What’s Wrong With My Letter?

Appeal Letter

Writing an Appeal Letter is about saying “will you” and then “thank you”.

A few years ago I had to do what every Rector or Sr. Pastor should do about this time of year: write a year-end appeal letter.  My church (Christ Church in Plano) was in the red for the year. Again. There were no controversies to clear up. The careful spending of the staff was about 10% ahead of the congregation’s giving. I sat down at a coffee shop to write.

Why is your church always behind budget this time of year? It’s not always what you think. Expenses outpace income for a very simple reason. Read this blog artlcle to find out why.

I read over the letter I had drafted. Something wasn’t right about it. It didn’t seem to catch a spark in me! I couldn’t put my finger on it…but it was dull. It was self-congratulatory. It was predictable and boring. It was “workmanlike”, which is never what you want to be when writing a personal letter to the Body of Christ. The financial need was real but I hadn’t seemed to capture it in words. And, in all candor, I think I was too tired to think creatively and sincerely. I relied on a few word tropes and tricks (repetition) rather than simple, direct honest communication. I needed help.

Phone a Friend

There is an amazing amount of talent in every church and Christ Church was no different.  We had a few nonprofit professionals in the congregation. And one of them (Tim) was a writer. He had written nonprofit appeals for some of the biggest campaigns in the United States. I enlisted his help to tweak or trash my letter. Go for it, I said.  He worked on it for a few days and sent it back to me. I saw immediately what he had done to my composition.

Do you see it? Read both carefully and note the differences. After I read his letter, I looked at mine with a sense of scorn! In fact, the best thing I can say about my letter, in hindsight, is how easy it was replaced with his!

Indeed, I used his great letter and the church responded in great ways. Red ink turned to black and we ended the year in strength. Read the exact text below or download the PDF to compare them side by side.

Download (PDF, 27KB)

My Letter (521 Words)

Dear ___________,

I need your help!

I hope you would agree that Christ Church is an amazing congregation. I have sensed the strength of God upon this place for (now) 30 years. It has been incredible. Even during this time of transition…as we pray for the Lord to bring us the new Rector of this great church…I see God’s hand sustaining this congregation.  I really do.

Today…only hours ago…I was at the Children’s Christmas Pageant. It was packed.  Well over 300 in attendance…but over 100 kids around the stage. And it was so beautiful. Fr. Tripp said that it was so full that we will need to move it into the Fellowship Hall next year! And the Thanksgiving Outreach was over-subscribed. Even the Christmas Angel Tree this year was better than ever.

Don’t you also feel that the worship and praise from week to week has been truly inspirational? And I have to say it: I am so proud to be able to hand this great church over to a new leader when the Lord calls the right person.

But I need your help.

We have a significant year-end financial challenge. A few days ago, we needed to receive just over $800,000 by the end of the year to pay all expenses and end the year in the black. Christ Church needs to be a strong church for the season ahead. We have lots to do in our community and among our membership; especially our children and students. Our focus and our mission is unchanged: we are making disciples and teaching them to obey the commands of Christ.

But I need your help. I need your help to keep this ministry moving from strength to strength.

So first, will you pray?  Seriously.  Let’s start there…with prayer. The financial need is great; it will take a spiritual move of God to touch people’s hearts.  The world is cynical about many things. The culture is confused about many things.  But I am praying that the Lord will strengthen this church to be a clear light and strong beacon for the days ahead.

I have written and spoken about this financial need for the last few weeks…but only God can touch people’s heart.  So pray…

Secondly, will you join with other leaders in our church and take this on personally? I do not mind asking our members to give generously. I never have. I have always seen God pour out blessings as people give. I do not mind asking you to do the same. Fran and I will look at our giving over the entire year…and we will give more this month as we meet this need together. Will you join us?

Finally, I have deep and sincere thanks to you for your commitment and loyalty to your parish church.  I echo the words of Paul to the Philippians: I thank God is all my remembrance of you. (Phil 1:3)

Let me hear from you if you have any questions…but I do hope you will respond to this important appeal.

Signed…

Tim’s Revisions (about 600 words)

Dear _______

I am writing you today because Christ Church Plano faces a significant year-end financial challenge.

We need to receive just over $800,000 in gifts by the end of the year to pay all expenses, close 2015 in the black, and be financially strong for the season ahead.

I have written and spoken about this financial need for the last few weeks. With this letter I am coming to you, and to a handful of other church leaders, to appeal to you personally to help to keep this ministry moving from strength to strength.

I feel such deep and sincere thanks to you for your commitment and loyalty to your parish church.  I echo the words of Paul to the Philippians: I thank God in all my remembrance of you. (Phil 1:3)

Because of your commitment, I write you with great confidence. When I’ve made such requests in the past, I have always seen God pour out blessings as people give. Now I ask you again. Fran and I will look at our giving over the entire year…and we will give more this month as we meet this need together. Will you join us?

But before you decide how much you can give – first, will you pray? Let’s start there…with prayer. The financial need is great; it will take a spiritual move of God to touch people’s hearts. The world is cynical about many things. The culture is confused about many things. So I urge you to pray with me that the Lord will strengthen this church to be a clear light and strong beacon for the days ahead.

This is an amazing congregation. Don’t you feel that the worship and praise from week to week has been truly inspirational? I have sensed the strength of God upon this place for (now) 30 years. It has been incredible. Even during this time of transition as we pray for the Lord to bring us the new Rector of this great church, I see God’s hand sustaining this congregation. He is doing it now as He has always sustained us: through the committed service and giving of incredibly dedicated and generous members like you.

We have lots to do in our community and among our membership, especially our children and students. Our focus and our mission are unchanged: we are making disciples and teaching them to obey the commands of Christ.

Just last evening I was at the Children’s Christmas Pageant. It was packed.  Well over 300 in attendance, with over 100 kids around the stage. It was beautiful. Fr. Tripp said that it was so full that we will need to move it into the Fellowship Hall next year! And the Thanksgiving Outreach was over-subscribed. Even the Christmas Angel Tree this year was better than ever.

These are just a few of the ways Christ Church Plano involves and touches tens of thousands of lives every year – not just in Plano but literally around the world. I have to say it: I am so proud to be able to hand this great church over to a new leader when the Lord calls the right person.

Now please join Fran and me in keeping our church financially strong for a great future. Use the enclosed reply card or go online to respond to this important financial challenge. Pray, then give – by midnight December 31. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.

Thank you for reading my letter. And please know how much I appreciate you.

With gratitude,

Signed…

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By | 2017-11-07T08:13:40+00:00 November 7th, 2017|Generosity, Giving Up, Pastoral Ministry|0 Comments

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