Seedbed http://www.seedbed.com Gathering, connecting, and resourcing the people of God to sow for a great awakening. Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:27:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 110238651 3 Foundational Tips for Senior and Youth Pastors from a Youth Worker http://www.seedbed.com/3-foundational-tips-for-senior-and-youth-pastors-from-a-youth-worker/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=3-foundational-tips-for-senior-and-youth-pastors-from-a-youth-worker http://www.seedbed.com/3-foundational-tips-for-senior-and-youth-pastors-from-a-youth-worker/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:01:21 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com/?p=64168 One of the challenges I find in writing an article about any given topic is figuring out how to avoid a tone of “yeah, I got this,” and yet also not hem and haw about it and waste your time (and mine)! Nearly every practical concern in ministry is always a work-in-progress. We never “get there.” As much as I want to, I have learned during these past thirty years of vocational ministry that I can never sit back and rest on my laurels.

Those tricky parameters apply today as I briefly explore the question of how to introduce young people to Wesleyan theology. I bring this up as someone who has been recruiting and training college students and young adults as interns since 2009, and worked in direct youth ministry for twenty-seven years. What I am finding is that nearly every intern candidate I meet with has a very poorly formed understanding of theology in general, and if they come from a Wesleyan tradition, essentially no ability whatsoever to articulate any distinctives of their theological heritage. Mind you, 99% of my recruits come from Christian colleges!

In my experience, most young people who have grown up in the church have not been invited to grow their faith up past the goldfish-crackers-and-apple-juice simplicity of childhood Sunday school. In other words, as their classes at school advance into physics, economics, literature, foreign language, AP World History and calculus, they are not given equally robust and developmentally-appropriate concepts in their faith. I have called this “feltboard Christianity.”

I think this contributes greatly to a departure of young people from the church as they enter adulthood — just google “millennials leaving the church” if you want to get depressed. Much of the faith education they have received does not provide an infrastructure for them to think through the big questions they face in college and beyond. So I would like to share a few ever-evolving principles I am working on with other pastors and leaders to root our young people in theological and philosophical foundations that will hopefully help them walk into adulthood as earnest, thoughtful followers of Christ:

1. Preach robust Wesleyan grace and doctrine from the pulpit.

I am relatively new to Wesleyan faith practice, having worshipped in independent churches for the first twenty-five years of my faith. As I work within my own Free Methodist denomination, I am saddened to often see that many people I meet in our churches have either never even heard the word “Wesleyan” from the pulpit, nor could they articulate much in terms of what that theological lens brings to their own spiritual formation. I start with this point because the majority of discipleship should be happening in the home as parents transfer their faith to their kids; yet parents cannot do this if they are not well-versed themselves.

2. Commit to hiring theologically-trained youth pastors.

This is where much of the breakdown comes. I do not have hard and fast statistics, but anecdotally I would report that about 75% of the youth workers I have met over the years have not received formal, advanced theological training, that which has been traditionally provided through seminary. There are a world of reasons for this, but I want to assert that churches MUST commit to having the pastors that train up their youth have as much training as the pastors who teach in their pulpits every Sunday. If it does not happen, I see most youth ministries devolve into too many wacky games coupled with simplistic do’s and don’ts that do not integrate into the larger developmental needs of adolescents. This will require financial investment, but it is necessary.

3. Dig into church membership.

This may or may not surprise you, but I firmly believe a key addition to every church youth ministry should include a process of invitation to church membership. In the Free Methodist Book of Discipline (2015), “at age sixteen youth members may be approved by the local Board of Administration for adult membership. To be admitted as adult members, they must answer satisfactorily the questions for adult membership before a public meeting of the society.” (Paragraph 6120) With some of our youth pastors I have been developing and dreaming up a spiritual formation plan that starts in junior high and carries students into a “confirmation class” of sorts that equips them for a decision regarding membership. Try to envision what exciting and empowering things might happen if young people are invited into the core mechanisms of church life!

