Having a Mission-Based Financial Commitment Programbetsy

We talk about mission. We do mission. So how can we make our church’s annual financial commitment program mission-based, instead of sounding like one more “sell job” about our church’s programs?


1.   Keep the main thing the Main Thing. Most people really do hear what we say. It’s just that they have lots of buttons that get pushed from their previous experiences. So if we refer to a line-item budget anywhere in the process, they’ll think the “campaign” is about “raising the budget.” That’s where intentional language comes into play. Most shorthand ways to refer to the financial commitment program point in the direction of selling. And that implies that they are customers and consumers buying the church’s services.


So do not do a line item budget until after members have had a chance to respond to God’s work in the world. Do a narrative budget instead – by dynamics of your mission, not by program categories. Divide staff and facilities time, as well. Make your narrative primarily visual, and interlace it with in-person stories. The point is not “What our church can do for you,” but “Look at what God is doing in the world!”


2.   It’s all about attitude. The purpose of a financial commitment program is not just to fund our ministries. Its main purpose is to connect our living and giving with God’s overwhelming generosity towards us. Whether we have a lot or a little in money, possessions, time or personal involvement, the issue is our attitude. Do we think we own what God has entrusted to us, or do we want to spend it well, according to God’s priorities, in line with God’s overwhelming grace towards us?


3.   Highlight First Fruits Living. “First fruits living” is giving the first and the best to God and managing all the rest according to God’s generosity.1 It refers to all of our resources and relationships. It challenges us to give and use 100 percent of what God has given us. Teaching first fruits living can help people let go of fixations on magic percentages or static money amounts, and focus on responding to God’s generosity towards us with all of who we are and what we have.


4.   Look for changed lives. People give to honest-to-God change that makes a difference in people’s lives. And they are savvy consumers, suspicious of hype that masquerades as the real thing. So go overboard answering the “So what?” question from the start. In your preparation time, discover children, youth and adults who have been touched by God, through your involvements. Look for a personal connection, which usually exists only three degrees away.


We all want to invest ourselves in what the Living God is doing in people’s lives. It may be one person at a time in a specific youth or senior, child, adult or family, whether they are right in our neighborhood or around the world.


5.   Link to worship and small group life. Give people a chance to discuss God’s generosity towards us and our growth in generous-hearted living. Make the program theme your worship theme for five weeks. Offer a small-group series for people to explore the topics out of their own life experiences.


6.   Make it part of a Generosity Plan. It takes a written plan to help the congregation keep growing in generous-hearted living. Use the new United Methodist Guidelines booklet, Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living2 to create a Generosity Team and establish a twelve-month Generosity Plan. The booklet will guide you with essential elements, how to support the work of the church’s other ministries, and how the financial commitment program fits into the larger picture. Start with a few baby steps, but start. You can’t grow vibrant, faithful stewards if it’s always connected to fundraising or stuffed into one season.


7.   Remember Who’s in charge. Your congregation is God’s church and ministry. Put your leadership into it, but trust God to transform lives through the giving.


                                                                                    Betsy Schwarzentraub


1 = Cf. Betsy Schwarzentraub, Afire With God, p. 91 and the writings of Lynn Miller and Mark L. Vincent (Herald Press).

2 = Copyright 2012 by Cokesbury (Abingdon Press).


Having a Mission-Based Financial Commitment Program by Betsy Schwarzentraub is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.




"Mission Shares: Long Arms and Jesus’ Feet" - part 1

God doesn’t work just with United Methodists. We can glimpse God’s activity all around us! So why participate in God’s work through our Apportionments, or “Mission Shares”? For starters, it has to do with long arms and Jesus’ feet.


First of all, our Mission Shares really do support mission.  “It’s an amazing thing when people in rural Montana and Wyoming can be part of the things going on in Angola, Cambodia and Mongolia,” says Sally McConnell, our Yellowstone Conference Missions Coordinator.


Yes, our Mission Shares support hundreds of fulltime missionaries here and around the world, but Yellowstone has a special relationship with three of them. We know they’re real people in real situations, and they keep in touch with us. For example, Ken Koome, missionary in eastern Angola, will visit churches in our Conference this September 4 through 16, traveling from Montana to Cody, Wyoming within that time frame. Watch for dates and locations so you can hear him.


The “Mission Inside and Out” event this spring was another great example of bringing our mission connections home.  Jim Gulley, our missionary in Haiti, shared stories about the work being done and affirmed the long history this Conference has with them by providing money and sending mission teams. And local churches brought their contributions, as well. For example, the people from Missoula brought supplies for Family Promise, which helps homeless families, including school and health care supplies.


Second, Mission Shares reach beyond where a single congregation can go. Without our ministry connections, even the most mission-minded congregation only has one arm’s-length for direct, hands-on mission. But thanks to our worldwide network, all kinds of collaborative ministries are taking place, far beyond one congregation’s normal reach.


