Safeguarding Statement

Durham Diocese is committed to creating and maintaining a safe and nurturing environment for everyone, especially for children, young people and vulnerable adults. It has adopted and approved the Church of England policy for promoting a safer church. This policy deals with all aspects of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

To discuss any safeguarding concerns please contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, Mrs Beth Miller – she can be contacted as follows:

Address: Cuthbert House, Stonebridge, Durham DH1 3RY
Email: beth@bethmillerisw.co.uk or beth.miller@durham.anglican.org
Mobile: 07968 034075

For further information please also see the Diocese of Durham safeguarding pages: https://durhamdiocese.org/category/safeguarding/

Introducing the Parish Giving Scheme to your church

If you’ve been nominated to lead the Parish Giving Scheme for your church…congratulations! If you’ve landed on this page needing some guidance on how to launch, then this is the article for you!*

PGS form

*If your church hasn’t yet registered but you want to support via Direct Debit, we recommended you contact your Diocese for more information on how to join.

Launching a new way to give is a great opportunity to help others reflect on why, how and what we generously contribute to the work of the church. If it’s been a while since you talked about Christian giving and connecting finances with faith, we’ve collated here a list of project resources to help you to:

  • communicate God’s generosity;
  • encourage people to think about how they’ve been blessed and could bless others through generosity; and
  • help our churches to become generous.

It is recommended that a season of generosity is planned, and the subject of giving of money for Christian work be included. First start with the Sermon Material and blogs. These provide a wealth of material to preach and teach in the context of discipleship and generosity.  The articles can also be adapted for use in parish magazines, pew sheets and also shared through social media.

Introduce Welcome Cards,  these will help visitors to feel welcome and informed about what to expect. The cards can be used to explain how the church is funded and how the church uses the offertory. See ‘Let’s be clear’ for an explanation on how best to use the cards.  Templates are available to download here and can be edited for your church.

Use prayer tokens. These simple tokens enable us to make the most of the offertory during the service, enabling all to participate and encourage us to think about how we have been blessed through God’s generosity. A full implementation guide is explained in the blog Simple Step to Symbols of Generosity.  Templates are available to download here. Prayer Token Templates  

offertory

Does your church model generosity? Consider using the self-assessment ‘Generosity Audit’ to reflect on the generosity of your church and how it demonstrates generosity to others. Also check out ‘Marks of a Generous Church’, for further suggestions.

As we need to seek God’s guidance before we make any significant decision affecting our finances and church, invite members to review their giving and switch to the Parish Giving Scheme with time for reflection and prayer.  You can ask for members to return forms direct to the Parish Giving Scheme or return them to the designated person by a certain date.

Don’t forget to explain the vision of the church and what a difference financial contributions make not only to the church, but to the local community, as well as our capacity to be a blessing to others.  Examples of how to communicate effectively are available from your Diocesan Advisor.

Other things to consider are:

  • Provide opportunities for people to ask questions.
  • Hold a thanksgiving service in celebration of what your generosity achieves, be this local or international.  Why not host a thanksgiving meal and invite the community.
  • Explain the vision and what can be achieved through giving.  Remember it’s not just about the impact in the church, but the impact in the local community.
  • Provide a permanent display on how the work of the church is funded through the Parish Giving Scheme and share good news stories about the impact that has been made by generosity.

For further support with any aspect of generous giving, please contact the Diocesan Resources Team.

A prayer of thanks:

Loving Father you have made us your people, richly provided us with good gifts and called us to live for you; may gratitude be in our hearts; may generosity be in our hands; may justice and righteousness guide our feet and may the life of your kingdom and the joy of heaven be found among us. Amen

Based on Isaiah 5:1-8

 

 

Generous Eyes – Seed

Turn on your TV, scroll through your social media feed, open a magazine or drive along a street and you are virtually guaranteed to at least see one advertisement, if not, be bombarded by them. You might have even noticed that if you look for something on your computer you’ll soon find advertisements for the very same type of products popping up on your phone or tablet device! (How do they know?)

This is the world we live in. It’s a world of consumption. We are bombarded by the perceived need to have the latest phone, car or fashion label.

September Ad - iPhone

What the world is really trying to get us to do is spend our money. The whole message of this world of advertising is that money is almost like food – it has one purpose and one purpose only. Consumption.

The Bible paints a very different picture of money. In fact it paints the completely opposite picture. Rather than money being seen as this inanimate, one-purpose-only aspect of our lives, the Bible shows us that money is in fact dynamic, active and powerful. It has the ability to shape our thinking and our hearts.