I could add a few others, but this can get the conversation started (I hope!) I took the title for this article from 1Timothy 4:12, where the Apostle Paul counsels his young disciple Timothy in leadership. We cannot call our young people to “set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” if we do not provide the tools for getting there. I will spend the rest of my days pressing into this crucial priority of spiritual formation and leadership development for the church. Will you join me?

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Helping Students Make Connections within the Church (Episode 91) http://www.seedbed.com/helping-students-make-connections-within-the-church-episode-91/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=helping-students-make-connections-within-the-church-episode-91 http://www.seedbed.com/helping-students-make-connections-within-the-church-episode-91/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:00:17 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=64415&preview=true&preview_id=64415 This week we are joined by special guest Sam Halverson to talk about the importance of helping students make connections with people in your church and not depending only on their relationship with you as a youth pastor.
You can connect with Sam at sam.halverson@ngmumc.net, and find his book at youth cartel.com.

Click here to subscribe via iTunes.

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Hope, Healing, and Incarnational Ministry http://www.seedbed.com/hope-healing-and-incarnational-ministry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hope-healing-and-incarnational-ministry http://www.seedbed.com/hope-healing-and-incarnational-ministry/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=64507&preview=true&preview_id=64507 Hiding in the back corner of his small tin hut, Abdullai has water and food brought to him each day by his little brother. 24-years-old and living in the shadows of a village in the Republic of Congo, Abdullai only comes out at night. His neighbors think he is cursed. What appeared 12 years ago as little more than a pimple on his lower jaw has now grown into a tumor the size of a football. With little money and no access to healthcare, this otherwise healthy young man will eventually die of suffocation as the tumor slowly presses further and further in on his windpipe.

When she was just 19 years old, Sandrine’s husband abandoned her after she miscarried their second child. With no maternity clinic or midwife available, Sandrine’s small body simply could not handle the prolonged labor. As a result, a small tear (known as an obstetric fistula) formed, leaving her incontinent. Unable to control her own urination, Sandrine now lives alone in shame. She survives by digging through the trash in her riverside village on the island nation of Madagascar. Her only hope for her future is that she can find some scraps of food to eat and some bits of metal to try and sell at the local market.

Does Jesus know about Abdullai? Is He aware of Sandrine’s situation? In Luke 19:10, Jesus said that He has “come to seek and to save the lost”. But wait – was that just a one-time event, or does He still come today? Does Jesus still seek those who need His saving touch? Did the Incarnation end with Jesus’ Ascension, or is His Spirit still incarnate today?

An all-volunteer staff of doctors, nurses, and aid workers from around the world arrives at the port of Pointe-Noire, Congo. Their vessel is the m/v Africa Mercy, a ship with five operating rooms and a 70-bed hospital onboard. Their mission is to follow the incarnational model of Jesus, to come to the world’s forgotten poor, in-person, and share the miracles of hope and healing with them in Jesus’ Name by providing free medical care.

A small field team of nurses reaches Abdullai’s village on the third month of their tour in Congo. He is brought back the ship where he receives a life-saving surgery. After 6 weeks of recovery and physical therapy, Abdullai’s tumor is gone. But his smile has returned, as has his opportunity at a fuller life.

Six months later, Sandrine’s aunt hears on the radio that a hospital ship is coming to Madagascar. Sandrine sells the last of her few possessions to afford the three-day journey by canoe down to the port city of Toamasina. When she arrives, Sandrine is welcomed by Amy and Natalie, two Mercy Ships nurses who are working at the local patient evaluation center. Three days later, Sandrine boards the Africa Mercy, where she receives a dignity-restoring surgery. After four weeks in recovery, Sandrine is given a brand-new dress as a symbol of her healing, and she is released from the hospital along with 11 other women. As they walk off the ship, they are singing and dancing in celebration that they are dry for the first time in years!