The Mission Extravaganza at Annual Conference Session this June not only raised a lot of money for Imagine No Malaria, but also raised awareness of human needs and of our great resources when we work together. Imagine No Malaria is an exciting second-mile effort (not part of our Mission Shares) where our denomination has teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others to wipe out malaria around the globe. But this “extra effort” would not be possible if it weren’t for our existing mission network already in place, church-to-church and Conference-to-Conference, across the United States and elsewhere.


Third, Mission Shares put Jesus’ priorities into action. Jesus’ life and ministry embody love of God through love of neighbor. His Risen Presence and ongoing witness urge us to pay particular attention to people on the margins of power. So our Mission Shares have much to teach us about the gospel (what Paul calls “spiritual blessings”), even as we share our material blessings with them.


For example, together we support the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish, by providing the salary for a pastor who serves three congregations on the reservation. The Parish has a strong youth group there, and provides a clothing bank and other community services.


Speaking of youth and young adults, Mission Shares also support Campus Ministries here in our Conference. The students gather not only for worship and fellowship, but also for personal mission. Just this past January, a campus ministry team went to Haiti to help out.


Fourth, Mission Shares help us guard against turning into a club. They sustain people who live and work in our Conference to help us make connections with others. They help us fight against the tendency to become inwardly-focused, and so keep us being the Church, Christ at work in the world.


One of these Conference resources is Sally McConnell, our Conference Missions Coordinator. She keeps churches connected and helps bring them together to brainstorm responses to mission emergencies both nearby and far away. She raises awareness of needs and resources, and coordinates our responses. “It’s not glamorous, but somebody needs to do it,” she says. “There are good things happening all over, but it’s hard to put it all into words.”


So Mission Shares aren’t just a practical way of doing ministry together. They support honest-to-God mission. They give us a whole network of ministries that extend our reach. And they keep us living as the Church, focused on Jesus’ priorities.

                                                                                Betsy Schwarzentraub, consultant

Betsy Schwarzentraub is the author of Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living (2013-2017 U.M. Guidelines) and Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards. She consults in Stewardship and Generosity and has led workshops around our Conference, sponsored by the United Methodist Foundation and the Yellowstone Conference Stewardship office.


Mission Shares: Long Arms and Jesus’ Feet by Betsy Schwarzentraub is licensed under
a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.




Mission Shares and the Local-Global Balance - part 2

Okay, so it’s an art keeping local and global ministries in a healthy balance. But paying our Conference Mission Shares helps us hugely on both fronts.


To begin with, Mission Shares help us fight consumerism. Yes, our whole society swims in those waters. But the consumer attitude can seep into our churches – like the view that when we give financially we’re buying the church’s services instead of participating in God’s work. We can see ourselves as recipients, even consumers, and that “if some services are good, more are better.” We can assume that the local church exists to serve us, and “you get what you pay for.”


But regular, intentional participation in our Mission Shares reinforces a different viewpoint: that it’s an honor to participate in God’s work in the world. As we hear how they support life-changing situations, they also give us a sense of hope, knowing that we are actually doing something specific to help transform people’s lives.


For example, Mission Shares empower Congregational Development work in this Conference: not only creating new worshipping faith communities, but also helping existing churches revitalize by reconnecting with their local communities. The “Nu Places for Nu Faces” course prepares members to strengthen new churches, while the Conference Lay Servant Ministry equips United Methodist to be a force for revitalization in their churches by teaching, training and leading in all facets of congregational life.


Second, Mission Shares remind us that we are baptized into the global Church. When we were baptized, it was not into a single congregation or even a particular denomination. It was into the Body of Christ worldwide, beyond all partisan labels. When we pay our Mission Shares we give “a portion meant for others” (hence “Apportionments”) so the whole Body of Christ can heal, grow, and transform this world, both nearby and far away from our front doors.


And third, our Mission Shares help us express our United Methodist vows. The more aware we are of where our money goes and what ministries it empowers, the more we can pray for one another, be present to one another in direct and indirect ways, and offer our monetary gifts, our personal service of involvement, and our witness to the power of the gospel in our lives.


All this presumes that God – the true Sovereign of the universe and Redeemer of our souls – really does transform people’s lives through our connectional giving. If you’re still not sure of that, ask any Yellowstone Conference leader about where they see God changing lives, congregations and communities. Then check out to glimpse where our General Conference Apportionments go. Through our Mission Shares, we participate in an exciting local-and-global ministry, spreading out from right outside our door, all the way around the globe!

                                                                                    Betsy Schwarzentraub


Betsy Schwarzentraub is the author of Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living (2013-2016 U.M. Guidelines) and Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards. A consultant in Generosity, she has led workshops in our Conference, sponsored by the United Methodist Foundation and the Yellowstone Conference Stewardship office.



Mission Shares and the Local-Global Balance by Betsy Schwarzentraub is licensed under
a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.



