A Chemistry Conversation with Chris Stovall
Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, talks with Chris Stovall, Senior Generosity Strategist at Generis, about how vital it is to recalibrate your church's vision so it can continue to grow. God wants to do a fresh new thing in every one of His churches. We can't let fear stop us from moving forward and being effective hands and feet of Jesus in our communities.
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Matt Steen: Well hey, it’s Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing. This is another Chemistry conversation. Today I’m excited to be joined by a friend, Chris Stovall. Chris is a Senior Generosity Strategist at Generis and prior to that was a pastor for several years, was a banker, but has just really stepped into a season where he’s helping a ton of churches figure out their generosity strategy now and into the future. So Chris, thanks for taking some time to talk, man.
Chris Stovall: I’m excited to be here, Matt. We’ve been friends for a long time. I’m excited about what you’re doing at Chemistry and excited that you’d invite me to be a part of this.
Matt Steen: This is great. So Chris, we’ve been having a ton of conversations with people that are serving and working in churches just about what they’ve been learning. This season has been like no other in that we have learned so much about church, both good and bad. But tell me a little bit about what you’ve been learning in this season about the church.
Chris Stovall: Well, what I’ll do. I’ll speak in my lane, if that’s fair. So I’ll just stay in my lane of giving and where my ministry is. I think going into this pandemic what I saw was, in a lot of different arenas for churches and pastors, is there was fear. Like, what are we going to do? Are we going to be okay? And specific to the financial side of things, the giving side of things, are we going to make it? Is this going to be like 2008. The stock market crashed in 2008 and all the reverberations that came out of that. Or is this going to be like 9/11 where there was an epic event and it caused the reverberations that caused fear and cancer. And I think when this pandemic happened, a lot of churches are like, are we going to make it? And there’s a lot of businesses quite honestly that didn’t make it. But what happened for the church is I think the church found out - and what I saw, and what I learned - was the people in our church are much more resilient than we think. And our people in our church are much more open that they will rally if you rally them. I came up in the age of seeker sensitivity, that whole movement in the church of seeker sensitivity. And I think what happened was is we got so - and I’m not saying it was bad. It was a good thing. But then we let it creep over into other things. Like one of the things I do with my clients is, I do an “if” audit. And I tell them, let’s do an if audit. I want you to mark down in your Sunday service every time we say the word if. If you’d like to be in a small group, if you’d like to give, if you’d like to this, if you’d like to that. And the problem is every time you say the word “if” you create an offering. Like, I don’t want to be in a small group, and you use the word “if,” so now I’ve got the offering. What happened with the pandemic is we weren’t saying “if.” We need you. We need you to help us, and the people responded. There was no “if.” What we learned is people were glad to do it. They were excited. They didn’t feel oppressed. They didn’t feel anything except excited to rally for their church. And I think the biggest thing I learned in my lane was, where I have pastors tell me, “Our people just don’t like us to talk about giving.” Well, pandemic showed you the opposite. If it’s put in the right context, if it’s laid in the right foundation, people don’t mind for you to talk about giving. And they’ll even embrace it and they’ll run towards it if it’s approached in the right way.
Matt Steen: Yeah, and we’ve seen that in a lot of ways too. Just the sheer number of churches I know that in the last 12 months have leaned into online giving platforms and things that they had resisted for years and years and years for who knows why. And suddenly you’re watching as people respond to that really well, right?
Chris Stovall: For instance, I just did a, not a super intense, but an evaluation of all my clients that I work with and their giving, stewardship, campaigns, generosity, all that stuff. The range of those clients just in terms of their budget, where they started in 2020 pre-pandemic, and where they landed, the range was somewhere between 93% and 108%. That was the range. Some of them exceeded their budget because their people rallied and their people were open to that. In many ways, they woke people up. Here’s the other thing. I work with a variety of different clients. I had some clients who were challenging me, “We don’t need online giving. We don’t need this, we don’t need that. Our people aren’t going to online worship. We don’t need online worship.” All this stuff we don’t need, and then the pandemic said, “Nope, we’re going to bring this right to the forefront. You’re going to have to do this.” I can’t tell you how many clients are calling me in a panic, “Hey, who do I call? I’ve got to get online giving going. I’ve got to get this going. How do I promote this?” And it just recalibrated a bunch of churches, and you wonder if the Lord doesn’t use challenges in our lives to totally recalibrate the church and especially those that maybe were behind. And He just said, “Nope, I’m going to use this. I’m going to work all things for the good of those who place their faith in Me, and I’m going to use this to recalibrate you for more work I want you to do in the future.”
Matt Steen: That’s cool, that’s cool. So we’ve been learning all of this. As we look to the future, how do we capitalize on everything we just learned, and what do our pastors and church leaders listening to this need to be thinking about as we lean into the coming season?
