Several years ago, our church adopted the practice of Faith Promise Giving (FPG). This change in our approach was initiated in response to annual deficits in our financial year-end.
Slowly but steadily, this ‘new’ way of giving has changed our perspective on Church Ministries, offerings, and how we give. Since we’ve gone to FPG, our year-end shortfall has been reduced or eliminated, and we’ve committed to fully meeting our Classical and Denominational Ministry Share obligations. God has richly blessed this commitment.
Please don’t misunderstand; we still have gaps that require attention. Like any church, we have members who do not contribute financially to the church’s ministries (although their lifestyle indicates an ability to do so). Not everyone is on board with FPG either – about 30% of our intentional, faithful givers prefer to give outside of this process. We still need to find better ways to discuss financial stewardship within God’s kingdom (always a sensitive topic). We still need to increase our understanding of kingdom support as a significant act of worship.
What is changing for us?
We are cultivating, first of all, a spirit of thankfulness and open-handedness. We’re reminding ourselves of God’s lavish gifts to us as individuals and as a privileged, First World country. Generosity flows naturally from an abundance mentality. When we are thankful, recognizing that what we have comes not from our own efforts but from God’s hand, we are less inclined to hang on with white-knuckled, clenched fists. Our fingers don’t need to be pried open (at least not as often). They release their grasp involuntarily. A grateful heart signals the fingers to relax and open up.
A very practical benefit of FPG is the ability to project a realistic budget, using the best information available. Pledges provide a solid foundation for the following year’s projections. While it is prudent to plan, we continue to trust in God’s generous abundance that is so often, not surprisingly, over and above our expectations.
What’s in a name?
When we look at the name Faith Promise Giving, the two key words, faith and promise seem to indicate that we promise - in faith - to give a certain amount annually. This is indeed the case.
In late fall, our church members are given a letter of encouragement along with a pledge form asking them to consider prayerfully what they will contribute over the next calendar year - with a glad heart … not grudgingly or under compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). In this way, people are making a specific commitment – there is accountability.
But there is another way of looking at the FPG name. God is the One who promises us His steadfast faithfulness. God always comes to us first, so while we may perceive that the promise is one we make, in truth it stems from His rock-solid care for us. As a church, we remind ourselves how He has answered prayers in our midst, what He’s doing, how He’s leading us. We’re slowly becoming more aware of ‘stories’ of His faithfulness to us, evoking responses of worshipful service and giving out of a real, personal trust that God provides –and will always provide – everything we need.
A lag in promised support is a ‘heads up’ that someone may be dealing with financial hardship. (We find that people are often reluctant to ask for help, and sometimes need to be sought out – another area to work on). This gives us opportunity to see if/how we can help.
We seek to educate the congregation about Denominational and Classical Ministry Shares, and how God’s kingdom is furthered through them. We realize that many people give out of habit, without knowing how our ministries are allocated, and how our denomination works. People tend to think of the denomination in terms of administration rather than ministry, although many will zero in on a favorite cause of the local classis or the denomination. We provide a list of ministries that fall under each. At times we will focus on one aspect (e.g. Back to God Ministries International) of ministry shares by showing a related video during the offering.
We let the congregation know about our progress throughout the year, taking opportunity to thank them for their generosity, in the context of God’s initial provision of bounty to us. As I write, I realize that this is one area where we could do more – God’s goodness is always cause for extravagant celebration! Hmmm – any ideas?