This month in stewardship: May
April 20, 2020 by Robyn Davis Sekula
This is a very unusual May.
Typically, we would be celebrating graduations, gathering with friends and worshiping together. But of course, we’re in this new reality – a blend of staying home and attempting to figure out when it will be safe to leave again. It’s a strange and weird world.
Your church may not be thinking about stewardship, but it’s important to revisit this now so that you’re fully prepared for the rest of the year.
I asked our team of Ministry Relations Officers to tell me what advice they’ve been offering churches about stewardship during this tumultuous time. They had some great thoughts, and I’ve outlined those below.
Maggie Harmon shared that she’s been thinking more deeply about the true meaning of stewardship in these times. “We need to understand that the call to care for something that does not belong to us, but which is God’s, is not optional. Right now, we all have to dig deep and figure out what we have to give because all around us is need.”
Keep in mind that we know you can’t do it all – nor should you. Pick from the ideas below what you think will resonate with your congregation, and work from there.
A stewardship crisis letter
This idea comes from Karl Mattison and Olanda Carr. Consider this a one-time stewardship communication, noting that things are different and calling out difficult topics. Tell your congregation how the church is still offering ministry, and ask them to keep giving. Here’s more points to make:
- To continue to serve God’s people, we need to do church differently.
- People are seeking hope right now, and the church can provide that.
- The church is not on break; instead, we are being called into action in different ways.
- We are adapting as quickly as possible.
- Our call is to serve God’s people in crisis.
- Invite members of the congregation to consider holding fast with their generosity – if they can – or increase if they are able.
Consider a theme
Many churches had a few weeks when they were figuring out online giving and virtual worship, and asking for financial support was not part of worship during that time. If you feel that the time is right in your church, consider an abbreviated “reminder” campaign with a strong theme.
Karl Mattison and Olanda Carr provided a few proposed themes from churches that may work for you, too. They include:
- Holding Faith, Together
- Together at Home
- We’re in this together
Tell your story
This isn’t new, says Rev. Ellie Johns-Kelley, but it’s important to remember to tell your story – and its even more true now when people aren’t seeing each other during worship at church on Sunday. Members of your congregation may not be aware of all of the ways your church is serving the community and each other. Be sure to tell those stories, and celebrate those acts of kindness. Ellie recommends sending a letter with current statements that highlights the ministry and mission of the church so they can see the impact. Remind them that even though the doors are currently closed, the church is alive and at work!
Preparing for fall
If you decide the time isn’t right to communicate about the church’s financial needs now, be prepared to discuss the impact the Church had on the community and members during the pandemic later this year. Especially keep this in mind for the fall stewardship season, notes Kevin Garvey. Did your church increase the numbers served through a food bank to help more people, or make weekly phone calls to members to check in? Did your church offer virtual worship services? Once worship is back, impact stories on topics like this need to be presented during worship.
There may be members of your congregation who can step up their giving and do more, particularly if they received stimulus checks but did not need the money at that time. Don’t be afraid to challenge your members to #ShareYourCARES – share the money they received as the government stimulus payment with those who need it, or perhaps just share part of it.
You may also have members who lost jobs or whose businesses were severely impacted by closures. Think through these messages as you create your stewardship programs. Some may not be able to meet their stewardship commitments. Calling those who you know have been adversely impacted just to check on them is a wonderful way to remind them that you’re here for them, whether or not they can afford to give. This reminds them that the church represents the love of Christ in the world. Pray with them, and for them.
Robyn Davis Sekula is Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Presbyterian Foundation and a ruling elder in the PC(USA). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (502) 569-5101.