When many people hear the term church stewardship, there’s often a tendency to think “money” — and even more specifically, Oh boy … they’re going to talk about money again today. But you know that stewardship can involve myriad possibilities for making an “invitation to give.” Money, yes, but also — and perhaps more importantly — time, talent, passion, and participation.
Communicating about stewardship needs to begin with a strategy
Certainly, as a leader in your church, you should teach about church stewardship, including the many times it is referenced in the Word. You can do this in the sanctuary and in an article for the bulletin or your newsletter. If yours is like many churches, however, it can be easy to address this topic only in times of need.
The question is: How will you communicate these ideas?
That strategy must speak to your financial goals, both operational and capital-intensive, and also include your goals for people and their participation and the value they bring (both the intangibles and anything you can quantify as “in-kind”). You might also want to identify which civic, social, and business associations or partnerships contribute to the caretaking and well being of your church.
Next, you’ll need a plan, or roadmap, for how and when (and to whom) you’ll communicate about your church stewardship goals, specific needs you might have along the way, and any progress you can measure. This might include updating your member database information regarding skills and ministry interests (think “census”), and gathering information in stages, via multiple methods like email, feedback forms, or telephone polling.
Encourage visitors to share what skills and talents they bring to the community in addition to merely asking for their contact information. Be blatant in your explanation of what stewardship can be for your church. Ask each member to consider the totality of what he or she can bring to the community. You might be amazed at what will come forth with just the right hint or other encouragement. Understand that your communications need to reach several audiences within your church, and you might even want to practice with the verbiage, style and channel of communicating to these audiences.
One caveat …
Rather than communicate through every channel, try to select the channels you can do well. If you have someone who’s talented at making social media posts, that’s great. But if not, find other ways to play to your strengths. You’ll want to develop communications that have a regular cadence and identity, rather than what might look like the “fits and starts” approach. This gives your communications a connected, consistent feel — and that goes a long way to building culture.
Technology obviously can enhance your communication campaign, but again: be careful to use those tools you can manage well. An invitation to help with a fundraising car wash will lose its effectiveness if the message pops up on your electronic signage two days before the event, or worse: if it’s still in the slide rotation two days after the event. If you use Facebook or Twitter, update posts frequently and be concise in your message, whether educating, requesting, referring, or recognizing.
Many churches now also use a group messaging system to manage voice, text, email, and social media notifications. The advantage of a tool like this is the ability to have one source for reaching diverse groups within your church through a method appropriate to them. Pastors also like the ability to extend Sunday’s message with follow-up examples over the phone (or via text or email) later in the week. Some of these systems even provide a polling feature, whereby a church member can RSVP to a particular request for help with a ministry or event.
Regardless of your audience and your communication channel, be sure to regularly discuss the shared stewardship of your church and the many ways that members can contribute. Identify your needs and the type of “giving” (including specific skills, money, or other resources) that will not only help you fulfill your vision, but which will also draw your faith community closer together in the service of each other and your neighbors.