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Posts Tagged ‘generosity’

By Shannon Harton

Suffice it to say that the giving landscape has changed dramatically for Richmond’s First Baptist Church since the outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this year. FBC’s financial picture over this strange period isn’t bleak, however. In fact, at the end of 2019 we were in a better position than we had been for years—achieving our budget for the first time in recent memory. We began 2020 feeling a renewed sense of commitment and enjoying the benefits of recently implemented online giving tools designed to make expressing our generosity easier than ever. Online recurring giving, as an example, had been embraced even faster than anticipated, and text-to-give one-time gifts was showing promise.

When the entire world seemed to pump its brakes in late March, the business office at FBC braced for the worst. Without members filling the Sunday pews, passing our shiny offering plates from hand to hand, would giving follow local restaurant sales off the financial cliff? In fact, no—or at least, not so far. According to the finance office, giving is remarkably consistent, and we may have made a very easy and fast transition from offering plate to website contributions.

Will this last? That is entirely up to us.

When the Generosity Team began its annual work in 2019 to make financial plans for 2020, we strategized the best ways to keep the stewardship message before our church community and we challenged ourselves to question every old assumption. We wanted to make sure we were asking the right questions and doing our best to inspire expressions of gratitude that we know our members feel in response to the goodness of our God and His gifts to us.

We held dozens of interviews with committed members of our church community, exploring our communication challenges from all directions. We crafted a communication brief that spelled out our new understanding of those challenges and how to overcome them. A local creative team was hired to work with our own talented communication staff on the assignment of coming up with incisive messages that boiled the whole challenge down to a concept that was short, effective and memorable. In November, we launched the annual outreach campaign with the concept that each member is called to “Make Your Mark” on the world, powerfully symbolized by a pair of fingerprints that converge in the shape of a heart.

At the same time, the finance office was working hard on a project of its own that overlapped with the work of the Budget, Finance and Generosity Teams: new digital platforms that would make financial planning more predictable, individual reporting more accessible, and giving both easier and location independent. New tools such as a churchwide app, text-to-give and enhanced web-based functionality became centerpieces of our communication campaign in the hopes that they would all serve to enhance giving.

In November, of course, nobody saw the coronavirus coming. No one knew the depth of the challenges that Richmonders would be facing just a few months later as they struggled for work, for health and for spiritual stability. We had no idea of the looming opportunity we would have to Make Our Mark during a crisis, yet FBC has quickly begun to rise to those challenges. Our pre-existing technological platforms have made it easy to invite our neighbors into virtual worship and Bible study settings. Our food and clothing pantries are providing crucial resources to families in need. And our members are fanning out to volunteer to serve our neighbors in previously unheard of ways ministering to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our community.

Who would have guessed that, literally overnight, we would cease passing the physical offering plates on Sunday mornings? If our church budget, which pays for the TV broadcasts, web streams, social services and a dynamic staff, still depended on physical offerings, circa 1950, we would be in a tough position indeed.

Thank you, from the Generosity Team, for your stewardship of God’s gifts and your generous response over the past few weeks and months. If you’re already giving online, please consider using the recurring giving function to ease your schedule and create even more predictable income to the church budget. If you haven’t yet tried our new online platform, visit fbcrichmond.org/giving-options, call the church office or choose Donna Earley as the recipient on our Contact Us form for personal help to log in and try it out.

Equally important, stay tuned-in to your church community for opportunities to meet the very real needs of our neighbors across Richmond. FBC’s history is full of heartwarming stories of service and more chapters are written daily, with your help. There has never been a better time to Make Your Mark!

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Story by Nancy Mairs.

You most likely have received your blue and green “Water the Roots” brochure in the mail encouraging you to spend some time praying about what you can do to “water the roots” of Richmond’s First Baptist Church (FBC) through your participation, giving of your time and financial resources so that our church can continue to bear abundant fruit. May sound a little heady, and you may decide, like almost 60% of the congregation, to just ignore the challenge and turn your attention to the demands of everyday life. But before you do, take a minute to think about the rich history of our church, and how we enjoy today the work that has occurred through the firm commitment of others who have gone before us over the past 234 years, who have taken seriously the challenge to invest themselves in “watering the roots” of First Baptist.

Water the Roots

And, to bring it closer to home, think about Ollie Wells. As Steve Booth, Associate Pastor, Ministry of Formation, explained, “In 2013, Ollie found himself in the unique position of participating on both the Generosity Team and being the chairman of the Budget Team. He had the dream of seeing a higher level of participation during FBC’s 2014 Generosity Team Emphasis. Of course, it would be great to see each card come back with a commitment to give a certain amount of money to the church in the coming year, but Ollie’s real dream was to see more people make any sort of commitment.”