This is the incarnational ministry of Mercy Ships. Each year, the lives of about 2000 people like Abdullai and Sandrine are forever changed by a free surgery they receive aboard our hospital ship. While the surgeries transform them physically, it is the love of Christ flowing through the lives of the ship’s Crew that transforms our patients spiritually. There is no charge, no fee, no strings attached of any kind. Just love, genuine friendship, and world-class medical care – all freely given, which can only be freely received.

Mercy Ships is but one branch of God’s world-covering incarnational tree. The love of God is demonstrated by the incarnation of God’s people deployed all over the world! Following Jesus’ example, we come in-person, and we seek out the hurting and the desperate, to freely offer a saving touch in His Name. You are part of that Incarnation. Wherever you are is a place where the Spirit of Christ can be incarnate through you! The promise of God in Acts 2:38-39 is that when we place our faith in Him, He places His Spirit in us! And in Romans 8:11, God declares that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is alive and at work within us!


Nick Cash is a regular contributor to Soul Care Collective.

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Saint Thomas, Not “Doubting Thomas,” Preaches the Gospel in India http://www.seedbed.com/saint-thomas-preaches-the-gospel-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saint-thomas-preaches-the-gospel-in-india http://www.seedbed.com/saint-thomas-preaches-the-gospel-in-india/#respond Sun, 04 Dec 2016 11:01:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=64213&preview=true&preview_id=64213 St. Thomas is commonly known in the church as “Doubting Thomas.” Let me tell you the rest of the story. All of the Gospels record a final, Great Commission of Jesus to His disciples. In John’s gospel he records those powerful words of Jesus to His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).

However, John records that Thomas was not with them that evening (20:24). When Thomas heard about the appearance, he famously declared that unless he saw the nail-scarred hands of Jesus and put his finger into them and into His sword-pierced side, he would not believe (20:25). Because of this declaration, Thomas has become known as Doubting Thomas. It seems that the church has sometimes forgotten that one week later, when Thomas himself saw the risen Lord, he made the most powerful declaration of the deity of Christ found in any of the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!” (20:28).

Although there are important traditions surrounding the ministries of all the apostles, we will focus this highlight on the St. Thomas mission to India, which is one of the oldest and strongest traditions in church history. The earliest record of the mission of Thomas to India is found in an early manuscript known as the Acts of Thomas, which dates around the turn of the third century. This manuscript records a dramatic moment where the eleven apostles all gathered in Jerusalem and divided the known world into various regions. They then cast lots to determine where each of them would go. India fell to Thomas. According to the account, Thomas objected, saying that because of his “weakness of the flesh” he could not travel. However, Christ appeared to him in a vision and promised to be with him.

Thomas eventually traveled by ship to India along one of the well-established trade routes to India, arriving in AD 52. He preached the gospel in various locations in India and finally suffered martyrdom in India and was buried near modern day Chennai. Although the Acts of Thomas has problems, many historians accept the basic historical nucleus of the account. The Western tradition has a number of corroborating references, and there is also archaeological evidence from India, as well as an independent Indian tradition that chronicles precise numbers of people healed from various diseases and maladies and detailed accounts of those who were converted, including what caste they were from. These sources also give a rich description of the circumstances around the martyrdom of Thomas.

The specific details of these traditional accounts are not nearly as important as the core historical claim that, even if we cannot speak with certainty regarding any of the details, St. Thomas brought the gospel to India in the first century.

This vignette from mission history is important for our study for three reasons.

First, the Thomas tradition highlights the multi-directional mission of the early church. This tradition represents the oldest documented account of the church in Asia beyond the borders of the Roman Empire. Paul’s missionary journeys, as recorded in Acts, detail the movement of the gospel further into the West. There is no parallel account to the book of Acts that tells the story of the gospel’s advance into the East. Therefore, very few Christians who read the book of Acts realize that at about the same time that Acts 19 records the apostle Paul preaching in Ephesus, the apostle Thomas is preaching the gospel in India. The book of Acts is not intended to give us a comprehensive picture of the entire early Gentile mission, but rather highlights the spread of the gospel to the seat of the Roman Empire. It is important for you to realize that, from the beginning, the spread of the gospel was multi-directional.

