hearts“Extending generosity to ourselves and others gladdens our heart… and brings joy. ”
Christina Feldman

Stewardship in the Church

Stewardship is a churchy word, not used often in everyday language. In the church, stewardship has come to be synonymous with fundraising and pledge campaigns. In reality, stewardship means “taking care of” or “managing.” What we are called to take care of, to manage, is the ministry and mission God has given us as a community and as individuals. That certainly encompasses more than fundraising and pledge campaigns!

Good StewardshipThe truth is that we need money to support the ministry and mission of the church, to live into the dream that God has for us, but we need even more than that. Everyone in our church community has gifts from God; our church community needs the gifts of everyone in the community. We usually talk about these gifts being time, talents, and treasure (which includes money). So, stewardship is about a lot more than money; it’s more about giving back in response to God’s giving to us to do God’s work of love in the world.

We don’t give to get something. We don’t give a certain amount and then expect God to give back like an investment banker. We don’t give out of guilt. We don’t give because we think God is going to sit on high and punish us if we don’t. We give out of gratitude. We give because God gave us life, abundant life, and God gave us love, unconditional love. There really is no way to thank God adequately for those great gifts, or the other gifts, but we can give of our gifts so that others can come to know and experience the fullness of life and love in God.

Growing in GenerosityStewardship is more than about money; and it’s more than about managing the money that the church already has. Stewardship is about learning together how to be generous like God is generous. It is about growing in the love of God and neighbor and in so doing, growing our own spirits. In this way, giving of ourselves and our gifts is about joy. It’s been said that “some money is sad money, some is happy money.” Giving to church is happy money because our ministry and mission from God is making a positive difference.

This is a continuous learning and growing process and not just once a year. To that end, it is strongly recommended that each church have a Stewardship Team to educate people about giving and how the giving of the church is changing lives all year around. However, it is true that the Pledge Campaign is a key element of a congregation learning and growing together. Following are some resources, some ideas and materials, that will help a Stewardship Team, together with the Pastor and Board, plan and implement a Pledge Campaign to help congregations experience the Joy of Generosity.
(These will have to be adapted for the context of each congregation.)

Joy of Generosity – Pledge Campaign

Components of a Pledge Campaign:

  • Board recruits, trains, and commissions Stewardship Team
  • Board sets goals for pledge campaign based on ministry objectives, not dollars
  • Stewardship Team sets the theme
  • Stewardship Team sets a timeline for implementation
  • Stewardship Teams plans and implements campaign
  • Stewardship Team communicates progress with Board, congregation, and Pastor
  • Pastor sets a culture of generosity; preaching, teaching, and celebrating generosity
  • Pastor promotes the campaign and incorporates campaign into worship

Steps of Pledge Campaign:

