Everything is New Again

Rev. Joshua Patty
Regional Minister and President

As I talk with people in congregations around our region, many people raise the same basic question: what do we do now? Fewer people are participating, there are anxieties over having enough money to sustain existing ministries, and it just seems harder to accomplish anything.

These questions are generating many articles and essays offering advice. Recently Ann Michel of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership suggested “Seven Strategies to Engage New Givers.” #4 jumped out at me: “Provide special giving opportunities.”

The church invites people to make financial gifts all of the time to support ministry. Newer givers often need something specific and tangible to give – specific food pantry items; Christmas gifts for children; money to provide gift cards for people facing specific situations – and they also respond to an explicit invitation – “we’re collecting money/items on Sunday, March 20.”  

Special giving opportunities often invite people to give more confidently and more generously. Then, Michel writes, we can show how this specific thing is part of the church’s ongoing ministry, which might lead to regular gifts supporting the church overall.  

I wonder if we need to take this approach in many of our church activities right now, even beyond giving and stewardship. To encourage more regular attendance, promote a couple of special worship services. To engage families, offer a “meet and greet” or program overview night. To support people in need, host a Saturday morning “packing party” or work teams.

Maybe each of us needs to be treated a bit like a new person to the church. Maybe we would respond to reminders of what we do and why we do it. Maybe we even need specific invitations to do things now that we would have more naturally done three years ago. I don’t know. But I wonder.