Chris Stovall: Well, I mentioned his name before. Dave Travis. Dave Travis and I have done some things together. Dave Travis is a leadership guru. If you don’t follow Dave Travis, do yourself a favor and go follow Dave Travis. He’s knows more about leadership than most people know. He and I were doing a few things together, and he talked about that this fall in the recovery - so he talked about the post-pandemic recovery, that this fall is a key for every church in America. And really, every church in the world. We’re talking to people in Australia. We’re talking to people wherever. That this fall is key. You and I have talked about this before, Matt. I don’t like anything with this phrase “new normal.” Anything with “normal” in it, I’m sick to death of it. Some people may turn me off now, but I don’t even like it. It just irritates me because here’s the thing. God wants to do a fresh new thing in every one of his churches, and this fall is going to be key. As we launch especially into 2022 and into the foreseeable future of the next 2-3 years ahead for each church, there is a calibration or a recalibration point for every church this fall to say this is who we are. We’ve been through a refiner’s fire, this is who we are and this is where the paradigm of our ministry is and how we’re going to be the effective hands and feet and voice of Jesus in our community for the next 2-3 years and to lay that vision out this fall. For me and my lane, I think it’s also a perfect opportunity because people have just come off of a season where they have a deep appreciation, they have a high value towards giving. So I’ve got a lot of clients who are calling me and saying, I want to align that with a giving initiative where we do this all in one deal. I want to recalibrate the vision of where we’re going this fall, and then I want to align that with how we’re going to resource that vision. But more importantly, how does God want you to continue to grow in your giving? How does God want you to establish that growth that He brought in this pandemic? How does God want to entrench and establish the growth that many people showed in their giving? How do we establish that and how does that change lives in the future?
Matt Steen: And to be clear, I like that you’re using the word “growth” when it comes to giving because this isn’t just about budgets right. So often, the financial piece is always the silent partner of how we do ministry and how we do the day-to-day at church. But what I think we forget so often is that the financial piece is the silent partner of discipleship too because so much of our spiritual growth really relates to how we deal with our finances. It almost sounds like you’re encouraging church, hey, we got brave over this last season and actually went there and started talking about the uncomfortable stuff with money because necessity. But now instead of it being necessity, let’s actually lean into this as spiritual growth. Am I putting words into your mouth?
Chris Stovall: No. You couldn’t be running with that flag any more boldly. I’ll give you an example. When a church talks to me about doing a generosity initiative and they set some financial goal. They want to raise a $1 million, $5 million -
Matt Steen: And this isn’t just for buildings, right?
Chris Stovall: Just whatever. In fact, most of my clients aren’t building or buying anything. They want to expand ministry, so they need an infusion of capital or they need increased giving in order to expand the ministry strategies they want to do. We’re not buying or building any capital. So they’ve got some amount of money they want to raise. They set some goal. Let’s just pick an arbitrary number. Let’s just say it’s $3 million. And this is what I’ll challenge the pastor with is I’ll say, “Pastor, somebody comes up to you and says” - because they want to think it’s about the money, what you just said. “So pastor, somebody writes us a check for $3 million. Do we still do this?” And I’m like, “Pastor, what are you going to say?” Because if it’s about the $3 million, then you know in the back of your head, I don’t know if we’re going to do this because I don’t want to risk the collateral it’s going to cost me to lead people through a giving initiative. That’s the wrong mindset. Because the primary emphasis of any generosity initiative should be 100% engagement, 100% participation, all of us doing this together, every person in this church coming and saying, “God, what do you want me to do” and then do that. Versus what we normally do. “God, I’ve decided what I’m going to do and I want you to bless it.” Those are two different things. Those couldn’t be further apart. So it’s a matter of if the goal of this initiative is to challenge every person to come in front of a holy God and say, God how do you want to grow me? How do you want the truth of Malachi and all the other promises of scripture, how do you want me to take you at your dare and see what you’ll do. Because go back to the $3 million. If it’s about 100% engagement, 100% participation, and somebody’s going to write you a check for $3 million, then we’re only figuratively speaking 1% to our goal. Because this is about everybody engaging. This is about everybody growing. And here’s the thing - so somebody writes us a check for $3 million. If you think that God doesn’t have $5 million, $10 million, $20 million worth of vision for our church, then you need to come correct. Because God’s got more than $3 million vision for your church. He’s got infinite plans for your church. So cool, we’ll take your check for $3 million and then we’ll raise another $3 million. And let’s see heaven get populated to a greater degree because of this. And let’s watch people grow in the Lord because now they’ve taken a step closer to their savior. I tell churches all the time, if you press my shoulders against the wall, client’s I’m working with, and I’ve got to make a decision and it will help you raise one more dollar or it will help grow your cultural generosity and help people in your church grow spiritually in the area of generosity, I’m going to go with the latter every single time. Because raising you $1 is handing you a fish. Helping someone grow spiritually in their generosity, that’s teaching them to fish.
Matt Steen: That’s awesome, that’s awesome.
Chris Stovall: You saw me get passion. You stirred me up. I don’t know why you did that.
Matt Steen: Preacher’s got to preach, right?
Chris Stovall: That’s how it goes.
Matt Steen: Well Chris, man, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate what you’re sharing. I’m going to drop your contact information down below this, but if people want to reach out to you, what’s the best way to find you, Chris?
Chris Stovall: Well email is always the best to find me. Just email Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org. But I would love to talk to them, and it doesn’t cost anything to talk to me. And it may be that you don’t need my help. It may be that we just need to have a conversation, and it may be that you need my help. But either way, I’d love to have a conversation and see how I can help them do better.
Matt Steen: Well Chris, that’s great. Thank you so much. Again, I’m going to drop your contact information down below. And seriously, what I love about Generis as a whole is you guys are really church focused and not necessarily just about raising money so you can build a building or whatever. It’s so much more about developing discipleship, and I know that’s your heart in particular. It has been your heart in the church ministry that you’ve done. And coming into this season, its’ more about pastoring and developing people into who God has called them to be as opposed to let’s build another building or put another stained-glass window into something. So Chris, thank you so much. Grateful for your wisdom, grateful for your willingness to share your insight with our tribe.
Chris Stovall: Thank you as well.