Second, the tradition of Thomas also underscores the importance of recognizing the multiple layers of Christian tradition that are often present in Asian Christianity. The apostolic tradition of Thomas is but the first of a series of initiatives into India. The apostolic tradition of Thomas is followed by the arrival of Syriac Christians bringing an Eastern liturgy in the fourth century. This is followed years later by major Roman Catholic initiatives beginning with the arrival of Francis Xavier in 1542. Later, India receives Protestant missionaries with  the arrival of the Lutheran missionaries Ziegenbalg and Plütschau in 1706. These are all examples of distinct traditions, all of which coexist in India until the present day. Diverse expressions of Christianity arrived at different times in different parts of India, and they all interacted in various ways, not only with the Hindu traditions, but also with the various Christian traditions as well.

Third, the presence of Christianity in ancient India also highlights the difficulties in speaking without qualification of Hinduism as the “indigenous” religion of India. Some accounts of Christianity in India leave the impression that Christianity in India is a movement that coincides with the British colonial presence in India. It should be remembered, however, that  the early religious forms of what is today known as Hinduism came from migrating Aryans who originated outside of India. There are many people groups in India who were Christians for centuries before the British presence in India.

In conclusion, the Thomas tradition reminds us that although the apostle Thomas may have come to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ a week after the other apostles, he went on to become one of the greatest cross-cultural missionaries of the first century. We should not keep calling him Doubting Thomas. Instead, we should call him “Believing Thomas” because he not only gives us the most explicit declaration of the deity of Christ in the Gospels (“My Lord, and my God!”), but he ends up bringing the gospel farther than any of the other apostles and even gave his life as an early Christian martyr. What a great story! If you have had a difficult chapter in your life, as Thomas did, don’t stop believing that God still has a wonderful plan for your life!

how_god_savesIf you enjoyed this article, you’ll enjoy the forthcoming book, How God Saves the World: A Short History of Global Christianity by Timothy Tennent. Rather than exploring the history of global Christianity through a long series of countless names and events, Timothy Tennent presents this remarkable journey in the three-act model of a true epic play. This is the perfect succinct, storied history of the global christian movement that honors and illuminates indigenous churches and their lasting impact on the kingdom of God. You can pre-order your copy from our store here.

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Some Special Things That God is Doing in the World http://www.seedbed.com/what-god-is-doing-in-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-god-is-doing-in-the-world http://www.seedbed.com/what-god-is-doing-in-the-world/#respond Sat, 03 Dec 2016 12:00:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=64470&preview=true&preview_id=64470

God is on the move in unique ways throughout the world, even if the stories don’t always reach the West. In today’s interview, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon shares special stories about regions such as the Middle East and North Korea.

View more videos in this series with Jo Anne Lyon:
Wesleyan Women Every Christian Should Know
Caring for the Least of These Is Every Christian’s Call
Fresh Challenges Facing the Global Church
What It Means to Be a Follower of Jesus
The Work of Justice and the Church
The Greatest News Ever

View all of our video interviews here.

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Family Discipleship (Episode 30) http://www.seedbed.com/family-discipleship-episode-30/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-discipleship-episode-30 http://www.seedbed.com/family-discipleship-episode-30/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=63709&preview=true&preview_id=63709 Listen as Jeremy Steele sits down with Winfield Bevins to talk about Family Discipleship and the importance of discipleship beginning in the home.
Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship is available at seedbed.com.
You can find out more information about Winfield on his website, winfieldbevins.com.

Subscribe to the New Room Podcast on iTunes!

