Stewardship ministry is about big, conceptual, theological challenges. And, it’s also be about smaller, tactical, practical choices. In today’s newsletter I consider how quarterly giving statements might function as inspiration, and not just another piece of junk mail.
Adam J. Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
It took a few months, but I finally figured out what makes mailings enjoyable instead of “junkable.” These days, three nonprofits email my wife and me, sending monthly updates about their activity and the impact of our support. These emails include links to upcoming events, and highlights of important work accomplished. They help me feel connected to the organization. Even if I barely glance at the email, I’m grateful to recall the good work of the non-profit as I go about my day.
Many of our churches have newsletters as well, whether paper or digital. While newsletters may mention stewardship, my sense is that in most of our congregations, stewardship takes a backseat unless it’s “stewardship season.” If correspondence mentions money with any regularity, it’s likely in the form of the quarterly statement.
Many congregations send out statements, every three months, updating members on their giving. Quarterly statements usually list the members’ gifts in relation to their annual commitment. Now, these can be helpful pieces of information -- and they can spur folks’ to catch up on forgotten pledges. But rather than accounting tools, I think these regular mailings are best assembled through the lens of relationship-building and storytelling.
When used to their full potential, these statements can tell a story of how God was at work in your congregation over the last quarter. Here, too, numbers are probably not the best focus. Instead, tell a particular, single story of a life changed or a discovery made, maximized by the inclusion of a photo.
Quarterly statements are also an opportunity to connect members’ giving to the story of faith. They can remind givers -- using scripture, prayer, or holy reflection -- of the faithfulness of generosity. They can restate God’s mission and how your congregation has discerned to join in God’s mission together.
Finally, quarterly statements can be a wonderful opportunity to say thank you! In fact, they might function best if written primarily with a spirit of gratitude in mind, giving thanks for the blessings of God in that place. If it works for your context, inviting the pastor or treasurer to add a handwritten note of thanks can go the extra mile in underlining that spirit of gratitude.
The non-profits I previously mentioned do not send any equivalent to church newsletters or quarterly statements. But the email updates communicate their mission, stirring a deeper sense of connection. Let’s consider how quarterly giving statements can do much more than serve as mere financial updates. Indeed, they can account for God’s generosity in and through the congregation.