Adventures in Generosity

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

Archive for statistics

All things come from you …

I was wondering what would move me to blog – having got well and truly out of the habit I was resigned to the fact that this little corner would sit forever collecting cyberdust and cobwebs, a neglected relic of more inspired times.  But at last ! a glimmer of inspiration.

The Church of England has revamped its website.  Hurrah ! in fact, bugs and teething problems last week aside, it’s a good looking site. Integrated well with a church near you , like the prayer stuff, think ‘being a Christian’ could be a bit more inspiring but maybe that will come.  On first pass the site is, if not awe inspiring, at least navigable, intelligible and pleasing on the eye (and browser).

But then I begin to look a little closer, with the eye of a professional employed by the CofE to ‘Support, encourage and inspire a spirit of giving and generosity’ in the members of this church.

Let me set you a challenge – whether you are an old hand or a new broom – spend 5 minutes perusing the site and then come back and tell me everything you have learned about Stewardship.

Have you, perhaps, learned that as Christians we are called to give of our ‘First Fruits’ to further the Kingdom of God, that what we do with our time, our talents and our treasures are as much an act of worship as Prayer or Praise ?  That Stewardship is fundamental to our Discipleship, that sacrificially serving others with all that we have is what being a Christian is all about ?

Should you be lucky enough to stumble across the single page which deals with such issues you would find this paragraph:

with regard to Christian Stewardship. Too many still regard it as a means of extricating a parish from its financial problems, as a “crash diet” for a week or two, and not as a way of life in response to God, a steady programme of growth in Christian discipleship.

I cannot argue with one syllable, absolutely 100% agree that Stewardship is catagorically not about funding the church, it is first and foremost about an individuals committment to and trust in God.  Our Journey deeper into faith must be accompanied by a journey away from reliance on our own wits and skills to maintain us.  If we cling to our material wealth as a life raft, if we squander our talents on accumulating endless shiny trinkets like over grown magpies, if we hang on to donations for dear life and spend every penny on maintaining the roof when outside people cry out in despair we can never lay claim to be living Life in Abundance.

So, if this paragraph is correct, if all of that is true and Stewardship is “a way of life in response to God, a steady programme of growth in Christian Discipleship” WHY is the single page dealing with the issue buried deep, under About Us, Under Facts and Stats (yawn), Under Research and Statistics (won’t be reading that) and, finally, under FUNDING THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND ????????

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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.

New Presentation

Just finished updating this 

parish financial overview

after last nights Stewardship Campaign meeting.  May need amending again once the PCC have had time to mess with it some more.  Its a good one for discussing the state of the church finances as a whole congregation – compares the cost of running the church with the cost of living generally.

This particular PCC have asked for more graphs rather than the text that’s there now so I’ll update it when we’ve finished fiddling. 

For now, feel free to amend and let me know what you think.

Manifesto

Welcome to Adventures in Generosity.  A place to share thoughts on what it means to be a generous Christian at a time when any mention of  giving in church generally elicits a cry of “Theres a recession on you know” ! 

I wouldn’t be doing this job if I believed that every member of the church thinks like that- in fact I believe that most Christians are in fact already unbelievably generous with all that God has given them. A quick look at the national statistics shows that church members give on average twice as much as non church types – it’s just that as a nation that bar is set so tragically low (2% of income nationally is given – most of that in collection tins and at charity shops).

To have a truly generous and giving spirit – one that gives for the joy of sharing, one that thinks first of the needs of others and doesn’t worry about the mortgage, car loan, council tax or mobile phone bill, is truly counter cultural today.

 We are led to believe that we are unfortunate, that we should be afraid of losing what little we have, and should constantly strive to aquire more, more, more. And yet most of the worlds population look upon our heaving shop windows and marvel at the wealth, the abundance, the blessing that we take so much for granted .

And surely ‘countercultural’ is what the church should be; what it has ALWAYS been ?  We should be leading the way, supporting those who genuinely have need, in our own country and abroad.  Not just giving to fix the leaky roof or repair the ancient boiler, but giving in recognition of the Amazing Grace we have been freely given.  Giving to fulfil St Pauls instruction:

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)

If, like me, you imagine a time when faith seeps not only into our hearts and souls but into our wallets as well then please join me on this adventure. Who knows; we may even lighten each others burdens along the way.