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Celebrating Advent as Family http://www.seedbed.com/celebrating-advent-as-family/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=celebrating-advent-as-family http://www.seedbed.com/celebrating-advent-as-family/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=64427&preview=true&preview_id=64427 Every year, my family and I look forward to the different seasons. As I write this, my family is getting ready for Christmas. We have begun to develop our own family traditions, like getting our Christmas tree, baking cookies, and reading the Christmas story together. Each season brings its own unique rhythm, weather, traditions, and memories. Spring, summer, fall, and winter can be powerful reminders of the seasons and rhythms of the spiritual life. The Christian life has different seasons, just as nature has seasons. Each of these seasons remind us of the multidimensional nature of discipleship.

The early church began to remember the various themes of the gospel of Jesus Christ by celebrating different seasons of the Christian year. By the fourth century, churches in the Holy Land began to develop liturgies to mark the days of Holy Week and Easter at holy sites to commemorate the life and death of Jesus. Pilgrims began to travel to Jerusalem to participate in these ceremonies and eventually brought the practices back with them to their countries of origin. Today, many different Christian traditions continue to place an important role on remembering the seasons of the Christian year.

The church year involves an annual cycle of seasons including Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary. Each season has its own unique set of prayers and themes that center on the gospel of Jesus Christ and prepare us for our journey of faith. Here is a quick overview of the seasons of the church calendar and their meanings that will help your family celebrate each season in the home.

The season of Advent marks the beginning of the church year for Christians all over the world. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (December 24). During Advent, we prepare our hearts for the mystery of the incarnation by focusing on the virgin birth and the faith of the Virgin Mary, the shepherds, and the wise men.

Advent is my favorite season of the Christian year. I love the colors, sights, and smells of the season. Advent reminds us of the mystery of the virgin birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Here are a few ideas to help you celebrate the season together.

1. Make an Advent wreath with your children. Making an Advent wreath can be fun and easy. Each week there is a different candle, scripture, and prayers.
2. Make a Jesse tree, which is a depiction in art of the ancestors of Christ.
3. Set up or create a nativity set with your children. One of the simplest ways to remember the Christmas story with your children is to enact the Christmas story by setting out a nativity set.
4. Visit a nursing home and sing carols to residents.
5. Take some time to make homemade decorations and decorate the Christmas tree together.
6. Shop and give gifts to a child or a family in need.
7. Go caroling in your neighborhood with your family or other church members.
8. Take a night and talk about what Advent means to you.
9. Read the Christmas story together from the Bible.
10. Give a gift and change a life by sponsoring a child or giving an animal or a micro loan through an organization like Compassion International or World Vision.

If you’re looking for more help in re-discovering a time of family worship, check out my new book, Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship.

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Church Leader Voices: Joe Castillo http://www.seedbed.com/church-leader-voices/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=church-leader-voices http://www.seedbed.com/church-leader-voices/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=61151&preview_id=61151 Church Leader Voices highlights the work of church leaders in a variety of ministry settings from around the world. 

Artist, author, pastor, entrepreneur—all these words describe Joe Castillo. Yet, none of them adequately encompass his versatile skills or his passion for encouraging others.

Creative from childhood—his mom claims his first solid food was a Crayola Crayon—Joe has continued to nurture his artistic roots, using sand as his medium to communicate truth. His latest artistic venture, called Sand Art, is a live-art presentation performed to music and projected for a stunning visual effect.

In the past seven years, he has performed for presidents, kings and dignitaries in 45 states and 23 countries. He also reached the finals on America’s Got Talent.

“Sand happens to be one of the most abundant materials on the face of the earth,” Joe said. “God often used sand as an illustration of abundance. The Scriptures tell us that Christ stooped and wrote something of great significance in the sand.”

Using his artwork, Joe speaks, inspires, motivates and relates ‘life story’ applications that have touched the hearts of thousands of children, teens and adults. Ironically, his adventure in creative storytelling began with a trip to the store for mulch.

While walking through the store, Joe discovered a bag of sand that had spilled onto the floor. People had scuffed through it, leaving images behind.

