Leveraging Stewardship For Kingdom Expansion | Meagan Brown of MortarStone

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Meagan Brown shares how MortarStone is working with churches to be more engaging with their donors and leveraging their stewardship.

Podcast Transcription


Jason Hamrock: Today, I’m speaking with Meagan Brown. Meagan works for Mortarstone, and I’ll let her tell you what they do. But Meagan is extremely knowledgeable in church stewardship and giving, she’s an expert. And Mortarstone, they work with hundreds of churches in this area of giving and of stewardship, and they’re working with churches on how to be more engaging with their donors. And you might not think this is an important topic to watch, but let me tell you, I think churches need to take giving, and online giving, and stewardship, and data around giving, very seriously. The transfer of wealth in our country over the next decade is immense, and you need to think differently. If I were to told you back in February that starting in March, no churches in our country will be able to meet in person for months to come, you would have thought I was crazy. Well, I’m telling you that you just can’t keep doing online giving, or giving in general, like you have in the past. Times are changing, so I’m really excited to have you hear from Meagan. Enjoy.

Jason Hamrock: Well, hey, I’m here with Meagan. Meagan, how are you today?

Meagan Brown: I am really good, today is a good day. It’s not Monday, so it’s a good day. And we could call it Tuesyay, and you put yay at the end of anything and it makes you feel good.

Jason Hamrock: Well, thanks for joining us today. So excited about this particular topic, because it’s close to my heart. When it comes to generosity, and stewardship, and just helping churches or para-church organizations get better in this space and in the church absolutely needs it. Especially in this time of where we are, here we are in September of 2020 in the middle of a pandemic, and churches have, all of them have had to switch and kind of change gears or pivot. And so this concept of giving, is really real to them right now because people are not in their building for the most part. So first of all, talk to me a little bit about Mortarstone. What is the mission of Mortarstone? What is it you do to serve churches?

Meagan Brown: Absolutely. Well, thanks for letting me share. So Mortarstone is really a three part company, and we start with an analytical framework of saying we need to start to inspect what we expect. And so that’s really the heartbeat of how Mortarstone was founded is saying, let’s take a look at this thing called giving, and the precious men and women who are attached to it, the givers, and let’s see if we’re really doing what we think we’re doing well. Let’s analyze it and see if we’re doing it well. Are we measuring things that are important, and are we able to put some framework around that to say, man, we expect this, are we inspecting it to make sure that it’s hitting on all cylinders? So we do analytics.

Meagan Brown: The second thing that we do as a company, is we do professional engagement consulting around how to do giver development strategies, and generosity and stewardship ministries, as it relates to the three big ways a church can fund all the things that we have to do for ministry. So the three big things would be how are we going to reach our annual funding goals? How are we going to reach all of our capital needs that we might have for buildings, or renovations, or capital projects at large? And then how are we going to create long term sustainability funding, to where we’re able to grow as a church and not have debt, but be able to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community? So we do things from an analytical framework. You know, we look at things through a truth lens, and then we apply the spirit, so spirit and truth. And then we look at things through how can we coach to these, through these specific strategies? Though giver segmentation, through those three major areas that need to be funded.

Meagan Brown: And then the third thing that Mortarstone does, is gift administration, so that attaches to long term funding. But we help the end giver to meet their desired needs of their heart for what God has placed on them. You know, there are these men and women who have the gift of giving, and they want to see big things happen. And so we help them to meet, for lack of a better term, their philanthropic goals through the local church. Which truly is the heartbeat of what we’re called to do as a church, is fund the gospel, and so we help to attach those givers through gift administration to see those needs met in the church.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, wow. Yeah, I mean, you guys are onto something here. Because I mean, obviously when Jesus, in the Gospels, he talks about money more than…It’s an issue with people, right? Money is a is a vehicle, but it can be one of those things where it can really take you the wrong direction. So it seems like you’re, in such a critical time, helping churches understand how to be a better steward to their people. On helping them learn generosity, learn stewardship, learn about the tithe, learn about the offering, and using this data is really, really important. What are some like? OK, now we’re in this season right now with COVID, what are some best practices churches can use right now to connect with their…Because you can’t connect with people one on one, right? So you got to work on doing it digitally speaking. Any ideas?

