As we approach the end of the calendar year, and the beginning of a new liturgical year, most of our congregations in the diocese are deep into their annual response program for congregational stewardship. For many, this is an uncomfortable annual ritual, but I find it rewarding because it gives us the opportunity to tell people how their giving has touched lives and changed lives and to thank them for their giving.
As you prepare to stand before the church and ask people to give by making a commitment in the form of a pledge, before you do that, consider giving a report on what their giving this year did to benefit the community of faith, your neighbors, and the greater mission field of the world, from the local to national and international level.
It is paramount to focus on two things this year: tell stories of transformation and thank people for making that happen. Use phrases such as:
- “Because of your giving, we were able to feed over 50 people a month, provide worship services each week for our community, prepare X number of people for baptism, confirmation, reception, or reaffirmation… (or whatever examples you choose to use)”
- “Your investment in our ministries through your giving touched the lives of hundreds last year through…” (give examples)
- “Because of your generosity, lives were changed and transformed by…” (How? Why?)
- “We couldn’t have done any of our ministries here at church or in our neighborhood and community without your financial support—thank you!”
People truly want to know that their giving mattered, that someone’s life was touched or transformed or changed in some way by the Gospel, by the love of God expressed through the worship, ministries, and members of your church. Tell those stories now. And thank people for their generosity in years past, and in advance for their faithfulness in 2022. Remember the words of the late Jerold Panas, a master trainer of fundraisers and erstwhile Episcopalian:
“It’s not about money. And it’s not about your organization. It’s all about the people you serve, the lives you touch. It’s about saving lives and changing lives. That’s what it’s about. And every day, your organization is in the business of saving lives and changing lives.”
When we keep our eyes on that mission, it is easy to get passionate about inviting people to share in that mission through their giving.
The Diocese of Arizona is a member diocese of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS) and I serve as Secretary of the board for TENS. Last month we had our annual board retreat and TENS has committed to refashioning its mission to become not just a stop for resources—though it still is resource-rich and will remain so—but TENS now has adopted the mission of training and educating lay leaders and clergy about congregational stewardship. You can access those resources in the members-only section of the TENS.org website, using the password: James1:17 (it is case sensitive).
In 2022, TENS is rolling out a whole suite of webinars, educational materials, and year-round stewardship ideas and practices to help clergy and lay leaders become more familiar with current best practices of raising resources for mission and ministry. When individualized attention might be needed, TENS will also consult specific congregations and diocesan groups for a nominal fee. GO to the TENS website regularly for new information that will be posted throughout the coming year.
To access TENS resources, visit www.TENS.org, click on member resources, and enter “James1:17”
In my nearly 13 years as a stewardship educator and consultant, I can honestly say that the old adage is true: Money follows Mission, and more money means more mission. Learn to articulate your vision and mission, learn to ask appropriately, by generational preferences, and you will garner the resources necessary to accomplish your mission, your vision.
The Diocese of Arizona provides the TENS membership for all congregations in Arizona as part of your mission share, your 17 cents of each dollar. Your giving also makes me available to work with individual churches and present regional workshops on topics related to money and congregational stewardship. For more information, you can reach me at: (602) 615-1352, or firstname.lastname@example.org.