What are your church’s hidden assets?

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Do you know your church’s assets? I hope your congregation has a balance sheet, showing the assets and liabilities. But that’s not what I mean here.

I spoke to a group at the Oregon Synod Assembly (ELCA) this weekend about James Hughes’ ideas about family capital. Hughes is an attorney who helps families with governance and wealth preservation. His ideas apply to families of modest means just as much. Hughes says that extended families have several kinds of assets:

  • human capital – every member of the family is part of the capital of the family
  • intellectual capital – everything every member of the family has learned is also part of the family capital, through life experience and education
  • financial capital – and families have tangible financial resources to a greater or lesser degree.

Just like families, most churches have more than we think we have, not only financially but in other ways. When we claim our real resources, we’ll have a firmer foundation for ministry now and into the future. And we will realize we need to steward not only our finances, but also our people and their learning and growth.

Churches have human capital: not only our members but the extended community of people connected with our church, people who attend, community supporters, extended family of members, and those who attend groups in our building. That capital stretches across the generations, a rich resource for old, young, and in-between.

Churches also have the intellectual capital of the huge range of life experiences of those who are part of our community. I heard Steve Oelschlager, Stewardship Program Coordinator for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America speak this weekend about his life as an entrepreneur. His pastor suggested he consider taking a job with the wider church. He’d never considered it. Steve asked the question, “How do we get people who have the potential to lead to connect their professional skills, talents, and insights with the opportunity to make a difference through the church?”  I know there are assets within our congregations that we aren’t even beginning to touch.

And of course, we have financial capital – and we might consider that the untapped financial resources of people within our churches are part of the capital. Sometimes people don’t give because we don’t ask them. Or they are giving to nonprofits who do know how to ask, but they’d be happy to give more to the church or to a special church project. All we have to do is ask.

What assets can you see in your church that you haven’t noticed before?

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