On this blog, I try to provide tactical advice on growing generosity in the church. Every church leader knows that giving is especially vital as the year winds to a close. The end may be nigh upon us, but there is no need to feel like you are scrambling to get your message out about stewardship. Here are ten things you can do between now and the end of the year.
1. Schedule a Series
You aren’t begging for money and you aren’t hammering anyone over the head. Part of your call to shepherd your flock is to help them form healthy giving habits. This is an especially important message for your congregation to hear right now as advertisers are winding up to barrage them with holiday messages about the salvific power of purchasing. Emphasize that stewardship isn’t about just meeting a church budget, it’s about meeting the need of every human heart for a redeemed approach to money. If you need help with this, I did a series a few years ago—you can find those sermons here and here.
2. Leader MeetUp
Every church has core stakeholders—10%-15% of average Sunday attendance—who drive the momentum of the church. Gather those leaders for a quick coffee or dessert to celebrate everything that happened this year and to share your vision for where God is calling the church in the coming year. Seeing where you’ve been and setting a course for what’s ahead will provide a positive way of broaching what it will take to get there.
Ask your leaders to pray about this vision, to give, and to share the vision with others. And, of course, thank them for what they have done and what they will do.
3. Giving Statements
Send out two statements before the end of the year. One should show their giving over the first three-quarters of the year. (Do this today!) Then send another on the last day of November that covers all their giving leading up to December. Include a gracious letter to the whole church. When members can see what they have given and hear that word of appreciation, it will generate a willingness to give in the final 30 days.
Schedule one or two members to share their experience of giving over the past year. Like I said earlier, giving isn’t just paying the church’s bills—it’s a spiritual discipline that shapes hearts. Let your congregation hear that from people who sit in the pews alongside them. I’m sure you know this already, but be sure to rehearse these testimonies. You can set them up as interviews, so you can guide the conversation and ease nervousness.
5. Put a Stamp on It
Write a letter to your entire congregation in December—directly from you. Send it with a real stamp (First Class!) to ensure that everyone opens and reads it. The letter needs to be clear and heartfelt, and include an honest, challenging appeal to give generously in the last days of the year. Make sure you include specifics on how to give—some people will want to give online, others want to mail a check. Remember: members can make gifts of stock; if you aren’t set up for that, talk to your treasurer today.
6. Pick Up the Phone
Remember that core of leaders we talked about? Round up phone numbers for everyone on that list (adding anyone else who has given generously of their time and money) and spend November calling them and thanking them individually for their commitment to the church. Before you hang up, pray for them. Show these individuals that their giving was personally meaningful to you and help them see how it contributed to the ministry this year.
It’s important to be transparent about the needs of the church. Stay objective and clear by publishing giving reports each week in your bulletin or newsletter. Nothing complicated needed—I recommend a simple expenses and income update. Let everyone know where the budget stands and how much money is coming in. And don’t shy away from this just because
Include a prayer before the offering that’s more than the expected one-liner. Ask God to supply needs, but also bring blessings for those who give. This isn’t Prosperity Gospel Voodoo—it’s asking God’s favor for the faithful. Offer petitions for those who are in financial uncertainty or who are experiencing unemployment. Once again, talking about money in church isn’t begging; it is inviting people to bring their whole lives into worship.
9. Christmas Eve Appeal
Include an index card in your bulletin on Christmas Eve describing how people can give. You will have lots of new faces that night—extended families and folks who’ve dropped away for much of the year. Make sure that it’s clear to them how to give and why they should give.
Keep the Vestry in the loop. Communicate often—give specific calls to action about how they can join with you to get the word out about giving. They are the ones who will help lead your church to a more generous future.
These are just suggestions, most of which are adapted from my book, Giving Up. Only you can judge what will work in the culture of your own congregation. Think of this as a buffet—grab what looks good. Meanwhile, I pray that you have a generous end to your year; let me know how I can help!