“I got home with the mulch, but I also had a kitchen light fixture, table legs and a bag of sand,” Joe said. “Using this makeshift light table, an overhead camera and a couple of handfuls of sand, I began creating powerful, fluid illustrations that were projected on a screen for the audience to see.”

Since then, he has developed a number of “live art” presentations that use intricately crafted illustrations to teach Biblical truths as they unfold. The most famous of these is the Face of Christ. In this piece, a number of illustrations depicting Jesus’ life combine to create a larger illustration of the Savior’s face. His artwork has been sold worldwide and has touched the lives of hundreds of people. Stories of the lives impacted by his artwork have been compiled in a book entitled The Face of Christ.

Joe Castillo shares practical advice based on his spiritual and creative journey as an artist, pastor and encourager.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started your ministry?

  • Spend less time judging people’s theological affiliation and more time listening to their story. (Ask more questions)
  • Save the memory of the times God works in you and Share them with others (Keep a Journal)
  • Give your best time to God, your wife and your family. (In that order)
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
  • Remember, it ain’t about you.
  • Don’t give satan too much credit for your mistakes.
  • If nobody is following, you are not leading.
  • If people say nice things about you, just say thank you, and let it go at that.
  • Be thankful always. Like really thankful.

For more information about Joe or to read other voices, click this link

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10 Tips from the Advent and Christmas Series http://www.seedbed.com/10-tips-from-the-advent-and-christmas-series/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=10-tips-from-the-advent-and-christmas-series http://www.seedbed.com/10-tips-from-the-advent-and-christmas-series/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2016 11:01:32 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com/?p=64252
  • When telling stories, get to people’s emotions through their bodies. Let the church experience the pain of contractions, the tightness of shoulders, the soreness of muscles and bones after days of travel…
  • Reach out to those living with mental illness with Blue Christmas services or Longest Night services.
  • Craft Incarnational worship and outreach by taking services and events to local restaurants, fire halls, mall centers, nursing homes, and hospital community rooms.
  • Slow down. Breathe deeply. Eat mindfully. Consider this daily reader for Advent preparation.
  • Plan for a few stop days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
  • What pop culture songs are currently playing that can be given Advent meaning and hope?
  • The Wesleyan Church has produced sermons, readings, and lessons for adults, youth, and children. FREE.
  • Let the Holy Spirit open your mind to the disempowered who are present in your community who can be empowered.
  • Do progressive decoration of Christmas through Advent to symbolize waiting and preparation.
  • Try the Family Advent Candle in your worship gathering.
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    Does More Mean Different? Philanthropy and its Effects on Religious Institutions http://www.seedbed.com/does-more-mean-different-giving-trends-among-high-net-worth-households-and-the-effects-on-religious-institutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=does-more-mean-different-giving-trends-among-high-net-worth-households-and-the-effects-on-religious-institutions http://www.seedbed.com/does-more-mean-different-giving-trends-among-high-net-worth-households-and-the-effects-on-religious-institutions/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2016 11:00:57 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=63462&preview=true&preview_id=63462 high-net-worth-1Recently, U.S. Trust released its 2016 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy analyzing the giving patterns, priorities, and attitudes of America’s wealthiest households.1 The sixth in a series of biennial studies, it was researched and written by our colleagues at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Within the study, high net worth households are defined as those with a net worth of $1 million or more (excluding the value of their primary home) and/or an annual income of $200,000 or more.

    Focusing on high net worth households is also an important subset for nonprofits and religious leaders to explore. First, these high net worth (HNW) households give to charity at much higher percentages (91%) than the general population (58.8 %), according to the Philanthropy Panel Study data on giving in 2012. HNW households give not only in higher percentages but also on average higher dollars amounts ($25,509 in 2015 compared to $2,214 by general population households). HNW households also volunteered at higher percentages in the past year (49.7%) than the general population (25%). With perhaps more discretionary income and time, as well as increased solicitation, there are many reasons for HNW households’ higher levels of giving and volunteering. For the sake of this article, though, we will focus on exploring the motivations, values, and giving decisions of these specific HNW households and how they impact nonprofits.

