Video series, coming seminars show how focus on generosity can invigorate congregations
- Say “thank you” early and often, and not just once a year.
- Talk about faith and generosity in worship. Make it “as central as the spiritual practices of prayer and scripture and working for justice.”
- Make sure your pastor knows, confidentially, what people give.
- Organize your stewardship campaign calendar over a full year, not just a few intensive weeks.
- Plan testimonials about giving and make a “message map” for them.
Those are just a few of the strategies offered to pastors and lay leaders in a growing series of United Church of Christ YouTube videos, available now, on stewardship, budgeting, fundraising and generosity as a spiritual practice.
And through Jan. 15, UCC pastors and lay leaders can enroll in a six-part Cultivating Generous Congregations Seminar offered online Feb. 9 through April 27.
‘Bottom line of our work’
“Stewardship in any season can be stressful for pastors,” said the Rev. Andrew Warner, UCC generosity outreach officer. “It can feel awkward — ‘I’m asking people to pay me.’ It can feel unspiritual — ‘Jesus chased the money changers out of the temple.’”
Warner said the seminar will indeed improve a congregation’s bottom line. “But I want to be clear that this bottom line is about more than money,” he said. “Mission and ministry remain the real bottom line of our work. This seminar will help pastors and leaders engage generosity as a spiritual practice.”
Interested persons can get information and register here for the seminars, to be taught by Warner and his colleague, the Rev. Andy DeBraber. They ask that each church register a team of at least two people. The fee is $150 per participant.
Talking about generosity matters
The spirituality of generosity is also a theme of the video series. The 14 so far, produced by the UCC Office of Philanthropy, Technology, Identity and Communication, offer a mix of “how to” instruction, research on what works, and faith insights into the importance of giving – for the giver as well as the recipient.
“The series grew out of our commitment to help local churches address and think about how to do effective annual campaigns,” said Warner, who coordinated and hosts the videos. He said leaders might use the videos, one by one, in a variety of ways, such as before planning meetings, in orienting campaign volunteers or in preparing lay members to give testimonials about the joy of giving.
In one of them, Warner describes the power such testimonials can have when they are included regularly in worship. He cites a recent Lake Institute on Faith and Giving study of congregations of various sizes and denominations.
The study “found a significant correlation between laypeople talking about their generosity and increased financial support of the congregation,” Warner says. “When laypeople talk about why they give and what it means for them, then people in our congregations catch sight of the joy, meaning and purpose of generosity. They come to see it as a spiritual practice.”
Yet the study found that, “in almost two-thirds of congregations, a layperson spoke about giving only once a year or not at all,” he says. “That’s incredible. I find it true that in most UCC congregations, laypeople rarely describe their own decisions and joy around giving. This results in a common church experience. We sit in a pew, someone passes us a plate, and we have no idea why we would give.”
Impact on hearts, communities
Near the top of the video playlist are interviews with each of the UCC’s national officers on the stewardship of hope, of values and of risk.
The current playlist – which Warner said will be added to over time – includes these titles:
- “Teach and Thank as Often as You Pass the Plate,” presented by Generosity Officer Andrew Warner.
- “The Stewardship of Hope,” featuring Associate General Minister Traci Blackmon.
- “The Stewardship of Values,” featuring Associate General Minister Karen Georgia Thompson.
- “The Stewardship of Risk,” featuring General Minister and President John Dorhauer.
- “The Stewardship of Gratitude,” featuring Chief Strategy Officer Cheryl Joseph Williams.
- “Saying Thank You,” featuring Generosity Officer Jessica Shine.
- “Developing a Year-Round Stewardship Plan,” presented by Warner.
- “Why Pledge?” presented by Warner.
- “Calendar for Organizing a Campaign,” presented by Warner.
- “Developing a Case Statement,” featuring the Revs. David Sigmund and Kimberlee Vasko of the Three Great Loves
- “What Should Pastors Know about Church Members’ Pledge Habits?” featuring the Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, Team Leader, Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization.
- “A ‘Message Map’ for Testimonials,” presented by Warner.
- “Developing a Mission-Aligned or Narrative Budget,” featuring Generosity Officers Jessica Shine and Andy DeBraber.
- “The Power of Asking,” featuring Transitional Conference Minister Jonna Jensen, Maine Conference.
Warner encouraged people to email him if they have further topics to suggest.
The series is designed – as Warner says in the introduction to each video – to “reflect on how the practice of generosity impacts our communities, touches our hearts and works for a more just world.”
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