The New Year. I love it. I hate it. Love it because it's a time for new beginnings – watching new TV shows, scoping out new ice cream flavors, catching a new movie. Hate it because it should mean a little self-reflection and – let's just say – I don't do self-reflection very well. This is mostly because I already know what my goals for the New Year should be – eating less ice cream, exercising more, being nicer, watching less TV…so much for scoping out new ice cream flavors and watching new shows. Thanks a lot, New Year. But I digress.
Speaking of reflection, one thing that I need to do and that you need to do, too, is update (or create) a stewardship calendar. This needs to be done because, as all the experts tell us ad nauseam, the best way to achieve your goals is by writing them down.
Fine clergy and lay people, one of your primary goals for the New Year should be to encourage and promote generosity in your congregation.
In order to get you started on the right foot, here are three things you can do right now:
1. Thank people who gave a first time or unexpected Christmas or year-end gift. If you haven't done it yet, do it now. It's actually a little late, but better late than never. I was reminded of this on Friday when I had two people from two states tell me that they had NOT been thanked by a church where they had given a recent donation. After texting me about this, one friend sheepishly wrote, "…I realized that I shouldn't give in order to be thanked." I wanted to reply ever so sarcastically, "Oh Puhleezz." But instead (trying to follow my anti-sarcasm New Year's resolution), I acknowledged his guilt by saying, "That's true but churches shouldn't just expect gifts without acknowledging them…A 'thank you' helps promote generosity. And it's easy." Go find those new or unexpected Christmas donors and thank them.
2. Schedule a day, every week, when you will write four gratitude notes. These notes can be to people in your congregation or community. They don't need to be long or complicated. A brief, heartfelt note of thanks for the time, talent, and/or treasure of a particular person will make you feel good and will undoubtedly be a welcome and treasured surprise for the recipient. Just think, over the course of a year 208 people could get a gratitude note from you. Awesome!
3. Every Sunday (yes, every Sunday), plan to thank your congregation for being generous and for supporting ministries that make a difference. For a few of you who are struggling financially, this may be hard to do – but do it anyway. Dig down and find ways to thank people. Thank them for making your building available to the community. Thank them for providing a way for people to grow spiritually. Thank them for singing with gusto. Thank them for supporting ministries outside the walls of the church. Over the course of 52 weeks, you will help your congregation know that God indeed, "loves a cheerful giver" because what they give brings joy to and matters in the lives of real people.
In this example of a "Stewardship Calendar" you will notice several recurring themes:
- Telling stories is important.
- Thanking people is important.
- Preaching about giving and generosity is important.
- Giving people the opportunity to give is important.
Take this Stewardship Calendar and make it your own to help keep your generosity priorities right on track. . Add detail. Make it relevant to your community.
Most of all…have fun with it. Remember, giving and generosity should bring great joy. Happy 2017!
This is a New Year…let's embrace the newness and fresh start that we've been given. It's a gift; let's not waste it.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.