Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Financial Health, Spiritual Wellness & Celebration Timelines: Building Excitement for Your Ministry

Many congregations hold a stewardship celebration in October or November. For the next 6 weeks, I will share with you some resources that my congregation developed. My hope is that you will see that stewardship does not need to be a guilt-inducing time. It can be a time for congregations to focus their mission and use their God given gifts to serve others. Please feel free to message me if you would like additional resources or have questions.

Financial Health is Directly Connected to Spiritual Wellness

There is a perception that the people who give the most money are rich or at least have a solid savings account. Some of the most generous givers are not wealthy or any more secure in their futures than anyone else. Instead, many have found that they receive a deep joy by sharing their gifts with others. They are excited to know that their offering helped provide new chairs for the Sunday School rooms and paid the salary of the Pastor who visited a dying member in the hospital. Leaders need to assess their financial health and get help if they need it. If we are not experiencing joy in giving, we can’t expect those we ask to find joy.

People WANT to Give!

I’ve come to enjoy discussions related to stewardship because it is exciting to see the people of God share their gifts with passionate hearts. People WANT to share their resources and help others. We need to ask them! However, when we ask them to give out of obligation, or indirectly say that they, as a congregation, are not generous, people will get defensive and stop giving.

Creating a Time line

An exciting stewardship celebration is not put together in a week. It takes planning, prayer, and the gifts of many people. Pastors should not be organizing or executing a stewardship drive on their own. If they do, it sounds as if, “the Pastor is asking us for money again.” It is important to give people to opportunity to use their gifts and share in the creative process. At our church, though we have a year-round approach to stewardship, we begin planning for the fall stewardship celebration during the summer. I have included our time line to assist you in planning your celebration. I can email you a copy of the Excel Spreadsheet if you would find
it helpful.


Evaluate Ministry Teams, Goals, and Mission for the year. Encourage teams to share new goals or ministry ideas they have for the coming year.


  • Hold Stewardship Team Meeting discuss current ministry team's goals and financial state of the church. Discuss current economic & social climate of the community: How are people feeling about their job security, have the markets been up or down, do people seem hopeful about the economy? What are people excited about in the church? Vacation Bible School? A new Bible Study? This will help the team address the spiritual concerns people have related to finances and begin to build excitement for the church's mission.


  • Council Members Pledge
  • Create a Missional Budget: This is a budget that narrates the ministries of your congregation. Instead of saying "$5,000 for worship team," the missional budget shares what is done with the $5,000: "Our congregation held 110 worship services in 2011, including midweek Lenten services. We were blessed by the musical gifts of our choir and celebrated with 5 families who baptized their children. We prayed with 7 young people who affirmed their faith and welcomed 8 new families to our community." (I will include more on creating a missional budget next week).
  • Make Personal Contacts: Visit inactive members, home bound members, individuals that have had challenges in the past year. This is simply a Pastoral visit demonstrating the congregation's care to others. It is not to be used as an invitation to pledge.
  • Sermon Series: As you develop your ideas for your celebration, consider how to tie your sermon to stewardship. This can be done if you use the lectionary, though it is also an opportunity to explore other texts related to giving. Consider your context as you do this: How are the economic conditions in your community? Are there specific needs you can address in your sermon?
  • Mission Moments: Invite people to speak about their experiences with the congregation. (It's important to ask them early, and set up a date for them to speak during your celebration in October) How have they personally been touched by the community? Perhaps a member of the prayer shawl team can share a story of giving a shawl to a home bound member. A member of the VBS team could remind the congregation of the energy of VBS during June.


  • Mail Out Letters Inviting People to Pledge: Have you ever received a letter from a university or nonprofit inviting you to give? These letters are written with a specific audience in mind. A donor who gave $100 last year will certainly receive a different letter than someone who gave $10,000. Church letters should be no different. The spiritual needs and gifts of your members differ, so your letters should be written with this in mind. Consider writing 3-5 different letters. As always, the focus is on thanking the giver, and inviting them to participate on a deeper level in the mission--it is NOT to make them feel guilty that they don't give enough. (I will share more on this in the coming weeks.)
  • Pre-celebration Mailing: Invite the congregation to the celebration. Tell them what to expect and how the congregation will celebrate their gifts and ministry over the past year.
  • Book Club or Bible Study: Make use of your education groups. Encourage the group to discuss the struggles and joys of giving.
  • Offer Classes Related to Financial Wellness: Thrivent Financial for Lutherans can provide your congregation with budget planning materials, help with estate preparations and address the financial issues your members face. They will lead adult forums and group presentations. While they certainly have products to sell, we have not found that they use such classes to promote materials, but instead address general financial concerns. By acknowledging the challenge finances create for people and offering assistance, the church demonstrates that we care for one another.
  • Celebrate Missions: Invite ministry teams to write a paragraph informing the congregation of the ways they participated in God's mission over the past year. Use newsletters, adult forum time and perhaps even a ministry fair where members can talk to team members.
  • Share Vision for the Coming Year: Ministry teams shared their dreams in July, now it's time to share what continuing or new ministries your congregation will participate in during 2012. Do you want to continue the prayer shawl ministry? Do you want to start a Tuesday Bible Study? Get people excited about these projects and invite them to join!


  • Emails & Communication: Now is the time to inform members every week of upcoming events. Share your sermon series topic. Tell them about the adult forum schedule. Remind them of the 2012 vision. People need to be reminded of upcoming events!
  • Hold Your Celebration Sunday: Last year, we celebrated "Easter in October" on pledge Sunday. We challenged members to experience the excitement of Easter by joining us for worship. Our choir sang an Easter hymn, we held an Easter breakfast, and even did a little decorating. We affirmed our faith that God has a purpose for our community, and invited everyone to join us.


  • Follow up letters: Thank members who have pledged. Share with them the ministries for the upcoming year. Send a follow up letter to those who have pledged in the past, but didn't this year. Include a pledge card.

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