By Joe Isenhower Jr.
Since 2009, more than 200 people have enrolled in the LCMS Foundation’s “Lifetime Plan for Giving” seminars. Through those seminars, they learn how to help others practice biblical stewardship and generosity with all that God has given them.
“It is our core belief that God has placed a desire for generosity within each baptized believer’s heart that longs for expression,” said Philip “Phil” Meinzen, director of Training for the Foundation, who developed the seminars and is a regular instructor for them. “We encourage those who come through our classes to guide and direct stewards to discover and act upon that God-given gift.”
The Foundation seminars are for anyone — from “the seasoned development professional to the novice,” Meinzen said. He emphasized that this includes anyone who wants to lead others in biblically-based stewardship planning that results in experiencing “the joy of giving” as they plan and direct how to distribute earthly treasures among family members and the ministries they choose to support, even after they die.
Seminar participants include “folks from all types of ministries,” said Allen Helms, the Foundation’s senior vice-president for Gift-Planning Services, who added that they might include “development staff or volunteers, directors of Christian education, Recognized Service Organization executives and foundation officers, lay leaders, pastors, financial advisers and congregational stewardship-team leaders.
“Each wants to grow in their effectiveness to lead a ministry organization in establishing gift-development and gift-planning initiatives,” Helms said. “They come to learn how to discover the significant way in which the LCMS Foundation links Christians with giving opportunities for and with them. Participants leave encouraged and equipped to further their learning in the area of generosity. They also have comprehensive charitable expertise and services available to them through the Foundation.”
Complementing ‘core competencies’
The training program “complements the Foundation’s core competencies of gift planning and trust and investment custodial services to help fund the mission of the church and her affiliates,” Helms said. “The vision of the foundation, ‘Every Christian with a Lifetime Plan for Giving — Today, Tomorrow and Forever,’ is possible only with such collaboration and partnership.”
Meinzen initially developed the seminar curriculum in 2004, while on the development staff of Concordia University Wisconsin, at Mequon. Since adapting it for the Foundation five years ago, he has led seminar sessions, along with other Foundation staff members and outside experts and consultants.
That curriculum, with an emphasis on gift planning from a biblical perspective, “provides the most comprehensive look at the field of gift development in the Synod,” Meinzen said. “And it helps build the confidence of the learner to understand and be able to encourage others and work in this environment.”
The seminar’s first two courses are introductory and lead to participants earning a “Christian Stewardship Associate” (CSA) certificate. Those courses are “intended to help participants become more acclimated by teaching biblical-stewardship principles and applying developmental services and processes as they work with individuals and groups,” said Meinzen.
The next two courses focus on gift planning and endowments, leading to the “Christian Gift Planner” (CGP) certificate.
And at the end of the two final courses — “more heavily weighted toward development work, major-gift giving, annual giving and the infrastructure of an office” — the Foundation offers certification as a “Christian Development Executive” (CDE).
All course sessions typically take place at the LCMS International Center. The next two times that the entry-level “Course 1” is scheduled are Oct. 1-2 this year and June 16-17 in 2015.
Before attaining either the CSA or CGP certificates or the final CDE certification, a guided field-experience practicum is required, when a participant develops and completes a project, processes an actual gift and describes his or her field experience during an oral interview.
Making development successful
“Certification says to the church, ‘these folks know how to drive and facilitate a successful development operation,” Meinzen said.
LCMS Foundation President David Fiedler told Reporter that “the training offered by the LCMS Foundation allows us to carry out the charge given to us by the Synod as one of the reasons for our existence: ‘to provide estate-planning services, material and training events … to assist [people] throughout the Synod in consummating gifts.’
“Simply put,” Fiedler continued, “we are working through these classes to equip people with an understanding of the stewardship principles and technical expertise to perform planned-giving activities on behalf of their organization, no matter where they are in the church.”
Several of those who have participated in the Foundation training shared what they consider to be particularly valuable about it and said that they would recommend the training to anyone considering it.
Craig Toerpe of West Bend, Wis., completed all three levels of the certification in 2010 and is “very proud of that accomplishment.” With the Christian Development Executive certificate, he is currently director of Stewardship & Gifting at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend. He also is a guest instructor for the Foundation’s “Lifetime Plan for Giving” seminar series.
Toerpe began the course work when he was director of the Annual Fund and Student Relations at Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW), in Mequon, where he served from 2005 to the end of 2009.
“The LCMS Foundation Training gave me the tools and confidence I needed to sit down with families and not only address one’s ‘annual’ gift to CUW, but options for supporting those institutions that are near and dear to them through a complete and comprehensive charitable-gift plan,” he told Reporter.
At St. John’s, he said, he is “actively meeting with families to discuss what it means to live a life of stewardship. I have the opportunity to break down the misconceptions of the word ‘stewardship’ and help families see their vocational roles as pivotal in their walk of faith.”
Toerpe said that a phrase he has been using at St. John’s is “stewardship is discipleship and discipleship is stewardship. You cannot have one without the other.”