Meagan Brown: Absolutely. Well, number one, if you have givers who are starting to give for the very first time, those are the biggest, that is the biggest group of givers segmentation that you can reach out to. Because what we’ve seen as a trend, is that overall, most churches are up in their general fund budget, but it’s coming off of the backs of a few, from their top giver constituents. New givers are not coming in because the doors aren’t open, and so that we know there’s no way that new givers can even start to give if it’s not talked about during the sermon, or the offering moment, or the prayer. Or there’s not a place that’s flashing on the screen, or an on demand button where they can learn more about what’s happening at the local church, in this area of giving. What the church is doing during this time.

Meagan Brown: So the number one thing that a church can do during this season, is connect with their new givers, if any of them have started to give. If you have them, and by connecting, you need more than one strategy. So it can’t just be reach out to them and thank them, or send them an email.

Jason Hamrock: Is it okay to ask new people to give?

Meagan Brown: Absolutely, if you believe in what you’re doing as a church, and what you’re doing is impacting your community, your city, and ultimately your overall vision for church, that hasn’t changed. Your vision for the church should not have changed just because of a few months, you still have a goal to do ministry for the people who are coming to the church, or attending online. You still have a goal for your community, for your city, and for your outreaches. And that goal is something that we are better together at, when we unite together, we’re better to lock arms and give towards those things together than we are trying to do it individually. So asking people to give towards the ultimate goals of funding the Gospel of Christ, and helping with ministries, is something that we should not be ashamed of doing.

Jason Hamrock: Well, and I kind of learned this in my days working in the church, and I felt like if we did…Sometimes, we didn’t want to ask because oh, no, this is just for people who call this their home church. But what I learned through a good friend of ours, Dave Briggs, was we were robbing people of their opportunity to worship God. Even if they don’t have a relationship with us, and they don’t say that this is my home church, by not allowing them to participate, you taking something from them. And to me, that was a lesson I learned going, wait a minute here. What are we doing here? We’re actually causing them not to rejoice and praise God for what they’ve been blessed with.

Meagan Brown: Absolutely. I think that we have to be aware during this season, as a church, that we have the most important thing that we are working to fund. And non-profit organizations are never, ever, ever, ever afraid to ask for you to support their mission. Whether it’s the local animal shelter, or the homeless shelter, or the Red Cross, or whatever, they’re not ashamed to ask or to say you should be joining this mission. So believers and unbelievers are constantly giving towards those missions, but we have fifty-two weeks a year where people are seeking our services, and now the online viewership is probably going through the roof. People are wanting to attach themselves to what’s true, and authentic, and real, and that is the hope of Jesus Christ. And so if we can ask them to join that mission, even if they’re not a believer yet, they still will be able to be excited about seeing somebody’s life be transformed, or a single mom be given a car, or a child be given a laptop so they can work virtually from home. I mean, people want to celebrate other people, so we get to do that as a church.

Jason Hamrock: So talk to us about what churches, how transparent should they be when they’re talking to new maybe even younger families that are perhaps a little bit more sophisticated, not necessarily sophisticated, but they want to learn. They want to know what they’re giving is going to. What can churches do to be more transparent in that space?

Meagan Brown: Well, certainly you need to be highlighting those things through stories, video stories, that you’re sharing, impact of lives being changed. Those are things that should be displayed on the give page on your website. Those should be the videos, they should be stories or links, there should be testimonials. There should be opportunities to be able to say this is what we believe as a church, and then this is how we’ve accomplished that as a church body. So those are some simple ways to be able to think through that.

Jason Hamrock: And then when you work with churches, I want to go back the data analytics part, what’s a typical story that you hear when you work with a church. Like when you’re digging into their data, what’s one thing that pops in your mind that this always happens to this church, and what they can learn from? What’s something that we can take away, with learning about data?

Meagan Brown: Communicating your story is going to be the biggest opportunity that you have. And we know that as believers, but if you’ve not communicated your story well to the masses, you’re only going to be funded by a few. And then there discipleship gaps when it comes to finances, that we need to be able to shore up for people who have maybe never learned, or have learned incorrectly about what the Bible has to say when it comes to money. And so something that I see inevitably, all of the time, most churches, is that they are funded by a few and not by the masses. And so if the masses, which we would consider, we call these things bands, levels of which people are giving at to support the local church. If your bands four and five are the ones who are carrying the heavy load of the general fund budget, then we have a discipleship problem on the opposite end. There are people who are either not discipled well when it comes to the area finances, or they’re strapped financially. And either one of those things are things that the church should care about helping their members, and givers, to do better at. So we care about many other things, we care about marriage, and kids, we care about jobs, we care about all these other things. But this is one of the number one areas that people get into trouble with, and it can cause a lot of shame, guilt or condemnation, none of which are of Jesus. So if we can disciple through that, then we’re able to help put those people on a pathway to their relationship with God in that area.

