Adventures in Generosity

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

Archive for economy

Entering the debate.

I was asked two questions this week at PCC’s that stuck out for me:

The first; “but there’s only a few of us, even if we give much more we can’t keep this place going – what we really need is bums on seats – so how do we get that ?”

The second; “how can we possibly talk about giving money away in a recession ?”

The two might not seem all that closely related, but actually I think they might be – and I think, watching current developments in and around St Paul’s Cathedral this week – it’s time we put two and two together.

You see, I think that now is the perfect time to be talking about giving.  The current recession/depression/economic meltdown – whatever you call it, is final, concrete, proof of what happens when we place our faith in the material.  Easy credit, pensions, life savings, stuff – it promises so very very much security – and can deliver none of it.  So, isn’t now the time to declare our independence – to put money back in it’s place and say – thanks, but no thanks.  And a good place to start is by taking some of that cold, unfeeling cash – and giving it away – to those who need it more than we do.

This week, with the eyes of the worlds media focused upon it, the Church establishment had an opportunity to widen the debate and offer another possibility.  That we might have got it horribly wrong.  That the answer is neither anti-capitalism, anarchy, free sandals for all (as the protesters might have it) nor is it more quantitative easing, austerity measures and the IMF as the politicians want us to believe, nor is it more capitalism, freedom from regulation and bigger better hedge funds, as the City claims – the answer is, in fact, in where we place our trust – in the fickle hands of Mammon or in the loving embrace of God ?

Perhaps, if we were less timid, and less willing to hang on to our own establishment credentials, we might actually have something positive to bring to this debate – and perhaps then we might see a few more bums on seats; not in our churches, but in the Kingdom we so badly need to bring to our world.

Exit Poll

Well it’s taken a while but I’ve finally finished crunching numbers.  There’s quite a few stragglers left to mop up but I’ve been through every Parish Return I can get my sticky mits on and can reveal some enlightening facts and figures:

Our average weekly gift is £8

83% of the electoral roll take part in planned giving of some sort and 74% of those give tax efficiently

64.5% of donated income to our churches comes via planned giving, 23% from Fundraising and 12% from plate collections

54% of total church income comes direct from the people in the pews.

It seems common these days for there to be much hand wringing about levels of giving in the church and this Diocese is no exception  – average giving is down (again) and as a percentage of income giving now stands at 3% (as opposed to the ‘First to the Lord’ target of 5%). 

And don’t get me wrong – we could and should do a whole lot better. But….

According to the latest national report on giving http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/UK_Giving_2009.pdf  national figures should give us some cause for  hope, if not out right celebration.

Nationally, giving is down by a little over 11% – according to my stats our giving is down by 1% – Church giving is very resilient even in times of economic meltdown.

54% of the general population give to charity in any given month and only 37% give regularly – makes our 83% of regular givers look fairly amazing really. 

The fact is, most charities would give their eye teeth for the opportunity given to our Churches –  direct, face to face contact with the majority of our regular, committed and engaged donors – a chance to speak to them on issues that matter to our cause for 20 minutes every single Sunday.   Most donors get news on what their chosen charity is up to once or twice a year, our supporters get to hear about, and engage in, our work once or twice A WEEK. 

God presents his Church with a golden opportunity – to present His case, to share His plan and to inspire His people to open up and respond in generosity. 

 If we let ourselves lose Hope because our reality doesn’t quite meet our aspirations, we dishonour the many people in our Church who give regularly and sacrifically, we also miss an opportunity to grow in our own faith – God never said this was going to be easy;   the instruction ‘do not be afraid’ appears 366 times in the Bible – being disheartened when things don’t go according to our plan ? Really ?  

Yes, giving is down. Yes, people aren’t as generous as they could be.  Yes, the recession is a bit of a handy excuse for some. 

The question is, what are you going to do about it ?

Lies, damn lies and ….

Statistics.
I’ve started following @YouGov (the poll people) on Twitter. So far today I have learned two things:

First; 20% of consumers aspire to own something made by Prada – they do not specify what, which I think tells you all you need to know about ‘designer’ culture.

Second;10% of us can no longer afford to buy organic.

The poll appears to be silent on the percentage of people who couldn’t afford to buy organic in the first instance and does not elucidate on how many of these ‘organic’ consumers have instead switched to buying the seed and growing organic instead.

I’ve also learned that more women than men have bought a smartphone in the last 6 months – pressumably as consolation for not being able to afford the Prada.

These statistics are of course meaningless in isolation, but the fact that such questions are being posed during what the papers now call

‘THE WORST FINANCIAL CRISIS IN GLOBAL HISTORY EVER AND THAT INCLUDES THE GREAT DEPRESSION’

suggests to me that poverty is a somewhat relative term and that I should listen far less when people tell me that the reason giving is down is because everyone is broke.