With that vision in mind, Steve began to think about making the annual Generosity Team Emphasis more significant to our congregation. It all began to come together during a church staff meeting when the idea for “watering the roots” was mentioned as a way to think about the budget process and the metaphor was connected to 1 Corinthians 3:6. In the NIV translation of the Bible, the verse reflects Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” When he heard this verse, Steve saw the progression as a reflection of how our church has grown over the years. “When you think about it,” Steve explained, “God planted the seed of what has become our beloved church in the hearts of a small group of believers meeting in downtown Richmond in 1780, and the members have watered that seed through acts of service, faithful giving, and a commitment to outreach over the subsequent 234 years! What could be a better way to ‘water the tree’ that God has given us … the First Baptist ‘tree’ … than to ask for the congregation’s help in continuing the work that God began.”

Steve went on to explain why November 16th is such an important date in the life of our church. This is the day that has been designated as “Consecration Sunday.” “Just look at Webster’s dictionary and you’ll see the significance of the word ‘consecration’ and why it is so appropriate to use for this year’s Generosity Team Emphasis. Consecration means to set apart as holy, to devote to a sacred or serious purpose,” Steve explained. And what could be more set apart as holy and devoted to a sacred purpose than the work being done at FBC. “This rich word explains what the Generosity Team Emphasis is all about,” continued Steve. “There’s an interdependency of many people with many gifts, which become more powerful when done in concert with others.”

Don’t you want to be a part of the action? Take your “Water the Roots” commitment card, put it in a place where you will see it every day, and start praying now about what you can do to be a part of the action here at First Baptist. And, don’t forget to fill out the card and turn it in on Consecration Sunday, November 16th. Invest your time, energy, and financial resources here to help “water the roots” of First Baptist and who knows how we will be remembered 234 years from now!

First Baptist Ministry & Missions Budget for 2015

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By Karen Linkous. Photo by Keith Carroll.

Rick and Stephanie Whittington began tithing in January 2011. Now, Rick says, it has created a “lifestyle of generosity” for his family.

Rick and his wife, Stephanie, discussed their giving through First Baptist Church as part of their financial planning for 2011. They based their decision on Proverbs 3:9: “honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” (NIV).

the Whittington family

Whittington family

Since Rick is a small business owner and has an irregular income, the Whittingtons determine their tithe at the end of each month, based on his gross salary plus any business profit. Rick tithes on his gross salary because “first fruits means the first portion, before taxes and insurance are paid.” The Whittingtons were careful to give ten percent to FBC because the Bible says that the tithe should be given to the local church (Malachi 3:10). Rick shared, “I have faith in giving to my local church, and trust (our) leaders to spend it wisely.”

Most traditional financial planners would say the Whittingtons should save more for education and retirement. Rick said that since the family has been tithing, his worry about saving for retirement or his children’s college educations has not been as great because they trust their finances more fully to God. “If we’re faithful in our giving and providing for the needs of others now, I trust that God will provide for our future needs.”

His advice to fellow members who are considering their giving plans is to “set your budget around your giving, not give around your budget.” He also recommends praying consistently and intentionally about giving decisions.

Prior to moving to the tithing philosophy, Rick didn’t consider himself a generous person. The family gave a flat dollar amount in offering each month. Moving to the tithing plan made them feel “nervous, but excited.” And even if their business had losses for a month, they still planned to make a gift.

In order to set themselves up to be tithers, Rick and Stephanie worked hard to remove all debt, with the exception of their mortgage. They do a monthly budget on paper that has enabled them to live within their means while giving. The tithe is the first expenditure each month.

Rick introduced Financial Peace University to our congregation four years ago. FPU is a 13-session course that is taught by nationally-known financial counselor Dave Ramsey, and is described on www.daveramsey.com as a course on “how to beat debt, build wealth, find bargains, invest for the future and give like never before.” While they were getting out of debt, they cut back on certain activities, such as travel, and Rick did freelance work at night to pay down the debt quickly. “For us, having debt for material goods was our admission that God hadn’t provided enough.” By using a budget they have been able to keep household expenses stable for the last five years. “Once you put the Financial Peace principles into practice, your life and attitude toward saving, spending and giving change.”

offering envelopeIn addition to the joy they have found in tithing, the Whittingtons also provide gifts to people in need when they can. This has been an activity where God puts the desire to give directly into their hearts. In one case, they have been fortunate to help a family friend make ends meet during a difficult time. Stephanie and Rick sponsor a child through Compassion International; their own children have become involved through the child’s picture and letters. “We hope that through child sponsorship, our kids see that there are people that are less fortunate than we are, and that they can do something tangible to help.” In finding opportunities to help others, they are not focused on whether or not they give to an organized charity or get a tax deduction.

Rick adds, “I truly believe that all we have belongs to God.” As they have increased their giving they have seen that God is providing for them in many ways. In addition, God is revealing more needs and nudging them to be more generous. Rick shares that he is learning that he “can’t outgive God.”

He challenges all who are considering increased giving to make a commitment to tithe for three months: “Examine your budget, take a leap of faith, and see what happens.”

Share below your stories of assuming a lifestyle of generosity.


Karen LinkousKaren Linkous joined First Baptist in 2008 and is a member of the Seekers class with her husband, Bob. Karen is the team leader for the Budget Team and serves on the Stewardship Education Team. She is a senior manager at Capital One and enjoys gardening, decorating and reading.

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