Jason Hamrock: So, what’s a success story from a church that comes to your mind of how, yeah, we started working with this church, and they started to get it. And while you’re thinking of that, I often, when I talk to churches, we kind of stay in the lane of church growth. But see, to me, this is a huge area, a part of church growth, is helping somebody understand what biblical stewardship looks like. And it always, when I look at what churches are preaching on, hardly ever do I see a sermon series on money. It’s just like churches just don’t go there very often. And I don’t know why, maybe pastors are afraid to talk about it because maybe their own personal finances aren’t in order, or the church’s finances are a little out of whack. So what should, how often should a church be talking about the idea of money? And then what is the success story that Mortarstone has been a part of with a church, where they totally got it. And when they went from here to there, you know, in their journey of working with you?

Meagan Brown: Yeah, for sure. Well, so the success story is one thing. And then please remind me, the other part of the question was?

Jason Hamrock: Well, just the idea where how often should the church be talking about money, even from the pulpit?

Meagan Brown: Ok, well, I have to believe that our vision has to be funded, right, as Christians. So does our vision ever not need to be funded? No, so then should we be talking about it? Absolutely. We have fifty-two weeks out of the year to be able to share the vision and the needs, to paint the picture, to paint the success. So there should be something, not completely in your face, we don’t ever want to feel like we’re fundraising. Fundraising is never fun, right? And being fund-raised, it makes you feel icky, and you almost feel like grateful when you’re through with the project. Like, whew, I’m done with that. Well, no, we need to be faith-raised, we need to be excited. So when we’re talking about money, it should be almost as like the air that we’re breathing. When we talk about it, money affects every area of our lives, every person’s area of their life every day. And so we, as a church, need to embrace that and share with them biblical principles and truths. And it doesn’t have to be a sermon series every single week, but there are things you can do communicating the stories throughout the week, or the needs throughout the week, or through the ministries, or highlighting the impact of the stories. And that needs to be done on a very consistent and regular basis, it’s part of transparency and authenticity. And those two things need to be easy to get to, and especially in the digital age in which we live. You’ve got to have your website ready to be able to share what you believe about this area, what you’re doing to support through all those amazing ministries that you have, the needs that there still are to be met, and then the future of where we’re going. So we always want to celebrate, and paint a success story for the future.

Meagan Brown: Thinking about a success story, with somebody who we’ve been able to really work with and anybody who we work with, it’s just a true, genuine opportunity to say thank you, Lord, for allowing us to go miles deep and wide with your precious sons and daughters. Because it is just talking about this area is like opening up a deep spot in your heart and saying, like, here’s my stuff, you know? So a success story would be that one of the churches that we started working with on an analytic basis, realized the true need for new givers and being able to not only reach out to them one time, but to be able to reach out to them throughout the consistency of an entire year. So they went as deep as having a twelve month strategy for connecting with those people who had given a very first time gift ever, and their retention rate went through the roof. And this wasn’t in a small church, this is about a three and a half to four million dollar church. It was a single campus location church, which is even more like, oh, wow, your retention went through the roof. And they got to where they had a fifty percent retention rate with first time givers at the end of the year, and that’s incredible because what we typically see is that the retention rates are somewhere for first time givers, anywhere between 18 and 30 percent. And so this church grew to a fifty percent retention rate over the course of a year, developing out a strategy to be able to share the story, and the impact, and the successes, of what was happening with the dollars that were being entrusted to their care.

Jason Hamrock: Hmm. Sounds like just putting forethought into, and thinking and implementing those strategies that Mortarstone has, pays for itself time and time again. Because you’re bringing, not only are you getting people to buy in with their money, their hard earned money, and giving it to the church and investing in the church. But now you probably have a family that’s there for a lifetime, they are bought in. So, yeah, that’s huge, that’s really impressive.

Meagan Brown: Well, it’s not an easy button, right. It’s not like the easy button that you can press, it does require work. And with givers you’re planting seeds, and those seeds have to be watered and cultivated before you’ll ever see a harvest of fruit from them. So it’s worth it, it’s worth the effort if you’re willing to go forward with it. And it will take time, but you will reap a harvest from those seeds which you’ve sown.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. And one other thing you said I thought was was really important, and that is your website. So often you go to a church website and there’s a give button, you click on it and it basically just takes you…It’s just a transaction. Like you go to a page where now you can enter in, you can log in or you can enter a dollar mountain hit send, and you’ve just did a transaction. But that was a money transaction, that wasn’t a spiritual transaction, if you will.