In 2 Corinthians 9:6 the Apostle Paul says these well-known words:

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness” (NIV)

The whole context of this particular part of the Bible is financial giving and generosity and it seems that what Paul is saying is that God supplies both seed (money) and bread (for our daily needs). So we can trust that our needs will always be met:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV)

So we know that God is going to provide for our needs, and that may be in the form of money or in other ways, and he is going to give us seed.

But seed and bread are completely different.

Bread can be eaten immediately, has a limited shelf life (we’ve all had those moments looking in the kitchen cupboard!) and has limited uses.

Seed on the other hand is completely different. Wheat seeds have a much longer shelf life and can be used for more than one thing. We could grind wheat down into flour and, through a process of baking, create, you guessed it… bread. Or that seed could be sown into the ground to produce even more seed.

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So the question really comes down to how we see money. Do we see money as something to be consumed or something to be sown? Is money something to be ingested or could it also be invested?

You see the real goal of God providing us with seed or money isn’t simply for us to have a nice lifestyle, drive a nice car, have four holidays a year and live in a nice big house. And by the way there is nothing wrong with any of those things in and of themselves. But if these things become our only goal and focus we have missed the point.

The real goal is, as 2 Corinthians 9:6 teaches us, to “enlarge the harvest of your righteousness”. When we see money in the right way through generous eyes, as seed to be sown, and we do sow that seed, into good causes, that seed produces even more seed which becomes “the harvest of your righteousness”.

When we invest money into those helping refugees, charities reaching out to drug addicts or churches and other organisations telling people about God’s love, we are not consuming money in the same way that money is consumed in buying a new phone. Quite the opposite. We are investing. We are planting seed that will produce an eternal harvest.

So how will we view money from this point on? Is money just bread to be eaten or seed that can make a real, eternal difference?

Generous Eyes – Lamp

The Centennial Light, pictured above, is famous for being the longest-lasting light bulb in the world. It lives at 4550 East Avenue, Livermore, California and, with the exception of a few relocations, power cuts and electrical faults, it has been burning for around 117 years!

Light is an amazing aspect of life on earth and we interact with it in so many ways.

Light brings clarity in a physical sense and hope in an emotional sense.

We have the beautiful Northern Lights over the Arctic Circle.

Light takes eight minutes and 20 seconds to travel from the sun to planet earth.

And we use lights everyday of our lives from the lights in and on our cars, to those in our living spaces, through to our bedside lamps.

In Matthew 6:22-23 the Bible describes the eye as the lamp of the body:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

This verse is interesting because it seems to suggest that for our lives to be filled with light we have to ensure we have healthy eyes.

The opposite is also implied then; if we have unhealthy eyes our lives will be full of darkness.

So what does that even mean? Let’s dig a little deeper.

The Greek word used for ‘healthy’ here actually means ‘generous’.

So let’s rewrite that sentence with this new understanding: If your eyes are GENEROUS, your whole body will be full of light. And we also know that the opposite is true because the Greek word for ‘unhealthy’ actually means ‘stingy’.

What Jesus is actually talking about here is a Jewish idea called “good eye” vs. “evil eye”. The “good eye” – the way someone views the world around them – means goodwill, benevolence and being genuinely happy when others prosper. The evil eye is quite the opposite!

So, actually, we all have a choice to make about how we view the world: either through generous eyes or through stingy eyes.

The Bible is clear: stingy eyes will only fill our lives with darkness and negativity.

The opposite is true of those with generous eyes: the “good eye” will cause our lives to be full of goodwill, happiness and positivity.

Will our lives continually shine light like the Centennial Light for a sustained period of time, projecting goodness and generosity to the world around us?

Let’s hope so and let’s endeavour to do so!

Generous Eyes – Widow

Have you ever had the wrong perspective or seen something in a completely different light to reality? In her book, Just Such a Time, Lindsay Bruce tells the story of her journey towards finally buying glasses. After years and years of complaining about her diminishing eyesight she finally took the plunge and decided to get her eyes examined and order her much-needed glasses.

Arriving at the shopping centre she made her way confidently towards the green Specsavers sign. She took a seat in the waiting area and began looking around, surprised by the lack of glasses on display. She wondered for a few more moments before asking the shop assistant where all the glasses were.

“You mean the reading glasses?” he replied.

“No, I mean all of the glasses”. The confused look on his face told a story.

“Where do you think you are Madam?” he asked.

“Am I not in Specsavers?” Lindsay replied.

“No” laughed the assistant, “this is the chemist!” (cue the laughter)

Yes, this actually happened and could easily be used for a Specsavers advert. Lindsay’s eyesight was so bad she mistook the green chemist sign for the great big, green Specsavers sign.

glasses

The truth is we all have a different perspective and each of us looks at life with a different set of eyes. That’s why we have the saying about someone having “rose-tinted glasses”. The way we view life is determined by our perspective, the eyes we view life through – a bit like if you wear rose-tinted glasses, everything looks rosy.

