers are after all volunteers, with lives of their own (not to mention the several lives they are probably trying to manage at church – people who say yes invariably have umpteen other voluntary duties).  Whilst I sit here agonising that not enough parishes keep me informed about what they’re up to, it’s easy to forget that the parishes probably have better things to be doing than sending regular updates on their stewardship campaigns to me.

So, for what it’s worth, here it is. Parish Funding News Issue 1 September 2010. Hope you enjoy it, thanks for reading and, if you get a minute – give me a call – I’d love to hear what you’re up to and what is more, I need to nick your ideas !

Event news

Attended a ‘Community Cascade’ event today on ‘Resourcing your faith building’.

Have to admit a tad of scepticism before hand – CC is a partnership between all the CVS’s in West Yorks (thats councils for voluntary services to those fortunate enough not to have to know these things).

CVS’s not in my experience all that good at dealing with Faith organisations unless said groups keep fairly quite about the Faith in question.

However, an excellent and informative day.  Morning Workshop was on Energy Sustainability and was full of incredibly useful stuff on how to monitor, audit, manage and reduce energy costs.  The chap giving the presentation had experience of energy audits in churches so clearly had an understanding of the limits and idiosyncracies involved in historic and archaic buildings.  I will post his presentation up when I get a copy.

He’s also agreed to come to our Autumn Training day so watch this space.

Afternoon session was on Marketing – got some good pointers and materials but presenter seemed a bit phased by the whole ‘faith building’ thing – so no specific strategies there – and she managed to alienate half the room (the Anglican half anyway) by saying that our message should make it clear that ‘you’re not just safe and comfortable’ hmmmmmmmmm.

Back to work !

Following an incredibly succesful training day for Parish Giving Officers on Saturday I thought I’d upload the presentations.

1st is from Ian Gledhill – head of Charities at HM Revenue and Customs – and is all about Gift Aid  Ian Gledhill Gift Aid presentation.

Second is my own Planned giving toolkit workshop session – complete with my notes (please don’t laugh at my reminders to click !) which I didn’t really follow in the end. 

I should point out that I am very much standing on the shoulders of giants here.  The fundraising cycle stuff comes from Redmond Mullins excellent book ‘Fundraising Strategy’ and the workshop stuff is based around the extensive resources available from Giving in Grace  which I am encouraging my parishes to adopt –  no point reinventing any wheels.

Let yourself be built ?

Hmmmmmm the parish church. Ancient monument, architectural gem, heritage site, place of worship or money sucking millstone strangling the life blood of the C of E ?

I used to be 100% sure exactly where I stood on this one. Yup, burn the font cover, pull down the rood screen and above all tell those nosey parker ‘pickle it in aspic’ hideous stained glass adoring anoraks at the Victorian Society where they could stick their butt numbing pews !

But …

We live in a spiritually hungry age. Yes I know, secularisation is rampant, Dickie Dawkins and his buddies are taking over the airwaves. But despite what the Daily Mail says, people are seeking.

And if they are seeking – where will they look ? What does Christianity ‘look’ like to the average wanderer in the street ?

The fact is, ask any 4 year old to draw a church and they won’t produce a sandstone, single storey, glass vestibuled, double glazed and fully DDA compliant ‘church in a box’.

To many, the Parish church is Christianity – that leeky tower, those bells, those b!**dy pews and all that stained glass are Christs ‘brand image’ – as powerful a symbol as the Golden Arches of Mcdonalds.

Looking back at ‘The Diana Effect’ it was clear that people needed a place to run to in times of uncertainty. So where did they go ? you guessed it …

The argument that flogging the lot and starting over, would release vast chunks of funding to ‘real’ mission is all well and good but isn’t it just further evidence of our loss of confidence ? We’ve bought into the tabloid myth that ‘if the church sold all its buildings it could do some good in the world’.  Instead of being proud of what we’ve inherited and making the most of it, we’ve become embarrased by it.

But …

 What if we actually started using the buildings iconic status as a draw, combine the shiny and alluring ideas about opening up the church hall for community use and instead  open the church doors – surrender ‘our worship space’ and make it an exciting and interesting space to be used.  Perhaps if we can get the community thinking of the inside of the church as relevant, useable, an enjoyable place to be they might stick around after aerobics and find out what else is going on ? 

Mission doesn’t have to be all about new and shiny, it can be about taking the best of the old, combining it with the best of the new and producing something that honours our inheritance as well as our vision. 

One thing I will never change my mind on though ….

The Victorian Society can have the pews !