    I offer four takeaways from this article for nonprofit and religious leaders wanting to effectively work with high net worth donors.

    Takeaway #1: While the percentage of those giving to religion may be declining as affiliation and attendance patterns change, it remains at or near the top in most other measures.

    high-net-worth-2First, they give at much higher percentages to secular causes than the general population (88.3% compared to 49.7%). Even so, their religious giving (narrowly defined as predominantly religious congregations, denominations, and missionary societies) still outpaced the general population (49.6% to 36.4%). Across the board in recent years, the percentage of HNW households that give has decreased slightly, but giving to religion has decreased in greater numbers. The study’s authors believe that their ability to include younger and more diverse HNW households in this survey help explain slightly lower levels of giving. Younger donors might help explain the decrease in religious giving as higher percentages of pre-boomers are religiously unaffiliated. Across all generations, however, we know that religious affiliation and attendance (often the strongest markers for religious giving) have declined, and may partially explain the decrease in religious giving.

    high-net-worth-3Yet despite the decrease in the percentages of HNW households giving to religion, it remains second only to basic necessities as the most common recipient of reported giving. With many other faith-based charities categorized in other sectors (such as health, education, or youth/family services), it is clear that religious giving remains significant. In fact, while almost half of all HNW households reported giving to religion, it made up the largest distribution of HNW dollars given (36.1%). While a few large gifts can skew this percentage in any given year, religion’s place at the top demonstrates that of those that give, their religious giving plays a central role in their giving portfolio.

    Takeaway #2: The more a donor knows, the more they give and feel fulfilled, but they often rely on the nonprofit to communicate. It is even more essential for our nonprofits to be clear about their mission, as well as demonstrate impact and deepen relationships with donors.

    When asked about their motivations for giving, HNW donors overwhelming claim they give:

    1. where they believe they can make a difference;
    2. when they believe in the mission of the organization;
    3. where they derive personal satisfaction.

    At the same time, the study demonstrates that donors derive more satisfaction from their giving and give more when they are knowledgeable about the organization, issues, and impact of their giving. While a significant minority of HNW donors are explicitly tracking the impact of their giving, the large majority still receive the bulk of their information from the reporting of the nonprofits themselves.

    Takeaway #3: Personal values are central to individuals’ giving, but they are often left unexplored by individuals and their larger families. A nonprofit’s ability to build meaningful relationships, encourage donors to discern how their giving reflects their values, and develop these conversations throughout the family is key to their fundraising success and may allow you to distinguish your nonprofit from many others.

    While testing motivations on why they give, the survey also asked HNW donors how they chose the cause or organizations to support. A majority of HNW individuals (75.8%) pinpointed their personal values as central – higher than their interest in the issue area (64.2%) or even firsthand experience with the organization (55.1%). Donors do claim a personal relationship with someone in the organization as key, but how these individuals discern their values, or how they discern how organizations align with these values, is not explored. In a fascinating set of questions, the latest U.S. Trust report demonstrates that most HNW donors have not linked their giving with their family and family traditions. Many lamented their lack of connection between their family and their philanthropy.

    Takeaway #4: Religious giving may be declining among younger generations as institutions evolve, but religious nonprofits should look to their assets: 1) engaging donors around discerning their values; 2) highlighting impact around issues over focusing on organizations; 3) encouraging donors of all ages to engage personally in the work at hand.

    While there are numerous other takeways to highlight, we will only note one more about the future of HNW household giving. Younger HNW donors were most likely to say that they would increase their giving over the next few years. They responded that they were more interested in issues over organizations. At the same time, they claimed to find more fulfillment in their giving and volunteering than older generations, and they were more successful in engaging their families in giving practices and traditions.

    Focusing on motivation and meaning, communicating clarity of mission, and demonstrating real impact may be the best lessons that religious nonprofits can learn from trends in HNW household giving.

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