Perhaps how you view family is influenced by your upbringing, whether positive or negative. Maybe your views on how to raise your children are different to your spouse’s views. It might be that you have a very different outlook on the important things in life compared to your parents or your brother or sister. And perhaps your view on what generosity is differs from the people you work with.

In the Bible in Mark 12:41-44 we read the story that has come to be known as ‘The Widow’s Offering’. In this story we are told Jesus is sitting in the Temple opposite the offering containers watching the crowds of people bring their offerings (they had large containers back then rather than a plate). We are also told that “many rich people threw in large amounts”.

Then the story takes an interesting twist: “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence”. It’s interesting because this widow, with her two coins, actually had three choices:

  1. She could have kept both coins for herself – and most of us, if we were that poor, would have at least considered this option.
  2. She could have kept one coin and put the other one in the offering – and let’s face it, if that’s how this story had continued we probably wouldn’t have thought she was in the wrong to do this. Maybe this is the choice that we would have made.
  3. Finally she had the option to put both coins in the offering – which is the option she took.

Everyone in that crowd saw the same offering containers in the Temple, but this poor widow, unlike many others around her, saw this opportunity through generous eyes. She saw an opportunity not to be ignored. This widow – through “generosity-tinted glasses” – saw an opportunity to be extravagantly generous.

Even though she put in far less money than many around her, the amount became irrelevant because of the sacrifice she made. Jesus concludes the story by saying, They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on”.

So Jesus isn’t teaching us that we have to give everything but rather that we can choose to view our life, our world, our relationships, our church and our giving, through ‘generous eyes’ or through ‘stingy eyes’. We can choose to live life with ‘stingy eyes’ but we may find that this leads us to a place in life where we didn’t really want to be – a bit like wanting to go to Specsavers but ending up in the chemist!

So I wonder how we will choose to view life – and it is a choice. Will we choose to view life, the world and the needs of other people through stingy eyes? Or will we make a decision to view life through generous eyes? The decision is ours.

An invitation to do Lent differently

Have you considered giving out this lent instead of giving up?

40acts-Logo-Red

14th February 2018 will see over 100,000 people on a 40-day mission to impact their community through generous giving.

Instead of giving something up for lent, many have signed up for ‘40acts’, a generosity challenge created by the Christian charity Stewardship, which encourages participants to do at least one different act of kindness each day of Lent. The challenge was followed by over 100,000 people last year between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, notching up an estimated 4 million generous acts in that time.

During the 40 days of Lent, (not including Sundays), participants or ‘40activites’, will wake up to a new generosity challenge and short Bible-based blog straight to their inbox. Each act is designed to sharpen your awareness and give practical ways to stretch your faith as well as your generosity.

Acts that have featured in previous years have included, donating blood, writing a public message of encouragement for everyone to see, and leaving a chocolate bar on a bus.

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The 40acts challenge was first launched in 2010 and has grown in popularity ever since. Millions of acts of generosity later, the challenge continues to astonish the team behind it.  Debbie Wright, Head of Content at Stewardship writes:

“Every year more and more people choose to do Lent generously, and use generous acts to demonstrate their faith in the lead up to Easter. We never cease to be amazed at the creativity and kindness that we see, as people start to share their stories on social media”.

40activists can sign up to receive the daily 40acts emails here.  All are invited to join the 40acts social media community on Facebook (www.facebook.com/40acts), Twitter (www.twitter.com/40acts), and Instagram (search #40acts).

 

Parish Giving Scheme in Under 250 Words

 

The Resources Team have been working with a number of pioneering parishes in the diocese who are helping church members to better plan their giving of monetary gifts.  For parishes looking to join the Parish Giving Scheme we have listed the most frequently asked questions…

What is the Parish Giving Scheme (PGS)?

It is a new way to give that uses the most secure method of contributing to church – Direct Debit.

Why should we change?

Current cash-based methods of giving are admin-intensive and create unnecessary security worries such as storing cash and moving it to the bank.

What other benefits are there?

The scheme automatically claims any eligible Gift Aid and passes it onto the church every month. Members can also opt to increase their giving in line with inflation each year.

Is PGS only for taxpayers?

No, anyone can use the scheme to give to their church providing they have a UK bank account.

How much does it cost?

They say ‘the best things in life are free’. That is actually the case with the PGS – there is no cost to parishes.

When can my church sign up?

Now! We are looking for parishes to participate in the February introductory phase prior to a full roll-out in summer 2018.  If you would like your parish to get involved, please contact Samantha Lee at Cuthbert House today.

All resources are available via the Diocese of Durham website – click here. 

