It’s Time to Map Out Your Future (at Least Through 2016)
Thank goodness, we’re past January 1. That’s when I was supposed to proclaim all my resolutions for the coming year. Will I learn to speak Italian? Highly doubtful. How about playing the bagpipes? Thankfully for my family and neighbors, I think that train passed. Watch less TV? Um, I can tell you right now, there’s no way that’s happening (How would I know who’s getting a rose on that progressive show, “The Bachelor”?). Priorities, I tell you! Priorities.
Setting and making progress on goals is hard. The research is all over the map on how to effectively keep and actually attain what you say it is that you want to accomplish. But one thing seems to be sure – writing them down and sharing your goals with at least one other person to hold you accountable is a step in the right direction. So, that means it’s time for you to calendar how your stewardship year will go. Now that Christmas is over, you have (maybe) a moment to catch your breath and reflect on what you want to do to increase the generosity of your congregation in the coming year. If you’re nervous about this, make it simple. Take a calendar, pick some dates, and map out when you will:
Thank your congregation in worship. Every week or every other week, pick one ministry that your church supports – either directly or indirectly (e.g., through the use of your building) and say “thank you” to the people in the pews who make it possible for those ministries to happen. People will begin to actually believe that they are the generous people that they already are.
Thank people through personal notes. That phrase "have an attitude of gratitude” is so very helpful. What will be your “gratitude day”? Once a week, take a moment and write five thank you cards to people in your congregation. Even if they don’t give much, thank them for their faithfulness. Let people know that you realize that their tithe matters.
Thank people through an impact report in the quarterly giving statements. This can come directly from you or from someone else in the congregation. It can paint an overall picture of what's happening because of people’s generosity or it can be an individual’s testimony of what the church and faith means to him or her. Have a child, youth, or someone who you wouldn’t expect write a letter to the congregation. And make sure you say, “Thank you.” A lot.
Plan a stewardship campaign. A recent email from Lovett Weems caught my attention: “Research suggests that church members who make pledges usually give at least 30 percent more than those who do not, and congregations that seek annual financial commitments have significantly higher levels of overall giving.” So get your stewardship campaign on the calendar now, and in preparation (and to give you some great ideas and confidence), you might want to attend Weems’ webinar, Optimizing Annual Financial Campaigns.
Determine which holidays and denominational priorities warrant an “ask” letter or special mention in worship. Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are the three traditional times that you might flag. Individual denominations also have occasions where they want congregations to participate in a special focus above and beyond regular giving. You probably can’t do them all – so concentrate on a few and really promote them.
Do you see a pattern here? Before you do any “asking,” you need to be “thanking.” You should be thanking way more than you ask. And by thanking people you do double duty: you can tell them how your church – through its faith in Jesus – is changing lives and making the world a better place.
Thanking and telling good news: that’s definitely worth putting on a calendar. Make that your New Year’s resolution.
* Image courtesy of Kate Ter Haar at Flickr.com
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. Though it’s a really, really awful show, she does hope that nice boy, Ben finds love on “The Bachelor.” She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.