This Month in Stewardship: July
June 19, 2019 by Robyn Davis Sekula
July has little expectations of productivity. It’s a month many take vacations, and enjoy celebrations, and not a whole lot typically gets done. Popsicle consumption rises dramatically, as does the number of out of office notifications populating our email boxes.
But in the life of the PC(USA), things are still happening.
- Children and youth are going to camps and conferences;
- Triennium, the national youth gathering that occurs every three years in the PC(USA), will occur at Purdue University in Indiana in July;
- Big Tent, the national “family reunion” for PC(USA) folks, is set for Baltimore in early August.
And there’s plenty more activities, both local and national.
Your task in July as part of a stewardship committee is important: send the message to those participating in these activities that you want photos and stories back from them. If your church is sending youth to Triennium, ask an active and responsible youth to send you five to 10 of the best photos from the trip. The same goes with any other official church trips or activities.
If you have a church picnic in the summer, make sure someone is capturing images from it and sharing a few of the best photos with you. And don’t forget to look through the full breadth of the church: get photos of everyone from children to seniors, youth and parents. You want to show as broad of a selection of members as possible.
In August, September and October (and beyond), you’ll want to have those photos handy to share in newsletters, bulletins, on screens around your church and in social media. These will help tell the story of how stewardship supports the life of the church. Also, ask some of those folks, including youth, to present a one-minute Minute for Mission in the fall when your stewardship emphasis begins, or consider doing it now, while the events are still fresh in their minds. Doing Minutes for Mission year-round helps remind everyone that stewardship is indeed a year-round focus.
Saying thank you
Someone needs to say thank you to the staff and volunteers within their congregations who make all of these summer activities happen. The youth volunteer who sacrificed a week of personal vacation to pile into a van and help get your youth to Montreat definitely deserves a shout-out, perhaps in social media, in your newsletter or the pulpit (preferably all three!).
Why would this fall under stewardship? From a practical perspective, think about how it might feel to give a lot of time and energy to your church and then to be asked for a pledge in the fall – without someone taking the time to stop and thank you for the gift of your time and talents. It’s crucial to ensure that people feel thanked, loved and embraced by their church. You can’t overdo it when it comes to saying thank you. In fact, studies show that people have to hear thank you seven times before they truly hear and believe you are grateful.
And it’s not just that you want a pledge from them – it’s that it is the right thing to do. For me, it calls to mind Luke 17:15, in which only one of the 10 lepers who Jesus healed came back to thank Jesus. But that scripture is not really about how it made Jesus feel – it’s about how we show gratitude to each other and to God for what we’ve been given.
Even the language of our worship service is grounded in gratitude. Communion, or eucharist, is literally translated as “thanksgiving.” Calvin’s theology is grounded in gratitude and grace, and thus our own lives should be as well.
Capturing photos and stories
Thinking year-round about how to capture and share stories is incredibly helpful when you’re ready to plan your next stewardship drive. As a practical matter, keep all of those items in a shared space where others on your team can access it, and back it up. You may find Dropbox or Google Drive helpful. Additionally, share it with a church staff member, if available, in case they need these items quickly for a bulletin, newsletter, video or social media.
Does your church share photos from year-round activities? Do you have thoughts to share on how you incorporate photos into your stewardship materials? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (502) 569-5101.
Robyn Davis Sekula is Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Presbyterian Foundation. She is a ruling elder in the PC(USA) and member of Highland Presbyterian Church.