More than 300 clergy and lay members attended two events in the northern and southern parts of Holston Conference to learn from an expert on how to increase church giving.
The Rev. Lovett Weems, professor of church leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary, was key speaker at a "Funding Your Vision" seminar held Saturday, Oct. 2 at First Farragut United Methodist Church in Knoxville and Sunday, Oct. 3 at Pleasant View UMC in Abingdon.
Topics included "From Paying Bills to Serving God's Vision," "Moving People from Beginning Givers to Joyful Generosity," "Practices that Lead to Greater Giving," and "Ways to Increase Annual Commitments from Members."
Several clergy said they liked the practical advice offered by Weems.
"Making sure there are offering envelopes in the pews and replacing those little golf pencils in the pews with pens is a great idea," said the Rev. David Gass, Greene County Parish, Johnson City District. "People don't write checks in pencil, so make it as easy and convenient as possible."
The Rev. Don Jones, pastor at Daisy UMC, Cleveland District, said the "two minute warning" -- allowing congregants ample time to write checks or gather money by announcing the offering at least two minutes prior -- is easy enough for any pastor to do.
"The three of us who attended the Saturday session together decided to try it the following Sunday," Jones said.
Some participants said that they appreciated Weems' advice on building up the congregation with personal stories of cheerful givers within their own groups and focusing on ministries instead of the budget. "Be positive," said the Rev. Jane Taylor, pastor at First Gatlinburg UMC, Maryville District. "It's not about the money, it's about God."
The Rev. Amy Probst, pastor at Broadway UMC, Maryville District, said her take-home message for others was, "Provide avenues for personal financial advice, coaching, or learning."
Weems said churches are missing giving opportunities by not offering electronic giving as an option, at a time when personal checks are becoming obsolete.
"I wouldn't be surprised if for many of your congregants, the check they write to the church is the only check they write all week," he said. "If 50 percent of people are doing financial transactions in other ways, why is the church saying, 'No, we only take cash'?"
Weems praised the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., for preaching that invites people at all income levels to become tithers. He discouraged pastors from becoming too predictable by preaching about giving only on the designated Stewardship Sunday.
"Don't sneak up the offering on them, but do sneak up the theology on them," he said. "Otherwise, they'll put up their shields."
"Funding Your Vision" was sponosored by the Holston Conference Foundation.