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Posts Tagged ‘stewardship’

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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Story by Jess Ward.

Getting a budget process started is a little bit like running a marathon. It requires patience, confidence, and the promise of a nearby bed to collapse into.

Tom Visotsky, the church’s new, full-time Finance Business Manager (whose office plaque would be more honest if it read Marathon Runner, Finance Wiz, World Traveler, ENFP) says that the best way to learn about an organization is to do a budget. This starts with meeting with the church staff and hearing about the needs of their ministries.

Tom Visotsky

Tom Visotsky

This is not Tom’s first time in the ring with a church budget. In 2008, Tom was on the vestry at his church, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, in Midlothian. Remember 2008? That was the beginning of the market crash, when both money and jobs were being lost at an alarming rate. Cue recession. “Everyone wanted to run and hide,” says Tom. “There are no guidebooks as to how to run a stewardship campaign during a recession.” So how do you keep a stewardship committee calm during a recession? “By applying general principles of problem solving and taking logical steps,” he says. It sounds too easy to be true. But Tom saw that the need for the church’s help was going to be greater than ever before. “And the people responded.” The committee asked for a 10% increase and they got a 7% increase.

Those logical steps allow you the confidence to do, as Tom puts it, “the detail work.” Details like considering everything that has to go in next year’s budget, which is a unique process for a church. In the world of budgets, things usually happen like this: the organization or company looks at the data, writes the budget, and everyone just has to live with it. First Baptist starts with the team talking to the ministers about what they need, proposing a budget and then marrying it to the stewardship campaign. You can almost hear the cha-ching, cha-ching noises as your brain begins to do the math. But as Tom emphasizes, “It’s a lot more than just money.”

Me: “Does it ever get overwhelming?”

Tom: “No. There are just many issues to balance.”

Me: “So expenses plus stewardship equals budget?”

Tom: “No, not really. There are a lot of moving parts. You need to analyze historic trends in giving and talk with the staff to get their input about goals and missions.”

Tom is not as easily fazed as some of his fellow co-working “P’s,” as the staff would call them. (The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator “P” stands for “perceiving,” which means the person is more of a visionary and less of a detail-oriented person.) This guy has run ten marathons, four of them in Boston, and yes, he was less than three blocks away from the infamous Boston Marathon bombings. “It was pretty freaky. Surreal is really the word.” (He ran this past year as well and said the experience of running past massive, encouraging crowds was “really, really special.”)

This whole finance thing is Tom’s wheelhouse. He started a business from scratch, ran it for 25 years, and then merged it with a public company. He’s also served as the president (now referred to as the chairman) of the Virginia Society of CPA’s, which has about 10,000 members. Public speaking, authoring published articles and world travel are not a problem with this guy.

As for FBC, Tom is working on the big picture (aka the race course) by working on providing accurate information to the people who make decisions about the budget, and by that he means not just offering them numbers – but the data they need to better manage the church.

Because it’s a lot more than just money.

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By Lorna Brown

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34, NIV). Notice that the Lord does not say, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” He tells us that because hearts follow treasure, it is important where we invest our treasure. It is also important that we be intentional about that investing.

boy giving flowersTreasure consists of more resources than money, including time and talents, but money often gives us the quickest view of our treasure’s location. It is likely to tell us as well where we spend our time and talents. Even a brief look at our checkbooks reveals two things: First, our hearts are not where they should be. But, second, they are where they should be. How can this be? Aren’t these two statements contradictory? Not really, because our hearts are not to be in one place only.

The Ten Commandments guide our investing of treasure. They teach about our important relationships to our family, our community and God. Jesus wraps those responsibilities in love – love God and love your neighbor. In doing so, He gives us more than responsibility, He gives us a vocation. And we fulfill that vocation with our treasure.

When we look at our checkbooks, we see that much of our treasure is invested in our families. Some is invested in our neighbors, often through gifts to charities and community organizations. The question we need to ask is, “Are we investing as much of our treasure in God, through our gifts to our church?” This question requires more than a casual response. It requires a response of intentional investing to our vocation of love. When we put our treasure in God, then our hearts follow and abide in Him.

Isn’t that where we want our hearts?

See related stories: Giving cheerfully, living generously are acts of worship and Tithing creates generous lifestyle for Whittingtons.

Editor’s note: Commitment Sunday, February 23, 2014, is a time for making intentional decisions about investing your treasure.


Lorna BrownLorna Brown was born and raised in England. She came to the USA in 1968 and has lived in Richmond for the past 23 years. Lorna has a BBA from Western Florida University, an MBA from University of Phoenix and is retired from the State where she worked as an accountant. Lorna has been a member of First Baptist since 1997, is a member of the FLO Crew, serves as a Deacon, and has been on several mission trips.

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Technology has given us many convienences... including making your commitment to financial giving online.

Commitment Sunday is the time when the congregation turns in pledge cards indicating their financial giving plans for the year. In recent years, that has happened in February. The budget planning process usually takes place during the fall. Last year the budget planning process was stretched into the early weeks of 2011, to allow the Budget Team to look at year-end giving before finalizing their proposal.

As it turned out in 2011, the budget was adopted on the same day as Commitment Sunday – February 13. It raises the question about the relationship between pledging and budget planning. Associate Pastor for Communication, David Powers, sat down with Church Treasurer Kim Boys and Church Administrator Billy Burford to talk about it.

David: Every year around budget time, somebody is likely to say, “How much was pledged? And why isn’t there a connection between the pledging and the budget?”

