Three stewardship tasks you should be doing right now
Do you find yourself worrying about what’s going to happen with your church’s budget post-COVID?
I’ve talked to many pastors who have this concern, even if giving is level or even increased in the short term.
Whatever the situation in your church, you may wonder about the long-term economic impact and what it will mean for your people and for your congregation.
Good news: the basics of financial stewardship haven’t changed, even in the face of a pandemic, including global and individual economic realities.
The message does need to acknowledge the realities churches and families are facing, but the work is the same.
Here are the three most important stewardship tasks you should be doing right now:
1. Thank people for their giving.
People love to be thanked.
Most churches don’t do a good job of thanking their givers.
One newly-arrived pastor wrote thank-you notes to those who pledged.
One giver told him, “I’ve been giving to this church for 40 years, and I’ve never gotten a thank-you before.”
The best way to thank people is with a personal, snail-mail letter (bonus points for handwritten).
Let’s be honest, however.
Adding one more thing right now might be too much.
Here are three more ideas that will take little or no extra time or energy:
- In every worship service (virtual or in-person), thank people for their giving.
- In every email that mentions giving, include a word of thanks.
- In every meeting that talks about the budget or stewardship in any way, thank those present for their giving.
2. Tell the story of the ministry of your church.
Just as in preaching a good story helps people connect with the message, so also in giving.
Ministry in a time of quarantine has looked quite different, and people may not know everything that’s been going on out of view.
How have people in your congregation reached out to your community, supported the home-bound, or extended the reach of your church through virtual worship?
Tell a story about it.
Here are four ways to tell the story:
- Tell a brief ministry story in worship each week, (combine with #1 by thanking people for their support).
- Include a ministry story in your email newsletter.
- Have a short video about something that’s been happening (even a talking head telling the story).
- Include stories about the ministry people have been doing as sermon illustrations.
Stories help people connect emotionally with what’s happening in your congregation.
That connection motivates them far more than the idea of “meeting the budget.”
Bonus benefit: Stories help your people stay engaged in a time of social distance.
3. Ask them to support the ministry.
Church leaders sometimes hesitate at this point.
However, there’s no need to be apologetic about asking people to give.
St. Paul did not hesitate to ask (See II Corinthians 9).
Of course, you can and should acknowledge openly that some may face different circumstances due to the pandemic.
You can acknowledge that they have uncertainty about the future.
And you can still ask.
It’s a gift to people to give them the opportunity to share in the work of the church they care about.
It’s a disservice to hold back.
We may even be helping our members improve their health when we ask them to give.
Evidence shows helping others is a positive immune supporter.
Prevention magazine, in an article on donating blood, cites Dr. Lisa Logan saying that “good deeds can actually decrease stress and in turn keep levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in balance– important for both emotional and physical health.” (Prevention, July 2020)
It may increase your stress slightly to be bolder about asking in times like these.
You don’t need to do it alone.
Partner with other leaders in asking.
However, the pastor does need to ask, without apology.
One pastor I coach simply sent an email in July asking people to be sure to give that month.
They had their best July in years (Of course, Your Mileage May Vary…).
Everything may seem harder right now, including stewardship.
The good news is you can make it easier by following the three steps above: First, thank your givers, then tell the story, and finally (don’t skip this!) ask them to give!
Rev. Margaret Marcuson offers a way pastors can bring their best to their ministry without giving it all away, so they can have a greater impact and find more satisfaction. To learn more visit www.margaretmarcuson.com.