Congregations and clergy across the country and around the world are navigating uncharted waters as we struggle to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Some are scrambling to implement new technologies related to connecting and giving. Others are advocating for a time of Sabbath rest.
I’m sure your email has been filled with many messages on how to cope, how to respond, and how to “be” the church in these uncertain and challenging days. Recently, one of the emails I received came from the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, and I found it to be inspiring and thoughtful. I have adapted it with my own thoughts and invite you to consider these timely aspects of faithful generosity.
1. Now is the time to consider best practices for keeping your community connected.
If your faith community includes multiple generations, that means multiple ways of communicating. Most everyone has a phone and talking by phone seems almost like speaking in-person. Find ways to stay connected to those for whom this is the preferred way to communicate.
For your church to continue to be engaged in spiritual thought during this group gathering hiatus, you’ll also need to employ social media, text, and email, and dust the cobwebs off your website. How many ways do you have to reach out to your faith community? Do you have databases and lists created? Most importantly, how are you using them to stay connected?
Faithful generosity includes being good stewards of our relationships.
2. Now is the time to tell “the rest of the story” about your church’s mission and ministry that goes on 24/7/365 even during a crisis.
If you have a good communication system in place it’s going to be easier to tell your story. Make sure your congregation knows how your pastor and others in the congregation are continuing to serve as needed.
And let’s add another layer. Are you telling your story to the community beyond your faith community? Give your people and your local media good news that might be arising from this crisis–volunteering, giving extra to those whose incomes are affected, inviting others to join your worship online.
Faithful generosity includes being enthusiastic about the mission and ministry to which we are called and sharing it with others.
3. Now is the time to encourage your leadership and your congregation to give above and beyond in new ways.
People are going to look for meaningful ways to spend their time. When they ask how they can help, be prepared to give them ideas for how they can serve. Every congregation could use people to make calls to shut-ins and older members of the congregation, people to write notes of encouragement to young parents who are at home full-time now and concerned about their work and financial obligations, and people to pack meals for people who are less fortunate.
How can your congregation provide acts of kindness and compassion and remain safe and healthy? How can you serve the vulnerable in your community?
Faithful generosity includes small acts of kindness that you can do from home and not be of harm to you or anyone else.
4. Now is the time to consider the ways technology can be an asset in our giving and connecting.
If you don’t have options to give beyond Sunday morning worship, you can still provide that service with only a small amount of effort. Look at the Presbyterian Foundation Online Giving and let me know how I can help you if this is something you would like to pursue. Help your congregation learn what it means to remain faithful in our giving even when we are not together.
Communicate to the congregation how their giving is making a difference in supporting the pastor and other staff, continuing mission work in the community, providing new technology and services you have not done in the past, and “being” the church by seeing our abundance rather than our scarcity.
Faithful generosity includes a spirit of abundance that looks for opportunities, not obstacles.
“I sought the Lord, and the Lord answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to the Lord, and be radiant; so, your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.” (Psalm 34:4-6)
POJ Associate for Stewardship