By Hillary Bowling
When many people hear the term “stewardship,” there’s often a tendency to think “money” — and even more specifically, Oh boy … they’re going to talk about money again today.
But you know that stewardship can involve myriad possibilities for making an “invitation to give”… yes, of treasure, but also — and perhaps more importantly — of time, talent, passion and participation.
The question is: How will you communicate about these ideas?
Certainly, as a “shepherd” in your church, you have the right and responsibility to guide and teach about stewardship, including the many times it is referenced in the Word. You can do this in the sanctuary and in an article for the bulletin or your newsletter. If yours is like many churches, however, it can be easy to address this topic only in times of need.
Communicating about stewardship needs to begin with a strategy
That strategy must speak to your financial goals — both operational and capital-intensive — but also include your goals for people and their participation and the value they bring (both the intangibles and anything you can quantify as “in-kind”). You might also want to identify which civic, social and business associations and partnerships contribute to the caretaking and well-being of your church.
Next, you’ll need a plan, or roadmap, for how and when (and to whom) you’ll communicate about your stewardship goals, specific needs you might have along the way, and any progress you can measure. This might include updating your member database information regarding skills and ministry interests (think “census”…and gather information in stages and via multiple methods like email, feedback forms, telephone polling or other method.
Encourage visitors to share what they bring to the community in addition to their contact information. Be blatant in your explanation of what stewardship can be for your church. Ask each member to consider the totality of what (s)he can bring to the community. You might be amazed at what will come forth with just the right hint or other encouragement. Understand that your communications need to reach several audiences within your church, and you might even want to practice with the verbiage, style and channel of communicating to these audiences.
One caveat …
Rather than communicate through every channel, try to select the channels you can do well. If you have someone who’s talented at making social media posts, that’s great. But if not, find other ways to play to your strengths. You’ll want to develop communications that have a regular cadence and identity, rather than what might look like the “fits and starts” approach. This gives your communications a connected, consistent feel — and that goes a long way to building culture.
Technology obviously can enhance your communication campaign; but again, be careful to use those tools you can manage well. An invitation to help with a fundraising car wash will lose its effectiveness if the message pops up on your electronic signage two days before the event … or if it’s still in the slide rotation two days after the event. If you use Facebook and Twitter, update frequently and be concise in your message, whether educating, requesting, referring or recognizing.
Many churches now also use a group messaging system to manage voice, text, email and social media notifications. The advantage of a tool like this is the ability to have one source for reaching diverse groups within your church through a method appropriate to them. Pastors also like the ability to extend Sunday’s message with follow-up examples over the phone or in text or email later in the week. Some of these systems even provide a polling feature, whereby the church member can RSVP to a particular request for help with a ministry or event.
Regardless of your audience and your communication channel, be sure to regularly discuss the shared stewardship of your church and the many ways that members can contribute. Identify your needs and the type of “giving” (including specific skills, money or other resources) that will not only help you fulfill your vision, but which will also draw your faith community closer together in the service of each other and your neighbors.
Hillary Bowling is marketing program manager at One Call Now, providers of simple, affordable broadcast messaging.