Over the past six months I have observed how our congregations and members responded to the impact of the coronavirus. I was moved by the many displays of faithful generosity, resilience, adaptability, and creative innovation. I was fearful and anxious about how the congregations of our Diocese would handle the sudden, pervasive changes that they were facing. But the response exceeded my hopes and expectations.
With hard work and trust in God most of our congregations are financially stable and in a good position to finish 2020.
The primary source of financial resources in our churches is its members. As the end of this year draws closer I know you are thinking about the support from your members for next year. What will happen is uncertain. The indications are that giving by our members is strong and will continue. But there are many factors that we cannot control which cause some concern.
I have a suggestion for you in preparation for the upcoming season of asking members to make pledges for 2021. I recommend that vestries and leadership groups read together a classic book by Henri Nouwen titled The Spirituality of Fundraising. It is 60 pages long and it will enrich you personally as well as enrich your leadership team. Use this as an opportunity for small group practice to deepen relationships amongst the group. I believe it will inspire you to bring new energy and creativity to the coming season of giving in your community.
Here are some quotes from the book:
“Fundraising is a very rich and beautiful activity. It is a confident, joyful and hope-filled expression of ministry. In ministering to each other, each from the riches that he or she possesses, we work together for the full coming of God’s Kingdom.”
“Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.”
“We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you – your energy, your prayers and your money – in this work to which God has called us.”
“From beginning to end, fundraising as ministry is grounded in prayer and undertaken in gratitude.”
My hope is that after that exercise your team will be inspired to work more intentionally and collaboratively this stewardship season. To that end I am recommending some other resources.
My strongest recommendation is to use one of two outstanding books on the subject as the basis for the actions of a stewardship team for the season. The first is called Bounty, Ten Ways To Increase Giving At Your Church. The other is by Chick Lane and Grace Pomeroy who led a day long program for parish leaders on stewardship a couple years ago. Their book is called Embracing Stewardship, How to put stewardship at the heart of your congregation’s life. I encourage you to form a small team, read one of these books together, and make a plan for action. I am convinced that these efforts will be both rewarding and productive in helping your congregation develop the resources needed to fulfill your ministry.
Additionally, Reverend Pam Mott is currently offering support and encouragement to congregations in their stewardship efforts. You can learn about it HERE. And here is a link to the Parish Stewardship Formation page on our website with listings of additional resources.
As a reminder all of our congregations are members of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship. https://www.tens.org
These are challenging times for houses of worship. We are learning so much about what communities of faith are made of, and what is valuable to us as Christians in community. Funding the mission is an essential part of ministry. And we have shown that we are up for the challenge. I pray that you may be inspired and energized to take a fresh approach and new actions as you work with your brothers and sisters to resource your church for the year ahead.
If you would like to discuss this further with me do not hesitate to reach out.