Creating Congregations of Generous People by Michael Durall
Alban Institute Publications, 2000
Michael Durall’s Creating Congregations of Generous People offers a new perspective on financial giving to the church. Durall makes the case that well intentioned stewardship committees may actually be inhibiting generous giving by running garden-variety annual pledge campaigns. He contends that "the traditional pledge drive inadvertently reinforces low-level and same-level giving," instead of creating a culture of generosity (Durall xi).
In the first half of the book drawing on his own experience as a consultant and the work of other well-known experts in the field, Durall first explores the reasons people do not give and then offers some insight into how we can go about creating generous givers. Key to his message is that we stop looking at stewardship as a one month nuts and bolts annual endeavor and begin to look at it as an ongoing opportunity to educate ourselves and our congregations in the ways of generosity.
Durall challenges us to take a new look at time-honored stewardship practices and ideas including the secrecy around money in the congregation, the notion that new members aren’t expected to give much, and the importance of THE BUDGET in fundraising. His opinion is made clear in chapter five’s title, "The Budget Isn’t Really That Important."
The second half of the book contains a "how-to" section that will help congregations put a long-term stewardship plan into place. It offers tasks and goals with a variety of ideas about how to approach each stage on a month or two month schedule, but those looking for a bullet list of specific tasks to do with a clear timeline will be disappointed. The other thing to note is that dollar amounts in Durall’s examples are somewhat skewed by time and economic changes since the book was published in 1999. Up to date information can no doubt be gathered by stewardship teams from the Internet.
Overall this is a good, thought-provoking read for clergy, for congregational leaders, and anyone in the congregation charged with stewardship responsibilities. The book’s greatest benefit may well be that it stimulates our own thinking and conversation about how we "do" stewardship in the congregation.
You may find yourself talking back to the author as you read Creating Congregations of Generous People as I did, but it is a conversation well worth having with a stimulating conversation partner. I am passing my copy along to my stewardship chair today.
Rev. Diane Spleth
Minister, Franklin Central Christian Church
It has recently been announced that as of January 31, Diane will become the Senior Minister of Allisonville Christian Church in Indianapolis, IN.