Meagan Brown: Yes.

Jason Hamrock: And I don’t know if I’m saying that right. But what I am saying though, is I like it when I go to a church website, I hit the give button and I see here’s where your money is going towards. We had this many baptisms, we had this many salvations, we had this many impacts with our local schools, whatever that might be, this many outreach opportunities. You know, all the different things that the money’s going towards, that really gets…I get excited, I’m not even, I’m just checking out your church because we work with churches all over the country, and I get excited about your church just by seeing the results. And I know those are just numbers, but that number represents a human, a child of God, that’s been changed for the better. And so before I even want to give that gift, you’re cultivating me to change my heart. And I think that, I didn’t make that connect the dot, until you just said that. That actually is really powerful thing.

Meagan Brown: I think that most people, Jason, would…And your website should try to address this. Is that most people, even Christians who give, would say, I understand that God owns it all, God owns everything, but are we living that way? Does your pocket, does your pocketbook, does your checkbook, does your app, does it follow that? Do you really, are you practicing what you believe? Not practicing what you preach, are you practicing what you believe? If you believe that God owns all of it, are you living that way?

Meagan Brown: And how to give, the way that you said it, is a money transaction. Yes, that is what most churches have gotten really good at doing. And please don’t hear me wrong, we have to be able to do that in a society in which we live, in the culture in which we live. We have to be able to have quick, easy, accessible ways to give. But how to give shouldn’t be, is it from your bank account, your credit card, your cash, your check, your e-check? Yes, those are practical ways. But how to give should be more along the lines of, how do I give out of the abundance of which God has entrusted me with? How do I give this back? How much is enough for me? And then God, where is the rest of it supposed to go? And that’s what you’re giving website should be working towards, is teaching people what you as a church body, as the leaders, as the pastors, and the elders, and the ministers, this is what we believe. We believe in this, and this is what we’re doing with it. How much is enough for us as a church? How much is enough for us as individuals? And then how do we live our life out to give it away, rather than trying to acquire items on the balance sheet, how do we give those things to the Kingdom of Heaven?How do we give them to the men and the women, the sons and the daughters? And explaining those things is a spiritual transaction of how to give, not a practical transaction of how to give.

Jason Hamrock: Wow.

Meagan Brown: And I know I’m on the bandwagon here, but I have to say this too. How to give, if we’re going to address how to give from cheque, or cash, or ACH, or credit card, then we also need to be able to address how to give from the assets in which we have we have accumulated over the course of our lifetime. How do we give to be able to say, this was a boat that I had and I’m selling it, and maybe the Lord would have me to sell it so that I can give the dollars to the church and avoid a taxable consequence. We’ve got to be smart about how to give from those things too.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, yeah. You know, and it seems like we’re obviously in a new day with COVID. I don’t know if it’s ever, there’s a new normal in sight and whatever that’s going to be, churches have to pivot, and I think this is one of those areas where they’ve had to. In fact, we had a lot of churches reach out to us going, hey, Missional Marketing, can you help me with my website and create an online give button? I’m going, how did you not have this before COVID? But you didn’t, okay. So it’s caused every church to have to pivot. I think now, more than ever, a church has to continue to look towards the future and make more pivot’s in this area of of giving. And in really, in my opinion, leaning on Mortarstone to help navigate that water. Because I think a lot of churches just, they haven’t really thought through it all the way. So what would you recommend a church does first to engage with you guys, and how do they go about doing that?

Meagan Brown: Well, the first thing that they would do to engage with this would just simply be to, you can reach out to me by email. Or you can go to our website, and we’ve got a help, like an automatic chat button that you can chat in with somebody like, hey, I like to speak with somebody right now. And we can get you connected immediately to be able to set up an opportunity to meet with. If you want to look at an analytical overview, that’s really an easy place to start. And so you can do that by simply going to our website, filling out a demo request form, or typing into a live chat. Or you can even email me personally, and I’m happy to give my email here at the end of this time. We are here to help support you. So that’s the first thing.