  1.  Stewardship Team is formed from responsible, active members who embody good stewardship and can set an example. The team needs people with different skill sets, including
    ○   a good understanding of finances,
    ○   someone with an attention to detail,
    ○   as well as someone creative.
    All team members must be spiritually mature members who can learn and teach.
  2. Stewardship Team is recognized publicly in written communications and in worship, as appropriate. The Board and Pastor show their support of the Stewardship Team.
  3. Stewardship Team meets and comes to an understanding of their purpose, their processes for proceeding, agrees on a theme, and develops a working timeline of planning and coordinating all activities and who is responsible for them. A good, well-thought out, well-executed pledge campaign will take more than two months.
  4. Stewardship Team gathers historic data of at least two years for giving and pledging patterns, as well as participation in worship and church activities, in volunteer roles, and in ways the congregation is impacting the community and the world. These patterns will help guide Team in reaching goals set by Board.
  5. Stewardship Teams seeks to discover ways the congregation is generous in sharing God’s love and build on those. Specific examples and stories will help with producing Pledge Campaign materials, so people will understand the mission and ministry they support with their gifts and how they are making a difference in the world.
  6. Stewardship Team works closely with Pastor to incorporate Pledge Campaign and the theme into a Worship Series. Be available to assist Pastor.
  7. Stewardship Team writes up a Pledge Publication, to include:
    ○   an introduction letter, with a summary of congregational generosity
    ○   list of Pledge Campaign activities – including Kickoff Party and Pledge Collection,
    ○   how to actually make a pledge,
    ○   who to contact for more information, and
    ○   a pledge form.
  8. Pledge Publication is sent out via mail and/or email about one month before Pledge Campaign Kickoff. Information and articles about the Joy of Generosity and the Pledge Campaign and are included in newsletters and announcements and hard copies of the Pledge Publication are made available.
  9. Stewardship Team plans and coordinate activities for Pledge Campaign, including:
    ○   a Pledge Campaign Kickoff Party,
    ○   scheduling any special guests, and
    ○   Pledge Collection.
  10. For Pledge Campaign Kickoff, a party immediately following worship to set the tone of joyous giving, and for Teams and Ministries to share ways for people to generously share their time and talents in support of the mission and ministry of the church is often effective. This party will take at least 3 to 4 months to plan well.
    ○   This could take the form of a Ministry Fair, with each Team or Ministry having a table or designated area to share what they do and how people can be involved.
    ○   Whatever form the Kickoff Party takes, it should include balloons and bright decorations. Food should also be a part of the Kickoff Party.
    ○   Make it festive! This is about the Joy of Generosity!
  11. On the second Sunday of the Pledge Campaign, or when appropriate, have an opportunity for organizations and agencies from the community to share how the generosity of the congregation and its ministry is making the community and the world better. Organizations will need at least 3 months to make themselves available.
    ○   This could take the form of a Poster Session and Exhibit, with organizations making materials available before and after worship about their work. They could also have the option to send someone to represent the organization and be available.
    ○   This should also include information and presentation of MCC work worldwide.
  12. The last Sunday of the Pledge Campaign is Pledge Collection Sunday. Make it easy for people to turn in pledges in confidence either before or during worship. Also, provide a way to continue to collect Pledge Cards throughout the year.
    ○   One way to ensure confidentiality is to provide envelopes.
    ○   A box could be made available for people to turn in Pledge Card ahead of time.
    ○   Or Pledge Cards could be collected either in special offering or as part of offering.
    ○   Make Pledge Cards available electronically if possible.
    ○   Emphasize that everyone had gifts that can be shared, so everyone can pledge.
    ○   Consider a ‘giveaway’ for those pledging: a pin, a bookmark, etc. It can be very simple, but is a symbol of all that’s been learned about generosity.
    ○ A special prayer of consecration should be prayed over the Pledge Cards.
  13. Ensure Pledge Cards are handled with care. Decide well ahead of time who will receive the Pledge Cards and ensure information is shared only as appropriate.
    ○   Whoever is responsible for keeping church records should receive addresses, emails, phone numbers, other contact info.
    ○   The Treasurer and/or other Board Member and/or whomever is designated to keep up with financial pledges should receive that information.
    ○   Team or Ministry Leaders should receive name and contact information for those interested in participating in their Team or Ministry.
    ■ **It is very important for these Team or Ministry Leaders to reach out as soon as possible to make contact and get people involved quickly.
  14. Pledge Campaign data –
    ○   percentage who pledged;
    ○   percentage of budget pledged;
    ○   services pledged, etc.
    should be tallied by the person responsible for doing so and shared with the Stewardship Team, the Board and the Pastor.
  15. Every person who pledged should receive a Thank You Letter within two weeks, signed by the Pastor, Board, and Stewardship Team.
  16. The Treasurer or designee should ensure that quarterly statements of giving and reminder of pledge. At least quarterly thank you letters should go out to all who give.

Some Other Considerations for Giving and Stewardship

  • Make it easy for people to give their money!
    • Setting up for credit card transactions is easier than ever with mobile credit card readers that simply attach to any smartphone. Many companies provide this service. There will be a small cost, but without it, some people may not take the opportunity to give.
    • More and more, people conduct financial transactions online. Many companies, including PayPal and EasyTithe, will provide services for allowing online payment. Again, there is usually a cost, but it will allow people to give who may not be able to be physically present at church activities.
  • Ensure transparency with how funds and resources are being used. Sharing regular, honest financial updates with the congregation will inspire confidence in giving.
  • Asking for the offering during worship should be focused on brief, positive messages of how the congregation’s generosity in ministry is making a difference in the world.
    • Here is one example.

Generosity brings Joy