The Synod Stewardship Team offers information, workshops and ideas to help create a culture of year-round stewardship in your congregation. For information contact the chair, Pastor Larry Smoose.
Tip of the Month: Quarterly Reports
The first quarter of the calendar year is over and in many congregations the Financial Secretary sends out a “quarterly report.” As you think about your congregation’s practices in this area of stewardship, consider some of the following:
- If you don’t send quarterly reports to your members, reconsider it.
- It is NOT a bill
- It helps members see how they are doing in their self-set goal for their financial offerings for the mission and ministry of their congregation.
- Members are conscientious and when they have made an Estimate of Giving, they want to meet their goal.
- It allows members to check that any special offerings they have given are properly credited. And, any mistakes can quickly be corrected by contacting the Financial Secretary.
- Quarterly reports help increase offerings.
- When you send your quarterly report, include a thank you letter
- Give the prepared letter to the Financial Secretary to include with the member’s statement – this preserves confidentiality.
- Keep the letter positive and share a story or example or two of how member offerings have benefitted the mission and ministry of the congregation.
- People are more generous and more cheerful when they see how their generous gifts have made a difference.
- Be sure to say thank you.
- DO NOT send negative messages about deficits or guilt producing language.
- Most congregations are behind budget most of the year.
- Guilt is not conducive to giving and can frustrate those who are most conscientious (they are doing all they can and you are saying it still is not enough).
- Quarterly reports give a consistent message about best practices.
- We encourage intentional and prayerful, thoughtful giving
- We encourage regular giving
- We give thanks for the gifts that are given in response to God’s grace.
STRENGTHENING CONGREGATIONAL STEWARDSHIP – THE BASICS
MODEL IN THE CONGREGATION WHAT YOU WANT MEMBERS TO PRACTICE
- An attitude of gratitude – We are blessed by God, express that in worship, meetings, newsletters, etc. find ways to give thanks
- An attitude of sufficiency – God will give us enough for our needs AND to share with others (II Cor 8) Good stewardship is based on our faith in that promise from God and that faith is practiced by what and how we communicate about finances.
- First Fruits Giving – we want members to give first to God and to be confident they will still have enough for themselves. The congregation models this by giving first to Partnership Support, with confidence there will be enough for our ministry.
- Proportional giving that strives for Tithing and beyond. We encourage members to give proportionately – in accordance with what they have. We should model that and work to give at least 10% in Partnership support.
- Intentional Giving – we encourage members to make a commitment – for their sake, so that they can express their intent to God and plan within their budget to meet that commitment as they do for other commitments – mortgage/rent; food; car; insurance, etc. So our congregation makes a commitment for its Partnership support and for other benevolent giving.
- Regular giving – we encourage members to give weekly or monthly, knowing that is how we fulfill most of our budgeted expenses. Methods like Simply Giving, or an automatic bank payment are increasingly used. So the congregation should give its proportional share of Partnership support each month.
DEVELOP A CONGREGATIONAL PLAN THAT LIFTS UP A CULTURE OF GOOD STEWARDSHIP
- Recruit a team that includes people who exhibit best practices of stewardship (see above)
- Include people in various areas of stewardship (time/talent; stewardship of the earth; financial management)
- Don’t try to do it all at once – a culture of good stewardship will require 5-10 years of intentional planning/practice and a lifetime of reinforcement. Going step by step and trying a few things a year will be more productive.
- Include education – both for your team and for the congregation – go to workshops/events; read some good books; bring in local resources.
- Goals and specific plans to accomplish them are critical to accomplishing what you want.
- Stewardship involves many other areas of congregational life – work together with Education leaders, Worship team members, Outreach teams, and others to help them understand how stewardship is part of what they do and how they can be more intentional about best practices.
DOWNLOADING STEWARDSHIP RESOURCES
These instructions will help you download a variety of resources for Stewardship (and other congregational ministries) from the ELCA.
This is a valuable source of practical information and knowledge-building material to help strengthen congregational ministry.
- GO TO ELCA.ORG
- UNDER THE NAME/MOTTO LEFT CLICK ON “RESOURCES”
- SCROLL DOWN THROUGH THE ARRAY OF RESOURCE TOPICS TO “STEWARDSHIP” AND LEFT CLICK ON IT. (NOTE: THERE ARE OTHER TOPICS THAT COULD BE OF BENEFIT FOR STEWARDSHIP INCLUDING “STORIES OF FAITH IN ACTION”; “LUTHERAN DISASTER RESPONSE;” “GOD’S WORK OUR HANDS” AND OTHERS THAT CAN HELP TELL THE STORY OF HOW OUR STEWARDSHIP DOLLARS WORK AT THE CHURCHWIDE AND GLOBAL LEVEL.
- CHOOSE AREAS OF STEWARDSHIP FROM THE BAR – LEADERSHIP, CARE OF CREATION, FINANCES, LIFESTYLE, SPIRITUAL GIFTS, ETC.
- SOME OF THE MOST USEFUL, WHICH WE RECOMMEND FOR DOWNLOAD ARE:
- Giving Magazine
- The Generosity Project
- Kids, Money and Stuff (both a leader guide and participant book)
- Make it Simple congregational response program (A sample of the Make It Simple Commitment Sunday response calendar is included in this material, but other response methods and supporting materials are on this website)
- More Than Money – a workshop to help congregations look at their financial practices and levels of accountability.
- ELCA Stewards of God’s Love – a comprehensive manual for congregations that want to develop year round stewardship. This can be downloaded or ordered online.
- How Much Is Enough? An excellent 60 page booklet on personal stewardship in an age of abundance.
- Why Tithe (in the Finances category) helps youth or anyone consider a philosophy of sharing, saving and spending in responsible ways.