Meagan Brown: And then the second thing to want to really think through, though, is what is it that we’re doing as a local church, as an individual church body, that is worthy of us wanting to display our case for people to give their money to. What is that? And so you have to start to wrestle with those questions. Most churches have really good vision or mission statements, but what are you doing with it? And then, how are you funding it? Great, so we have a vision and mission statement. We want the power, presence and purpose of God. Or we want to experience church, and find community, and give to the world. Like you probably know your mission statement, but what are you doing to fund it? And what are you doing to see the impact of the lives being changed, and sharing that? Because it all takes money to be able to fund those things, and so we have to make that pivot, and that click in our mind on that regard.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, you said this before too. And my days before this, in the fundraising world, was building a case for support. And so in the para-church, or in non-church non-profit world, that’s a key term. The case for support. The case for why somebody should support your mission. And I think, churches, we just we’re not very good at that at all.

Meagan Brown: No. And it’s almost like you feel like we can’t, because that feels like fundraising, and that’s just silly. Like, that’s just silly. Like, no, that’s a good business practice, and we have to be good, we should be the best businessmen and women that there are. So don’t shy away from building your case for support, you nailed it earlier. You’ve got baptisms, and salvations, you’ve seen lives transformed and changed, the marriages being saved, and kids getting delivered, and sex trafficking being stopped. And we have reasons to celebrate and continue to ask for support, so that more of that can take place.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, that is the church’s case for support.

Meagan Brown: Correct.

Jason Hamrock: And most churches go, I don’t ever really talk about that stuff, you know, once a year. Not good enough, because what are the other 51 weeks that you’re not communicating that.

Meagan Brown: And by and large, in a virtual environment, you are being, now you’re being infiltrated with people saying, well, I’m just really not being able to connect with my local church any longer, so I’m going to go find a different church. And we have to be able to have this concept down, we have to be businessmen and women minded, with a Christ heartbeat. So, you know, think about all the businessmen and women that Jesus pulled as his first disciples. I think about Matthew, the tax collector. He managed money, and then he saw Jesus radically shift that view. He was a businessman, and then he was able to use it for the glory of the kingdom of heaven.

Jason Hamrock: He encountered Jesus, that’s the name of the game. Wow. Well, any last thoughts?

Meagan Brown: I think the only last thought that I would say, is that the shift of the church for the next decade is truly going to be the transfer of wealth that is happening in America right now, and really across the whole globe. And if we do not have a reason to be supported, if we don’t have a clear, defined plan, if we don’t have transparency and authenticity, if we don’t know how to administer gifts or ask for gifts, if we don’t know how to build these pieces out as a church, and then communicate that well through all mediums, then we will see that by and large many church doors will shut and that would never be the heart of the kingdom of heaven. And so we have an opportunity of a lifetime, that we should take advantage of during the lifetime of the opportunity, to start to dig in on how to do these things well as a church. So the church should be the church, they should be the recipient of the gifts to do the ministry for the people. But you still have to have business practices to be able to to receive those things, and have the gifts be transferred so that the ministry can take place, and that’s what Mortarstone really wants to seek to help you to do. The church is the hands and feet of Jesus in mobilization, and you’re really good at doing that. You need somebody to help you administer those gifts from the givers, so that you can see more impact in your church first, your community second, and then the world at which the Lord has directing you towards.

Jason Hamrock: Well said. And church, I’m telling you, you’ve got to, you don’t want to delay on this one. You know, every day that goes by, you’re already behind, right. So if you’ve not put your efforts into this, and maybe don’t have a stewardship, Pastor, you’ve got to take this step. And so I highly recommend you connect with Meagan, you connect with Mortarstone. Meagan, thank you so much for your time and your insight, extremely valuable. I appreciate you.

Meagan Brown: Thank you for letting me be a part of it today, and bless all of you, and all the work that you put your hands to.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks so much. Alrighty, take care.

Jason Hamrock: Thanks again, Meagan, such great information. Now, hey church, if this isn’t your area, you don’t oversee giving, or you don’t oversee stewardship, or anything financial at your church. That’s OK, pass this podcast on to those that do. They’re going to learn about this, and they’re going to learn something new, and they’re going to bear some fruit from this conversation that Meagan and I got to have. And so I encourage you to do that.

Jason Hamrock: Second, I encourage you to go check out Mortarstone, go to Mortarstone.com. If anything, take that free church health audit, it’s absolutely worth it. And I guarantee when you do that, you are going to learn a thing or two, and your future of your church really depends on how you’re going to pivot to become better at this thing called giving. So until next time, God bless.

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