This month in Stewardship: December
November 26, 2018 by Robyn Davis Sekula
For many congregations, pledge Sunday is in November, which means by now, you probably have a good idea of where you stand in terms of pledges.
That means it’s time to do something a lot of people dread but is really important: the follow-up call to members who have not pledged for 2019.
I’ve been on the receiving end of a stewardship call when I did not get my pledge card in on time. That was the same year I had twins, and somehow, it had fallen off of my radar (just can’t imagine why). I was actually really glad, and a little embarrassed, to get the call because I honestly could not recall if I had pledged or not. I got my pledge in that next Sunday. The church was very important to me and I wanted to make that pledge.
A few years later, I was serving as stewardship chair for my congregation. I was now making those calls. It was December, and I had a list of people to call. Nearly everyone was gracious and apologetic, and in many cases, we were able to successfully check them off of our lists within a week. I remember breathing a sigh of relief when those first calls were made. They weren’t nearly as difficult or tense as I thought they might be, and the calls worked well.
What do you say when you call?
I asked the Foundation’s Ministry Relations Officers for input on what to say on the calls and any questions they thought were good to ask to get the conversation going. Sherry Kenney, Ministry Relations Officer for the South Central Region, offered a good pattern for how these calls should go. She says the call should begin with a common courtesy: tell them who you are, why you’re calling and ask if it’s a good time to talk. “Then, if the person has not been attending, I would say I had missed seeing them,” Sherry says. “After giving the person a chance to tell me anything that may be going on, I would say I’m following up on the annual stewardship mailing, to be sure they’ve received it and to ask if they’ve had a chance to consider it. I would then either encourage participation or offer to send a new commitment card. I would reassure them their commitment is a statement of their intentions and not a contract, depending on their earlier responses.”
Olanda Carr, Ministry Relations Officer for the East Region, says these calls should focus on gratitude and mission. “In other words, “asking for the pledge” should not be the lead comments of the call. The introduction of the call should be a “thank you” for supporting the ministry activities of 2018, followed by the exciting ministry activities the church plans to do in 2019. Conclude the call by asking the member to pledge to support these future ministry activities. This supports the belief that
members pledge towards mission and ministry, not to balance budgets.”
Pastoral care needs can emerge
Sherry’s and Olanda’s “scripts” sounds like most of the calls we made. But we did sometimes discover important pastoral care needs. In those conversations, I’m not even sure pledging ever came up. The wonderful volunteer on our committee who made the calls said she simply asked the person how they were doing, and they requested prayer and told her why they needed it. Each person who makes calls needs to be prepared to simply talk to someone who is lonely, sick or facing hardship, and shift the call from a pledge to prayer conversation. Pastoral care concerns should be passed along to the pastor and staff. You want to do everything you can to make sure the call from the stewardship committee isn’t the only one they get all year from their church!
Other Ministry Relations Officers had some examples of questions you might ask to get conversations started.
“Is there anything that the Stewardship Team or the pastor needs to know?” and/or “How are you feeling about the direction the church is going?”
Minner Serovy, Ministry Relations Officer for the Upper Midwest Region, says both of these questions may lead you to pastoral care concerns, and they may also bring the person around to believing they do need to support the church with an annual pledge.
“What is important to you at the church?”
Maggie Harmon, Ministry Relations Officer for the Southwest Region, says this is a good way to get people remembering the reasons why they love their church and may lead them to the decision to make a pledge. It’s also a terrific way to find those people who can be “cheerleaders” for the church and help tell the story of what they love and why they support the church.
Let’s hear from you
What is your congregation doing in December around stewardship? Where is your energy focused? You can write to Robyn Davis Sekula, Interim Senior Director of Communications and Marketing for the Foundation, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!