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What Is Working for You?

This email continues our series written by parish pastors who describe stewardship ideas and practices that are working well in their ministry.

Chick Lane
Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders

What Is Working for You?
Pastor Tom Olson

I just returned from Luther Seminary's annual stewardship conversation. My mind overflowing with the rich conversations and outstanding speaker presentations, I got to thinking: what is working for us right now?

"Giving" is a helpful annual periodical of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center that provides fresh ideas and articles to leaders in the church. In the 2012 issue, Barbara Fullerton, Stewardship Development Program Minister in The United Church of Canada, shared her recent research insights and implications. Those six points have become a litmus test of sorts for our generosity philosophy at St. Stephen.
Fullerton's points of impact for effective stewardship practices:

1. Be clear about the congregation's mission. At St. Stephen we strive to 'constantly connect the dots' for people. "Because of your generosity, we lived out our mission and vision by changing the lives of 63 kids at bible camp this week. Thank you!" or "Because of you, we were able to send 35 youth and adults to New York on a mission trip. Thank you!" It's amazing how many such stories we have to tell—from the mundane new efficient LED light bulbs to the exotic overseas mission trip. By God's grace we are changing lives together.

2. Communicate a compelling case for giving. Stories. Stories. Stories. We are moving away from numbers to a "narrative budget." Our annual report will look very different this year! Stories bring life to the numbers. Stories of gratitude become the narrative.

3. Organize an annual giving campaign. We still do it—as do most of you. We have attempted to move the focus away from "meeting a budget" toward growing every member or friend of the congregation's "generous response" to God's blessings and our mission together. We utilize seven different personalized 'tell, ask, thank' letters aimed at the differing generational and demographic make-up of our people. Gratitude is expressed in notes of thanks via mail, email and pulpit. We have seen a dramatic shift from non-pledged to pledged giving.

4. Provide multiple opportunities for people to give. We have a large, often chaotic narthex at St. Stephen. Many people linger and visit at random times during the week. We created a simple giving kiosk in our narthex capitalizing on traffic patterns between coffee, activity center and the entrance. At the kiosk one can find all of our stewardship and generosity information. Also communicated there and in many other places are the variety of ways to give, the impact of those gifts, and who to ask for more information.

5. Integrate stewardship with worship. Our people aren't dumb. They know it takes money to live out mission. We need to be clear but not over-the-top. Now we focus on the monetary budget in worship twice a year: when explaining the annual campaign materials two weeks prior to commitment Sunday and in a "state of the church" message prior to our annual meeting. The rest of the year during weekly worship at a time called "Connect and Serve" where we strive to share the impact of generosity and giving by telling stories of lives changed through ministry and by always saying "thank you."

6. Be intentional about forming stewards. This has been our growing edge in the past few years. We are in the process of deepening conversations around managing money and growing generosity as a faith response both in the pulpit and in small group conversations. This is just a beginning for us in a journey to connect faith to finances.  

What is working for you?


Tom Olson is Senior Pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Minnesota.

More Information

In this week's email Pastor Tom Olson makes reference to the Giving magazine, published by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.  If you aren't aware of the work of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center you will find them a valuable source of annual stewardship response programs, conferences and other stewardship related opportunities.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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