Gifts from Heaven ... Rivers of Light:
50 Years of Consistent Stewardship at Mount Olivet
- Author: Paul M. Youngdahl is the senior pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minn.
- Updated: 02/20/2008
- Copyright: Paul M. Youngdahl,
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church,
5025 Knox Ave S,
Minneapolis, MN 55419-1095
On Dec. 4, 2003, I met Paul Youngdahl for breakfast. I have known Paul since the days we went to college and seminary together. We spent a few moments sharing memories and recent contacts we had with classmates.
I was aware that the stewardship emphasis at Mount Olivet was quite predictable and I desired to know more about it. When I mentioned that observation, Paul chuckled and said, "We have been doing the same thing for 50 years. The process has been refined. But 'if it is not broke, why fix it?'"
Paul graciously told me about it and gave a packet of material. What follows is a description of the process. Click on referenced resources to access them.
- Jerry Hoffman
Each year, we choose a stewardship theme for the coming year, September through August, which is announced in the August "Weekly Visitor" newsletter. For 2004, the theme was "Gifts from Heaven ... Rivers of Light."
Various pastors and/or lay people are asked to write a "Thinking With ... " column regarding stewardship for the newsletter. The first one advises the congregation of our theme for the year. The last one is published the Thursday before Rally Sunday.
The columns that appeared in the Mount Olivet Weekly Visitor in 2003 were as follows:
July 31, 2003, Pastor Stephen Cornils
Aug. 14, 2003, Pastor Dale R. Peterson
Aug. 21, 2003, Michael W. Zacher, Stewardship Committee
Aug. 28, 2003, Pastor James R. Anderson
Sept. 4, 2003, Pastor Paul M. Youngdahl
Focused letters are mailed in mid-August to particular groups of lead contributors. These letters invite people to attend a breakfast or lunch with Pastor Youngdahl. At those gatherings, they are asked to encourage the congregation and staff by making an advance pledge.
Enclosed with the letters are reservation cards for stewardship meals, as well as a time and talent commitment sheet for each confirmed member in the household.
Leading contributors also receive their pledge cards for next year, along with a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope to return their completed pledge cards to Pastor Youngdahl.
A personalized general letter is sent to the rest of the congregation indicating pledge levels for the last three years. Enclosed is a postcard inviting them to join Pastor Youngdahl at one of the stewardship dinners.
An invitation is also extended through the Sunday bulletin. A stewardship dinner reservation form is inserted in the bulletin on "Rally Sunday" -- the Sunday after Labor Day -- as well as three Sundays before and two after.
We have 15 meatball dinners for three weeks each fall beginning on Rally Sunday. During the first week, we have dinners through Thursday evening. The second week, there are dinners Monday through Friday evenings, and the third week there are dinners Monday through Thursday evenings, as well as the Friday noon dinner. There are a total of 15 dinners.
The dinners last for 90 minutes. Because a number of people arrive early to get a good seat, we begin serving the meal 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time.
As people arrive they are greeted by the pastors, get a name tag and go to a table to pick up their pledge card envelopes. The envelope reads, "Please do not fill out your pledge cards until the presentation is over."
They are then invited to pick up food. The meal is consistent year after year: meatballs, au gratin potatoes, green beans, pickled beets, rice pudding, bread, cookies and Jell-o. (One year they had a lasagna dinner as an option, but it didn't go over well.)
Music plays while they eat. The carefully-planned program begins at 6:30, at which time small children go to the nursery and children from 3 years to 5th grade attend a program prepared for them.
6:30 to 6:36 -- A lay person from the congregation will give a personal message about what giving means to them.
6:42 to 6:49 -- A video shows people at Mount Olivet in action worshiping, volunteering, retreating, camping, etc. The video is kept simple so as to be understandable and inspirational. There are many people pictures, good music and minimum words.
6:49 to 6:55 -- Pastor Youngdahl invites the members to look at their pledge cards.
He asks them not to fill them out until he has finished speaking. He explains to them the three different pledge categories and what their pledges will accomplish:
- Weekly offering
- Monthly offering for retreat ministry
- Monthly offering for community concern causes
He continues by walking through the time and talent brochure, indicating areas where additional volunteers are especially needed.
6:55 to 7 -- The people are given time to sign their pledge cards. Music is played in the background. The dinner closes with prayer.
At 7 - The group is invited to bring their pledge cards to the chancel and to proceed to the sanctuary for a brief communion service.
By 7:30 -- The event is over and the people go about their lives.
Follow-up is key
1) After the first week of dinners, those people who do not make a dinner reservation are called by volunteers and asked to come to a future dinner.
2) Pledge cards not picked up during the dinners are available in the narthex the two Sundays following the dinners.
3) Remaining pledge cards are mailed to members, along with a self- addressed, postage-paid envelope to return the cards and time and talent commitment sheets.
4) Beginning the last week in October, selected staff members call those members who have not returned their pledge cards. They call from 6:30 to 8:30 for three nights during the following three weeks. People are asked to make their pledge over the telephone or to send in their pledge cards. Follow-up calling usually involves about 10 to 15 staff members, who each call three evenings. We are finished with the process about the middle of November.
Pastor Youngdahl indicates that it's preferable to have staff make these calls because they learn about pastoral needs, address changes and other issues with the congregation. Staff members are available to respond to those issues immediately.
5) We then send a letter before Thanksgiving to those people who pledged for the current year but have not yet pledged for next year advising we will renew their pledge at the same amount.
The people at Mount Olivet know the pattern. They know what to expect. There are no surprises. Year after year, they have responded to the call to give. They have in the past and they continue to do so.
In addition to the annual stewardship emphasis, we have special funding appeals. A new worship site has been started in a western suburb. This coming spring there will be an appeal to raise funds for building a new worship space at that location.