Benefits: knowledge, relationships
Toerpe related that “initially, the main benefit of the training was gaining the knowledge and tools to speak with confidence and to demonstrate to people how to create a Lifetime Plan for Giving™.”
“But the benefits are so much more than that,” he added. “The relationships that I have created with the LCMS Foundation staff and the resources that are available to me have allowed St. John’s to continue to live out ‘stewardship is discipleship and discipleship is stewardship.’ ”
The Rev. Paul Hoyer is senior pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Lake Mary, Fla. He completed the Foundation training and earned the CDE certificate in 2012.
While he was in the training, Holy Cross received a $100,000 grant from Thrivent Financial. For his field-experience practicum, he put together a development plan for the congregation’s use of the grant.
“We’ve been working on that, and working toward that,” Hoyer told Reporter by phone, as he explained that the congregation’s strategic plan includes goals of starting seven daughter congregations, engaging 10,000 people in active ministry, achieving the highest recognition for its school and realizing $5 million in deferred legacy gifts — all by the year 2020.
Presently, Hoyer said, the congregation has four additional worshiping sites and has identified more than $1.5 million in legacy gifts.
To help meet the legacy goal, Holy Cross has engaged LCMS Foundation Gift-Planning Associate Robin Paris in a shared, part-time arrangement with the Foundation.
Hoyer said the Foundation training “really made me aware of the possibilities for deferred giving — how people could plan for legacy gifts, and how they could be able to do more than they thought they could do.”
“That was the unexpected part,” Hoyer said — “the idea that even if you think you have nothing, you still can do something.”
‘Really good people’
Hoyer added that those he and his congregation have worked with at the Foundation “are really, really good people who have been very helpful. … You can call and ask them a question, which they’re always very good at answering about virtually any situation that we may have. It’s been very, very, good.”
Becky Pagel of Chesterfield, Mo., applied her Foundation training first for St. John (Lutheran) Church in Ellisville, when she was the congregation’s director of Development for several years, beginning in 2010. She said that since she was “new to the development field” when she accepted that position, she heeded her pastor’s suggestion to take the training.
She earned the Foundation’s CSA certificate in 2012.
Since 2013, Pagel has been on the staff at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, where she is its Congregational Connections manager in Advancement and Communications.
“The training I received in biblical stewardship was really helpful to my work at St. John and is now helpful for me at the seminary,” Pagel said.
“Before I took the training, I really didn’t know much about what the Bible says about stewardship and generosity,” she continued. “The training helped me see what God has to say about it and how we give not out of guilt, but out of joy. I also learned so much about development. … The principles of biblical stewardship that we learned help keep perspective [for] fundraising.”
She said that the “biggest surprise” for her “was the wide range of amazing people I met throughout the training,” adding that she still keeps in touch with many of them. “Classes were always lively. I so appreciated the insights and experiences that people were willing to share.”
‘Advancing the kingdom’
“It was so encouraging to see the level of commitment the instructors and participants had to advancing the kingdom,” she said. “They weren’t just hopeful about the future of the church; they were working hard within their own organizations to make sure there was a plan to make it happen.”
Bill Burmeister of Lansing, Mich., earned the CGP and CDE designations in 2011. He has been on the staff of LCMS Michigan District Church Extension Fund since 2009, and works with congregations and church members as a gift-planning counselor.
“I am having a wonderful time meeting with pastors, congregations and families to encourage them to complete their estate planning, including gifts to ministries that are important to them,” Burmeister told Reporter.
“Since my background was in pharmaceutical sales and then financial planning,” Burmeister said, “the Foundation training was very helpful with filling in some of the gaps in my experience. The training reinforced some of my beliefs while also exposing me to great ideas that I could incorporate into my work in the Michigan District.”
He said that in addition to “learning about the basics of development and gift planning, by far the greatest benefit was the relationships that grew during the training,” particularly with LCMS Foundation staff members.
Burmeister also observed that “it is very fulfilling to know that the LCMS Foundation provided me with the tools needed and the continuing support to make a difference in the kingdom by helping ministries and members complete their plans to care for family, while including gifts they had never before considered providing for those ministries that make a difference in their lives. It’s helping them leave a family legacy that benefits ministry, but also provides a great example to other loved ones.”
Capacity for support
Foundation President Fiedler noted, “People who have been to our classes say, ‘Wow, what capacity we have in the LCMS for supporting these ministries of the church,’ and they are so excited by that. They see that people want to be generous and in this training they’ve been equipped to help LCMS members do just that.”
“Those who have completed the training courses “see that they can show others how they can use their earthly possessions once they’ve gone to heaven to both take care of their family and leave a legacy with ministries they care about and love,” he said. “And they then are just so excited to fill a need in the church.”
For more information about the LCMS Foundation’s “Lifetime Plan for Giving” seminars, visit lcmsfoundation.org and click on “Gift Development Training” under “For professionals and volunteer leaders” (at the bottom right of the page). Or, contact Meinzen at 800-325-7912, ext. 1695, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted Aug. 12, 2014