Rev Jennifer Mills-Knutson
Christopher, J. Clif. Whose Offering Plate Is It? New Strategies for Financial Stewardship. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010. 145 pp.
Whose Offering Plate is It? is the companion volume to J. Clif Christopher’s Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate. Not Your Parents Offering Plate makes the hard case for why churches need to change their approach to raising money. Whose Offering Plate Is It? offers clear, concise directions about how.
Christopher moves beyond making the case that churches need to emphasize how their ministries change lives. He shows how to follow his advice with practical tips for using testimonies, emphasizing the good news, collecting stories of changed lives. His strident argument that the pastor should know members’ giving habits becomes a strategy to present this case to the church leadership and practical advice for those who might be reluctant about the effect of financial knowledge on their ability to minister impartially. Instead of just making the case for individualized stewardship letters, Christopher offers sample letters and a breakdown of various types of donor groups.
The book is based on a question-and-answer format, as Christopher addresses the most commonly asked questions that arise from his first book. He includes questions that reach beyond his own writing, such as: “Do We Tell When Things Are Bad?” and “What Do I Do in a Bad Economy?” Many struggling churches and pastors would benefit from reading and discussing his responses.
Christopher manages to be brutally honest at the same time he is full of hope and encouragement about why the church should be excited to ask for generous gifts. He makes the case for the church and its ministries as unique in their ability to offer hope and good news in troubled times, to transform people’s lives from the inside out. He reminds us of why our mission matters, and inspires me to tell our church’s story more effectively and ask for generous gifts more boldly.
In my church, we have put into practice many of the ideas that we read in Christopher’s first book, but we definitely could have used the roadmap provided in this second volume. While you could read both books cover-to-cover, I would recommend reading the first book with a group of lay leaders, and then discussing it. When you find ideas you want to implement, then you can read just those sections of Whose Offering Plate Is It? together and use the strategies to get started. As you grow into Christopher’s ideas, you can return to this volume for the practical tools you need.