At the 2015 Northeastern Iowa Synod’s Day of Renewal, I offered a simple three step process to raise up the topic of stewardship. Here is a portion of that presentation. In preparation, I took heavily from two sources: Jamieson, Janet T., and Philip D. Jamieson. Ministry and Money A Practical Guide for Pastors. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009 and J. Cliff Christopher. Not Your Parents Offering Plate A New Vision for Financial Stewardship. Nashville: Abington Press, 2008.
Step #3 Say “Thank You”
Just like your mother told you, just as important as “please” is “thank you.” Just to be clear:
- An announcement after a stewardship drive thanking everyone who participated is not sufficient.
- A computer generated IRS mandated receipt for purposes of tax deduction with a thank you paragraph inserted is not sufficient.
A handwritten thank you note is a great way to say thank you. For example, invite the stewardship committee to send a personalized thank you note to each giving household. Let the pastor write a thank you note to large or regular givers.
It would be an excellent spiritual practice for the pastor to write 10 thank you cards a week to givers, volunteers, cheerleaders, etc. I count this as a spiritual gift because it helps the pastor count the many blessings bestowed through these generous people.
The pastor should monitor carefully the giving patterns of the congregation.
Financial stewardship is “vital sign” of a person’s faith.
Should a member dramatically increase their giving they should receive a visit from the pastor. In the same way, if a member dramatically reduces their giving they should receive a visit from the pastor. But these quick responses are impossible unless the pastor is, every month, checking on the giving of the members.
Regular thank you letters should be sent even if they are form letters.
However, form letters can be targeted to different groups.
- A quarterly letter to the largest givers/tithers could simply say “thanks.”
- A letter sent to regular givers can also thank them for their steadfastness and invite them to increase their gift slightly.
- A letter addressed to those who give occasionally could promote “simply giving.”
- A letter written specifically to members who do not give at all may ask them to consider a $10 a month pledge.
Financial Stewardship should not ever be used to wield power in the congregation.
A vacuum of information creates power for those who know secrets. This is how even though he is a small giver a member can intimidate the congregation by threatening to “never give another dime” unless he gets his way.
The pastor should be well aware of who the largest givers are and how much they give.
The pastor should send them words of thanks and even visit them in their homes to thank them for their generosity.
Remember that these generous people are probably giving to other ministries and organizations and those are thanking them frequently and profusely.
Think of the donor who gives $100 to public radio and gets a thank you note, a thank you gift, a monthly newsletter, and several more opportunities to give. That same donor may give $1000 to the congregation and be lucky to get a receipt. What does this communicate to the donor?
Some people have suggested that since the abolishment of “church dues” the Good Old Days of giving are in the past. However, I have a different view.
Veronica Dagher reported in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 19, 2014) that 87% of millennials–those aged 20 to 35–gave a financial gift to nonprofits in 2013.
The emphasis on service learning over the last few years has translated into good financial stewardship among our youth. These young people also have a general mistrust in large institutions and are more willing to give to local organizations like congregations.
Plus in the next 20 years, trillions of dollars will pass through estates and for those who ask, some will be given to congregations. So, I assume that the “good old days” of financial stewardship are still ahead.
Pastor Mark Anderson
Assistant to the Bishop