Kim: Since I’ve been involved in the finance office, we have never pledged the budget. That’s going back to the late ’80s. In the days of the “Every Member Canvas” we would get 70 to 75% of the budget pledged. Our budget kept growing. Our giving kept increasing and the number of givers continued to increase, but the percentage of the budget pledged has continued to decrease. There has been a shift over the last decade or so. Prior to this shift, pledging’s main focus was primarily a financial planning tool for the church: the church being the center of reason for pledging. That has changed. Today pledging is more of a focus on the individual’s personal commitment rather than focusing on the church’s finances.

David: Even though the pledges have not equaled the budget, have the actual gifts kept pace with the budget?

Kim: Most of the last 20 years we’ve had enough receipts to cover our expenses. We’ve been basically break-even. In the late ’90s and early 2000s we had surpluses. Still we may not have made the budget. But the important thing is that the people gave enough to cover the expenses.

David: So more people give than pledge.

Billy: Yes. Last year over 1,000 people gave but did not pledge.

David: So, is that a problem?

Kim: That’s one of the reasons we stopped doing the Every Member Canvas… because the trend was going that way. We were still covering our expenses. We were still able to pay all our salaries, all our program expenses, all the office supplies, all the electric bills and everything, and there was a big disconnect between the pledging and what we were actually receiving. Many people will support, but for whatever reason, writing their commitment on a pledge card is not as important as it once may have been, especially with those sixty and younger.

Billy: So, pledging for us has really become an opportunity for people to make a commitment to the Lord, but not so much a commitment to the church. I applaud the individual who says, “I’ll give, but it’s between me and the Lord what I give. I don’t need you to know what I give.” It’s a personal commitment. It’s not a commitment to the church. If someone makes a commitment to the church, it is easy to find something in the institution they don’t like, and then they quit giving. But if they make a commitment to the Lord, they’re going to look beyond the things they don’t like, and they’re going to continue to give because it’s not to the church, it’s to the Lord. So that’s what I’m excited about. People are making commitments to the Lord and following through with that. Would I like to have 100% participation in making financial commitments? Sure, it would make budgeting a little simpler, wouldn’t it? Because we’d have a better idea of what to expect, but it’s an unrealistic expectation in this day and time.

Kim: And then you’ve got economic realities. You’ve got the recessions we went through, so even the people that maybe do pledge all of a sudden have found themselves where they cannot follow through. They don’t have a job. Or people on a fixed income, and all of a sudden their income and dividends just aren’t coming in anymore. While we do get some pledges from Boomers and down, the pledges are heavily slanted towards the more senior population of the church.

Billy: I’ve always had the belief that God provides that which He is blessing. So if we’re doing His work and His will, He provides the resources. So if the money doesn’t come in, then maybe we’re not doing what we need to be doing. Maybe we need to rethink what we’re doing.

David: So, why don’t we just do away with pledging altogether?

Kim: Well, we did a few years back. We just let it go by, and lo and behold, people came by and said, “Did I miss the pledge?”

Billy: I think that was our shortcoming because there are those who wanted that, and we didn’t give them the opportunity. And some people need that physical reminder or commitment—signing their name on the dotted line—during the year when things may not be going exactly like they had thought. “OK, I made a commitment, I signed it, so I’m going to follow through with it.”

Kim: And there’s no question that people give to what they believe in. I work with four or five nonprofits around town and it’s unbelievable to me how many people there are out there that will support what they believe in. There is not a shortage of money. There’s just a shortage of communicating their message. And I’m impressed with the way that has happened here. For example, look at the special offering on October 31st last year. It was the weakest year (financially) we’ve had for a long time. And then in a single Sunday our people gave a quarter of a million dollars.

David: So is “pledging” a meaningful budget planning tool?

Kim: Back in the ’60s, if we knew that 70-75% of the budget was pledged, we felt comfortable with the budget. But now we’re only receiving 50 or 55% and we’re still comfortable with our budget. So we’ve learned through the historical giving of the congregation that this doesn’t raise a big concern for us. We’re not going to look at the results of Commitment Sunday, the pledges that have been made, and then go out and start cutting programs because we’ve only received commitments for half the budget. We don’t say, “People aren’t going to give.” That’s not the case; they do give. We received close to $3.1 million in 2010; or just short of it. We only pledged $1.8 million. That was with only 30% of the family units turning in pledge cards. But historically we know more families and individuals do give. So as long those relationships hold up, First Baptist will continue to be able to execute on our mission statement and bring Heaven to Earth.

David: So, other than filling out a pledge card, what would motivate someone to think about how much to give?

Kim: I think budgeting is something that people need to be educated on, because it is a commitment to the Lord. Just like reading your Bible daily. You’ve got your time, talents and finances. You need to read everyday, become educated, put your skill sets to use, and you’ve got to give back what you’ve been given. And the way to do that is sit down and come up with a schedule… a budget. Behaviors are habits. We establish schedules to read the Bible, have prayer time and worship. Same thing should happen in the financial area by scheduling (budgeting) one’s personal finances. And I can say this, by and large, First Baptist people do have this discipline. In spite of economic environments, wars, political changes, natural disasters, and so forth, year after year after year, First Baptist people produce tremendous results. That happens because of the faithfulness of this congregation.

Billy: The New Testament talks about “generosity giving” rather than 10%. But the reason for it is that as you give, God gives back in return. And His blessings are always more than what you can give financially. And once people get a grasp of that, it can change their life. It certainly can give more opportunity for the Kingdom of Heaven to be revealed in Richmond, Virginia if they do.

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