"Moving from Scarcity to Contentment"

by Betsy Schwarzentraub


“If some is good, more is better.” That message echoes all around us, calling us to pursue more money, more things, more recognition, more power. Money is seen as the key to all the “more” we can imagine. At some level, this insatiable desire taps into a primal instinct on our parts: making sure we have enough of whatever we need to survive.


Our God is a God of incredible abundance! This includes the abundance of God’s creation and of the partnership to which God calls us. But God’s abundance is not the same as our excess. That’s the problem with talking about scarcity versus abundance: we can confuse God’s  overflowing blessings with the accumulated things in our lives. For years now, I have taught about moving from a scarcity mentality to a sense of abundance. But the opposite of scarcity is not abundance; it is contentment, our sense of “enough-ness” or sufficiency with what God has provided us.


This is the surprise we find in Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians: “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8) The purpose of God’s abundant gifts to us is not for us to have an excess or even just enough, but rather that our “contentment” or “enough-ness” (aturkeia) leads to our sharing abundantly with others by the way that we live.


Paul refers to this same reciprocal dynamic in 1 Timothy, as well. He says to those of us who in the present age are rich – which is all of us in this Northern nation compared to the rest of the globe – not to set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but “rather on God, Who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Our enjoyment is good in itself and also is linked to doing good, being “rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.”


So sufficiency is good. But on the other hand, self-sufficiency is a real trap, whenever we think we have “come up by our own bootstraps.” That’s when we forget about God’s initiative and grace in our lives. But when we realize that whatever we have is sufficient for us – that we can live with the money we have earned, the assets and skills we have to use, or the time we have been given – then we can be fully present to this moment’s opportunities and the joys of our living.


“In our culture we’ve all learned that money means security, choices and power,” says author Lynn Miller. But “contentment is found in knowing that what things mean has nothing to do with who you are.”


Miller’s book, The Power of Enough: Finding Contentment by Putting Stuff In Its Place, makes a great study. His challenge to distinguish between wants and needs and to assess things according to their “inherent usefulness” is worth the whole book. I confess his “What Stuff Means” exercises gave me a few “Aha!” moments. And his discussion of our “surplus economy” helps us connect our personal struggles over possessions with a Big Picture understanding.


Or pick up Adam Hamilton’s book Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity. In it, he offers practical ideas, including five steps for simplifying your life (and related personal reflection questions); fifteen financial management tips, and six principles for financial planning. Or just read it for the down-to-earth Wesleyan theology and discuss it with a group of friends.


God does not call us to spiritual anorexia, as if starving our dreams of fullness were a virtue. Jesus says, “I came that (you) might have life, and that abundantly!” (Jn. 10:10) In response to such graciousness on God’s part, we find we have more than enough. We are content.

                                                                                Betsy Schwarzentraub, consultant


Moving from Scarcity to Contentment by Betsy Schwarzentraub is licensed under
a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.




"Building a Generosity Plan"
by Betsy Schwarzentraub

You don’t have to be a left-brain thinker to get a multiple-step project done. Whether you’re personally a natural list-maker or a spontaneous doer, you still need a plan to affect positive change in the church. Especially if you want to work as a team, or even just get along with the other church leaders.


Not that every great idea requires a plan. If it’s a single event, you may be able to pull it off spontaneously. But if you want to change the congregational ethos – to shift the mindset from fear of scarcity to trust in God’s abundance, for example – it takes a long-term perspective and multiple ways to address it.


So how do you get started on a plan? Begin by looking for people who have a personal passion for reflecting God’s generosity by the way they live. They model generous-hearted living, whether it’s with their time or involvement, their prayer life or advocacy, money, relationships, or possessions. Choose people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. Then make individual visits to invite them to join a Generosity Team. After you have no more than six people, get them together to share some common resources and develop a plan for your congregation.


The new United Methodist Guidelines booklet, Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living (from, gives your team a common basis from which to work, a process to follow, and some Scriptures and questions to discuss as you explore your common understandings of holistic generosity. The booklet will help you start with two key ingredients for your plan: teaching first fruits living, and helping people get control of their family finances. (Don’t worry; some outstanding resources are listed from which you can choose.)


Then work your way through ten essential elements for building a Generosity Plan that suits your unique congregation. Your approach will be a design that fits your local church, as you think about each of those factors. You can start small and add to your plan as you learn from your experiences.


If you have any questions or would like to share how it’s going, please contact me (the author). Let me know how it goes! I’d love to share your successes and learnings with other congregations.

                                                                                Betsy Schwarzentraub, consultant



Building a Generosity Plan by Betsy Schwarzentraub is licensed under
a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.




Rev. Dr. Betsy Schwarzentraub is the author of Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living and Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards. She is a consultant in Stewardship and Generosity and led workshops around our Conference in 2012, sponsored by the Yellowstone Conference Stewardship office and United Methodist Foundation.