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 #2 Say “Please”
In days gone by some saw it as tacky for the congregation to ask for money since Christians would already be tithing anyway. If those days ever did exist they are gone now.
The single most effective tool in financial stewardship may simply be to ask. Maybe it is true that there was a day when people saw the congregation’s budget as the member’s joint ministry goals and gave generously until the budget was met. However, these days very few members participate in the budget process or attend the annual meeting so their commitment to fully funding the budget is limited. That’s not all bad. Giving money to “make the budget” is not Biblical Stewardship.” Giving in gratitude for God’s love through Christ Jesus is. Further, the congregation can be much more excited about giving to ministry than to balance a spreadsheet. Therefore, consider ditching the line by line budget and adopt a “narrative budget.”
Also, make frequent use of short paragraphs that explain some wonderful ministry funded by congregational giving and place them in newsletters, bulletins, web pages, Facebook postings, Tweets, and especially sermons. The person whose heart is not warmed by “giving to the budget” may well be thankful to be able to give to support the youth program, the choir, or even Lutheran World Relief by giving through the budget.
In addition to the ministries described in the budget, a congregation should have special ministries that give people the chance to give a designated gift above and beyond their statement of intent.
Examples of this in the congregation would include supporting youth attending the gathering. Examples in the Synod would be Barnabas Uplift or the Fund for Leaders and an example from the ELCA would be YAGMs or the Malaria Campaign.
In addition to regular gifts, congregation members should be asked often to remember the church in their estate plans. There are many ways that a significant gift can be made to the congregation without diminishing the inheritance to the children.
There are several people who can talk about this including the Development staff at Luther and Wartburg Colleges. I think that at least once a year the congregation should publish reminders about estate planning and hold a workshop about it. Of course, any estate received should be loudly celebrated as an example of generosity to others.
One of the issues families in Iowa face that prevent them from being generous givers is their household debt. Outrageous debt (often held on credit cards) is usually the direct result of the lack of a family budget. “Money Leadership” is a curriculum like “Peace University” that teaches stewardship, financial planning, and stewardship.
The congregation should have a member trained to be a coach or contact a trained coach nearby and offer this to the whole community every year.
Another way to say “please” to the congregation is to use that time during the offering to give a short weekly message about stewardship. Better yet would be to have members of the congregation give testimonials about their giving, or to highlight ministries funded by the offering.
I recommend the book One Minute Stewardship Sermons by Charles Cloughen, Jr., which provides a stewardship Message for each Sunday of the liturgical year. Advances in technology have also given us new ways to say please.
Congregations should invite members to use Electronic Funds Transfer like “Simply Giving.” ETF is “first fruits” giving in that the offering is electronically withdrawn from the members account ahead of their other spending. It prevents members from falling behind in their intended giving if they miss worship because of bad weather, illness, or travel. It is a powerful tool for the congregation to control its cash flow.
Many members of the congregation will also expect to be able to give on-line via the congregation’s web page. Peer-to-peer giving is becoming very popular. The ELCA will soon be releasing a peer-to-peer giving site to support ELCA Hunger.
Of course, many congregations will want to conduct an annual Stewardship event. Recently the ELCA has developed several excellent tools for this including “Rediscover Macedonia” and “Make it Simple” and “Stewards of God’s Love.” These and hundreds more resources are available at http://elca.org/Resources/Stewardship.
“Ventures” is a training for 3 or 4 lay members of your congregation who will over a year work with a coach to develop a stewardship plan for your congregation and implement that plan. It has proven to be a very effective tool for year-round stewardship education. For more information call me at the Synod Office
Pastor Mark Anderson
Assistant to the Bishop