How to Deliver a Tough Talk

Public speaking can nerve-wracking. Am I talking too quickly or too quietly? Am I too close to the microphone… or too far away? Then there’s all those faces staring at me. And what about the ones who have already nodded off? Delivering a speech isn’t easy, and it can be even tougher if the subject is money, and you’re the treasurer! Read on to find out what to say, and how to say it well.

I recently had the pleasure of listening to a talk at the end of a service that was delivered by a member of the congregation; the parish treasurer. He was sharing information on parish finances, ahead of a large parish-wide annual meeting at Stranton church, Hartlepool.

And I was pleasantly surprised!

This talk, in different circumstances, could have been awful. It could have been only about the facts, only about deficit and hardships and the need to “get more money in”. It could have been devoid of hope and the Gospel message. But thank God, this treasurer had worked hard with the incumbent to prepare a clear and honest speech that inspired, informed and encouraged. Yes it was about the accounts, but it put the mission of the church at its centre.

He has kindly allowed me to share this with you (I’ve removed some specific details), which I hope you might find a useful resource in the future, especially if you yourself are a treasurer who dreads these annual talks. Here’s how one treasurer got it right.

“As we come towards the end of our teaching on Generous Giving [the vicar] asked me to give a Treasurer’s view on the practicalities and possibilities of Parish Finance in the ministry of Stranton Church.

Of course, our recent teaching has covered generous giving in the widest sense, including prayer, voluntary service, and financial giving, all being parts of our response of faith to the good news of Jesus Christ.  By spending a few minutes now talking specifically about Church Finance I don’t want to downplay the importance of committing ourselves and our time in prayer and voluntary service.

But as Treasurer of Stranton Church I have a particular responsibility to present the finances of the Church in a way that informs members about how our giving directly supports ministry, and can enable us all to better respond in a planned and generous way, knowing that everything we are and everything we have comes from God, and this how we should respond in accordance with the teaching that we have received.

The Church Accounts for 2016 are currently in preparation and will be presented at the annual meeting in April.  In this preview summary of our main sources of income and the ways in which they are being applied, I bring this to you today as an opportunity for prayerful and planned review of your financial support.

If you are a visitor to our Church I hope you will not mind being patient for these few minutes

Just under half of our total income as a Church comes from the regular planned giving of members.  Through Loyalty Scheme, Envelopes, Bank Standing Orders, and Payroll giving.   This amounts to over £x a year, or £x per week.   On top of this, the amount receivable through Gift aid Tax claims was over £x.  In 2016 we also received over £x in bequests which was unusually high, and was the reason for us being in financial surplus, which we will be carrying forward to help meet the cost of renewal of the Church’s lighting in 2017.

We also received lesser but useful amounts of income from open plate collections, appeals for specific mission support, Fees, Signpost Magazine sales, and other sources including insurance claims and an organ recital.  St Matthew’s Community hall generated external income from lettings and other fundraising that more than covered its costs.

These other sources of income certainly helped us to run our buildings and make investments in mission, but the principal use of funds was in meeting our Parish Share payment to the Diocese to meet costs of clergy stipends, Training, Housing and diocesan support which committed one third of our income.  Our next biggest calls on finance were the pay and pension contributions of Lay worker and part time administrator.

We also supported local, home and overseas mission with £x in payments of various kinds including costs of Youth For Christ team. The materials used in services, overheads of Burbank Church, Messy Church and heating lighting and maintaining of the Church building cost a similar amount again.  We also met the out of pocket expenses of staff, upkeep of Clarkson Court and a small staff training budget.

Provisionally we ended the year with a surplus of around £x but this would have been a deficit if we had not received the two generous bequests.

If our income does not rise in 2017 we would certainly be heading for an overall deficit and as we do not hold large reserves to sustain that for long, we would have to decide what areas of ministry we would cut back on.  Our challenge for 2017 is to meet above inflation increases in Parish Share contributions, fund any pay increases for our lay worker Clive and Administrator Trish, and meet the additional the cost of our quinquennial building inspection.

As Stranton is an Anglican Church, there may be some lingering tendency for us to think that somehow our costs are met from endowments and external funds, but the reality is that our investment in mission in this parish is now funded directly through the generosity of members.

If our ministry is going to continue to grow and thrive we all need to review our giving regularly – a problem with standing orders is that they are a bit “File and forget” –they can continue unchanged for years if we don’t actively look at our giving.  But regardless of the method, planned prayerful giving means we should respond with the first fruits of our lives rather than the loose change in our pockets.

So in addition to thanking the members of this congregation who have been loyal and regular financial supporters in the past, I also present something of a challenge to us all, to respond to the love of Him who by the power at work within us does far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, so that to Him may be Glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus, now and for all time.”

If you want to know what the money you contribute to church is spent on, click here.

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