This Month in Stewardship: February
January 22, 2019 by Robyn Davis Sekula
February is a bit of a holding pattern for stewardship in the church, if your stewardship and/or generosity program has a fall emphasis. You’re well-past year end. You know how 2018 shaped up for you, and you’ve got a budget for 2019. You know what the needs are, and you know what your pledges are. You’ve probably recruited new members for the stewardship and generosity committee. If you haven’t, you’ll want to do this soon so you have an opportunity to work together for several months ahead of pledge Sunday.
We mentioned last month taking January to review stewardship in 2018. February is an ideal time to think about telling your church’s story and capturing those moments to share throughout the year as a thank you to the congregation and to share as the fall approaches.
This is the time to visit with your church’s staff, committees and outreach ministries to find out more about what they’re doing to serve the church, the community and the world. If your church has an annual meeting, committees often prepare reports that will help you become more deeply familiar with your church’s ministry, if you are not already.
You can use these stories as a way to say thank you this year, throughout the year. Studies show that people have to be thanked seven times – YES, SEVEN TIMES – before they truly hear it. You can share a story and end with a “thank you for supporting this ministry” at the conclusion of your presentation from the pulpit, at the end of your newsletter article, in a video or in a social media post.
You can also share these stories as a way to call people to generosity in the fall. Gathering stories year-round will help you prepare for the stewardship and generosity emphasis.
The stories you are looking for aren’t necessarily big stories or numbers of huge impact. While those are important, not every church can show what they do through big numbers, and in fact, I believe it is realistic to say that most cannot. I would encourage you to seek out moments of connection and care in your congregation, and you’ll find them throughout the church. Here are a few examples.
If your congregation has delivered meals to someone who was hospitalized, can that person allow you to share their story of how they felt loved and sustained through this ministry? If so, you can interview them briefly, write up their story, ask them to give you a photo (or take one), and share in your church newsletter, in social media, or even from the pulpit.
Does your church have or support a food pantry or another similar ministry? While those who have received items from it probably would be reluctant to share their stories, perhaps someone who has volunteered can share a few thoughts about the impact of the food bank on the families it serves. You could pair with this a photo of the volunteer who is serving at the food bank.
What about the seemingly “normal” things your church does, such as weekly worship, music programs, and Sunday School? Talk to someone who has benefitted from the community they’ve received in Sunday School, or a dedicated choir member who finds great joy in praising God each week. Ask someone who is relatively new to the church to share what they receive each week from worship, and why they return.
Does your church have a mission partnership with a church in another country? Asking someone who is involved in this group to speak briefly about it from the pulpit, and then sharing that story in your newsletter, social media, etc., can be a wonderful way to remind your congregation that their church reaches far out into the world.
If your church supports mission and ministry at the national or international level, such as supporting a Presbyterian mission co-worker who is abroad, invite that mission co-worker to come speak the next time they are in the U.S. This takes some time to set up and arrange, so it may not work for this year.
Think broadly about the stories of your church. Ask senior members of your church as well as youth and children to share their stories of impact and meaning. The breadth and depth of your church’s ministry to the world is a refreshing and uplifting message that will be well-received year-round.
As these stories are shared, catalog them and keep the messages, photos, and stories in a place that’s accessible to your whole team, or appoint someone as the “storykeeper.” Gather extra stories beyond what you can tell right now, knowing that you’ll find a use for them in the fall (or whenever your stewardship emphasis time is in your congregation).
If you have questions about stewardship, we’re here to help! There is a Ministry Relations Officer assigned to your area if you are at a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation.
Robyn Davis Sekula is Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Presbyterian Foundation. She is a former Stewardship Committee chair. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.