What's In It for Who?


WIIFY – What’s In It for Who?

During the summer, I try to catch up on reading books – you remember them, right?  Pages made out of paper with funny symbols; it’s super retro these days. And recently, I even went to the library.  Did you know you can get free books there?  Wow, this is a great country! 

I like to read management and marketing books to see how they can apply to congregational life, especially as it relates to stewardship.  Usually, it’s an easy shift but sometimes even if the material is good, I realize that as Christians we operate under a very different set of values.

Take for instance, Jerry Weissman’s Presenting to Win.  I love the subtitle of the book, The Art of Telling Your Story, but the primary title leaves me cold.  Is it always about “winning” or beating someone out of something?  In the world of sales and pitches, I guess the answer is “yes.”   Or take Seth Godin’s excellent little book, All Marketers are Liars.  Liars?  Really?  Godin got a lot of grief over that title and ultimately retitled it by crossing out “Are Liars” and substituting, “Tell Stories.”  Sadly, the ick factor still sticks.

In Presenting to Win Weissman also writes about the WIIFY – What’s In It for You – principle.  He says that when trying to persuade an audience, the presenter should appeal to what is most important to that group (WIIFY) remembering that the focus is not on the presenter.  While I agree in theory with this, I still find that it rubs me the wrong way. 

The story that we tell our congregations about how their offering is being spent is critical.  Too often, we assume they know where their gift goes, when in fact, they don’t have the foggiest notion.  But do we tell the story as an angle of “what’s in it for them” or do we tell it because of the transforming power of God that is being done because of their generosity?  For example – is their offering about getting goods and services from the church (pastoral visits, beautiful music, and good worship) or is it about feeding the spiritual and physical needs of others? 

Here’s where it gets tricky.  Perhaps, that’s precisely what’s in it for them – knowing that their sacrificial offering is changing the world.  They may not be directly benefitting, but they can get a good feeling (and there’s nothing wrong with feeling good) knowing that because of their obedience to God, they are making a difference in their community and in the world. 

Maybe, just maybe, the church’s WIIFY should be re-stated as “What’s In It for Yahweh.”  If that’s the case, the focus gets off of us and onto the One who actually inspires our generosity and to whom we owe everything.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing.   Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise nearly $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations.  She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012.  Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation.  You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.

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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.