Building the Kingdom

With a new calendar year comes a new financial year. If you’ve yet to put a financial plan in the place, here are some tips inspired by Luke 14:28

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.”

When Jesus talked about building a tower he wasn’t exactly talking about church budgets. Jesus was talking about the cost of being a disciple; a follower of Christ. We are advised to ‘think things through before we act; think about the consequences of our actions’. Surely this sound advice relates to all aspects of our lives, some may even call it common sense!

Certainly it is sensible then to be taking the same approach with our church finances.  If we are to ensure local mission and ministry continues, we need to estimate expenditure and think about how we resource God’s vision in our communities today and into the future.  After all, if we do not plan before we embark on that church extension, are we risking reputational damage or even ridicule if we fail to see it through?

A good way to plan is to set a church budget. Whether you’re completely new to budgeting, are familiar with a spreadsheet or have already jotted down some figures on the back of the latest church bulletin, this article looks to help with the fundamentals.

So what is a budget?

A budget is an estimate of income and expenditure over a specified period of time.  A budget serves as a statement of intent, of purpose and priority and should reflect the church’s mission.  It is a roadmap for the church in numbers and communicates how ministry will be provided.

What is the intent?

The way a local church uses generous gifts indicates its priorities and mission. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)  Only when priorities are clear can a suitable budget be prepared.  The priority may be as simple as resourcing and maintaining local church ministry at current levels, or if the church is planning a new missional activity and funds are required, a budget for growth may be needed.  The benefit of a budget is that you can make these decisions early on instead of resourcing initiatives on a ‘first come, first served basis’.

vision

What is coming in?

Estimate what the income will be for the year. Look at income from previous years, is it a growing or declining trend? Where does most of the income come from? How much of this income is guaranteed? There is no point in drawing up a budget with increased PCC fees if weddings and funerals are declining.  If there is an increase in Sunday service attendance, it would be reasonable to estimate an increase in voluntary contributions to the church.

What is going out?

Estimate your expenses in the same way. It is best to break them down under headings. Again, review last year’s expenditure. The following headings may be helpful:

  • Parish Share
  • Church running expenses – insurance, maintenance, utilities
  • Mission giving and donations
  • Staffing costs – wages, social security and pensions
  • Governance costs – Independent Examination fees, PCC training

How do we draw up the budget?

Pull together your estimated lists of income and expenses, this is a quick and simple way of creating an initial draft. Make any adjustments for the rising costs of things like gas and electricity caused by inflation (the general increase in prices and the fall in the purchasing value of money). This type of budgeting is known as ‘incremental’ budgeting.

Be mindful with an incremental method as we don’t always want to recreate the past. Alternatively use a ‘zero-based’ approach; this means listing and reviewing all costs rather than referring back to the previous year. This method helps to justify all items of expenditure in line with the church’s priorities.

number crunching

A budget is usually prepared by the Treasurer but is approved by the PCC as Trustees who are ultimately responsible. It is important that whoever prepares the budget remembers to speak with all those involved to make sure that nothing is missed and everyone is mindful of the church’s priorities. Also consider other factors that may affect the finances: is there a loan to repay and could repayment costs increase? When is the boiler due for replacement?  It is best to also keep a note as to why a particular number was recorded, it might seem obvious at the time but you might forget six months later.

Consider building in some contingency in case things don’t go to plan. This could mean limiting expenditure early in the year until you get a clearer picture of how things are going.  The budget should also be prepared in a format that is used to report to the PCC on a regular basis.

We have a budget, now what?

Now you have your budget approved, check the actual numbers against it on a regular basis (for smaller churches quarterly might suffice if the finances are going as planned). Monitoring actual numbers against the budget and checking differences or variances will help alert you to any issues and enable you to ask questions. For example, have you spent more or less than planned? Have all income and expenses been included?

If the numbers don’t go to plan always remember to look at the church’s priorities and prayerfully discern what action to take.  Always inform others and don’t ignore the problem. At the end of the year any surplus, the money ‘left­over’, forms your unrestricted reserves.

Further guidance is available from our friends at Stewardship.org: Financial Planning and Budgeting for Churches.

KEY POINTS

  • A budget enables us to exercise our duty of care before society and God. It is a focus of faithful stewardship, gratitude and accountability.
  • The responsibility for the budget belongs legally and spiritually to the PCC as Trustees.
  • If we don’t plan or plan without allocating resources, then we face potential ridicule and decline.
  • Ultimately we cannot invite people to give generously if we have no idea of the cost of ministry.

Finally, if your church doesn’t have a standard financial accounting package with a module for budgeting, below is a excel spreadsheet template. The templates can be used for headline budgeting or more detailed and longer term planning as needed.

Excel Budget Template