Grace Pomroy, who led a Stewardship workshop in our Presbytery a few years ago, recently shared some thoughts she has had about giving gifts and presented some challenging ideas about what often happens to us in our gift giving. She also caused me to consider how I respond when I am given a gift. I hope you will see a little of yourself in her thoughts as I did…
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31a
This fall presents a lot of challenges as to how we do ministry during a pandemic. It also causes us to wonder how our fall Stewardship efforts will be received. The reason is that while we say we are in this together, we are not all experiencing the pandemic the same. Some churches are struggling more than ever financially, while others find that giving has increased and finances are fine.
Regularly ask yourself the most basic stewardship leadership question, “What can we do to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through their stewardship?” A constant temptation faced by leaders in a congregation is to focus on what meets the needs of the leaders, rather than what meets the needs of the members of the congregation. Focus on the giver’s need to give rather than on the church’s need to receive.
In many congregations, the “model giver” is over fifty years of age, highly committed to the church, and understands giving as a “duty.” Often, we direct our efforts to this person. Studies have shown that givers under fifty are different from those over fifty. Younger generations are not as committed to institutions, and certainly do not understand financial support of an institution to be their duty. Younger generations are much more inclined to give where they can see their giving making a difference.
Ways to Ask
What is the most effective way to ask someone to give? In the church we seldom ask ourselves if we are using the most effective means to ask people to give.
Recently we had an opportunity to hear Charles “Chick” Lane discuss his book, “Ask Thank Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation.” He discusses the various ways that we often use to ask someone to give. It might be face-to-face or a personal letter. It might be a telephone call or an “ask” at an event.
Which of these methods has your congregation used? Which method was the most effective? Chick suggests that you analyze your past asking and possibly choose other ways to ask to find the most effective method for your congregation. What he has found is that the more personal you are, the more effective the “ask.”
Motivations to Give
Another important piece of research that has been done is to ask people why they give. What are the top motivators for people who give financial support to non-profits? Here are the responses in order of importance from most to least:
- Being asked by someone you know well
- You volunteer at the organization
- Being asked by clergy to give
- Reading or hearing a news story
- Being asked to give at work
- Receiving a letter asking you to give
- Receiving a telephone call asking you to give
As congregations, there is some insight to be gained from this list.
- Get people involved. Almost all of your congregation who gives will also be involved in some way in the life of the congregation. Some will sing in the choir, some will be a part of the men’s or women’s organization, some will serve on a committee or the session. Most will be regular worshippers.
- Get the pastor involved. Sometimes pastors are reluctant to be actively involved in the stewardship ministry, and sometimes the congregation wants the pastor to be on the sidelines when it comes to stewardship. Don’t let this happen. The pastor preaches, teaches, and talks to the congregation about all sorts of spiritual issues – let stewardship be one those issues.
- Tell a compelling stewardship story. People don’t give to their congregation because they read or hear about what their congregation is doing but knowing what the congregation is doing and knowing that their gifts are making a difference in people’s lives will encourage people to grow in their giving.
- Consider the most effective way to ask. What are some ways that you can ensure that people are asked to give by someone they know well? Some churches use an every member visiting program. Others use telephone calls. Encourage people to visit or call people they know to invite them to give.
A Positive Approach
When you ask people to financially support your congregation and its ministries, focus on what will happen when they give, rather than what won’t happen if they don’t give. People are motivated to give when they hear how the church is making a positive difference in the world.
Overall, remember that the goal of our stewardship ministry is to help God’s people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through the use of the time, talents, and finances God has entrusted to them.
Associate for Stewardship
*Excerpts taken from Ask, Thank, Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation by Charles R. Lane.
For many of us, our earliest memories of giving occurred in church. We watched our parents put their offering envelope in the plate, and we looked forward to getting something from them that we could also add to the plate. So how are we teaching our children stewardship and the joy of being generous?
As for those who are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (I Timothy 6:17)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
The overall goal of stewardship ministry is to help God’s people grow in their relationship with Jesus through the use of the time, talents, and finances God has entrusted to them. It is about discipleship. It is about people’s relationship with their Lord. Responsible stewardship will draw people closer to Jesus.
dgenerosityThese hot and hazy days of summer will soon be gone, and one of the busiest times of the church year is just around the corner. All of the fall programming returns, new Ruling Elders are trained and ordained, and preparing the budget for the coming year looms in front of us.
Summer is just around the corner. We look forward to warmer weather, being outdoors, and taking time away from our routine work schedule. Busy people and busy families add another layer of activities to an already busy schedule. Children are home from school, and parents spend lots of time taking them to camps, sports, and other summer activities. We are good stewards of our time with friends and family. We are good stewards of exercise and relaxation.
As we journey through this Advent and Christmas season, we are reminded of the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, born in a lowly manger, born so that we might have eternal life. No gift that we could offer could ever compare but we are called to give all that we are and all that we have each and every day of our lives.