This weekend at Nativity we’re delivering our annual Stewardship Sunday message. We put a lot of time and energy into crafting the right message that our congregation needs to hear. Jesus talked about money all the time, and if we are going to talk about Jesus, sooner or later we have to realize that money is a part of his message. Besides the obvious fact that the Church needs money for its mission.
Here are some principles we’ve learned over the years to make Stewardship not just another awkward ask, but a real gospel message that can grow the faith of your parishioners.
- Teach giving as an act of worship
If the only time you talk about money is when you want a specific commitment, don’t be surprised people see it as a negative subject and put up resistance to your message. Your Stewardship Sunday will only really be successful if you consistently communicate God’s plan for giving in the life of a disciple. And God’s plan for giving is all about worship. We try to make it clear that giving is an act of worship when it happens in our place of worship.
- Teach giving for your mission, not for your need
Money is actually a part of the church’s mission to make disciples. All too often church’s ask for money out of a sense of desperation or mere maintenance. Parishes present the congregation with laundry lists of needs and ailments, hoping to make people feel guilty for not giving.
What’s missing is a compelling, and frankly, biblical vision about why they should give. People are more willing to give money for you church’s mission than for your church’s maintenance. Of course, people can conveniently overlook that there are costs associated with the church’s operation, and need to be gently reminded from time to time. But what we strive to make clear is that the ultimate destination of their money is life change, not just keeping the lights on.
- Teach giving by sharing stories
The best way to get the point across that stewardship is about mission and life change is by sharing actual stories from your parish about mission and life change. Show people where their money goes by relating it to the lives of the community and the people you serve. This is not a progress or business report. It’s a chance to inspire and encourage your congregation.
People come to church because they want to experience positive change in their lives and the lives of others. Point out where that is happening. And remember, if you’re going to use someone’s story, ask their permission, even if you don’t include their real name.
- Teach the “P’s” of giving
Mission is about why people give. The trouble is, even when people are willing and excited, we forget to teach people how to give.
Our preferred method is teaching what we call the “P’s” of giving. We ask everyone to give in a planned way, to give a percentage of their household income, and to be progressive in that percentage from year to year. The actual amount will look different for every unique family situation, but the “P’s” are principles that apply for everyone.
- Teach that giving is for members
Our giving message is directed toward our current members, not visitors or those not yet a part of the parish. When we are making an ask about money, we will actually say, “If you’re not a regular at Nativity, feel free to tune out.” While they are of course free to give, this free-pass communicates a non-threatening message to visitors (it’s not their responsibility) while reinforcing that if you are a member, you are called to be a contributor.
- Teach giving as good stewardship
If you expect members to be good stewards, it is critical that your church leaders are themselves good stewards. Would you give your money to an institution or person that lacked transparency, exhibited wastefulness, or even just lacked wise and effective money handling and investment skills? Not only does bad stewardship kill your credibility, it betrays your calling from God. That’s why we always offer our annual “business meeting” on Stewardship Sunday. That meeting is hosted by our Finance Director, Brandon Hollern, and our Financial Council, reviewing last year’s budget and providing an overview of this year.
Also, along with a great Stewardship Sunday message, make sure you have some fun. We usually prepare a funny video to show after Mass, playfully making fun of ourselves. Your Stewardship message is going to be even more effective if you can send people away laughing.