By Pete Reuss
In September, 2020, the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving released their COVID-19 Congregational Study. A key finding? “While most congregations are planning to move forward without significant budget cuts, not a single congregation expects to increase next year’s budget.”
But, what if they did? What if congregations tried GSB Fundraising’s Stewardship for All Seasons (SAS) process? This September SAS congregations considered the question, “What could we do with 10% to 15% more giving in the coming year?” Instead of focusing on growing a budget, they drew a direct line between growth in giving and expansion of ministry. And the results?
- Many congregations will expand their capacity to reach people with the Good News through technology.
- Others ensure ongoing faith formation by growing support of Bible Camps and expanding staffing.
- Others will make their buildings welcoming and inviting.
People responded with generosity. God’s work continues to expand.
Why would someone give?
SAS begins with a critical question, “Why would someone give to your congregation?” Instead of talking about balancing budgets or keeping the doors open, congregations talk about the why of giving. They talk about God’s work in their midst.
How often do you hear, “My congregation gives generously to a special appeal. It’s hard to get them to give to the budget.” When people see their giving making a difference, they grow in generosity. SAS brings that special appeal mentality to the annual appeal. Moving from language of budget and into language of why, impact and mission, engages people in a new way. People respond.
“SAS has helped us do our best job in telling the story of Celebration’s mission. And when we tell our story well, I feel like there is nothing that God puts in front of us that we cannot accomplish.” Rev. Jeff Sackett, Celebration Lutheran Church, Sartell, MN
This has real world consequences! In the fall of 2019 Word of Peace Lutheran in Rogers, Minnesota had a goal of welcoming the community to know Christ’s love. A part of that goal included upgrading their technology to livestream worship. Increased giving allowed them to make the investment in February of 2020. As the pandemic hit, God had already prepared them to move ministry online. Generosity led to critical ministry. They had a story to tell!
SAS draws on GSB’s experience in helping non-profit organizations grow ministry through increased giving, helping congregations develop robust processes for:
- Annual Appeals – Make a strong case for the impact of giving
- Communications – Tell the story of God’s work in the congregation
- Strategic Planning – Clarify identity and goals for more energy
- Endowments and Planned Giving – Provide for the church for future generations
- Recruiting volunteers – Invite people to be generous with their time
- Special Appeals – Grow beyond the annual appeal to expand ministry
Throughout the year, congregations tell the story of God’s work and connect that to people’s generous gifts.
This work is not easy! In SAS, consultants walk together with congregational teams, providing experience and expertise as the team engages in stewardship in new ways. This relationship keeps the team focused and brings outside accountability and encouragement to fully engage.
“We were able to make big cultural changes because there was a consultant, there was support, and the process was laid out.” Troy Medlin, former pastoral intern at Christ Lutheran Church, St. Paul MN
“In our small, rural congregation, the most helpful thing was having a structure to follow. Focusing in on ministry priorities engaged people in a new way.” Rev. Anna Sorensen, French Creek Lutheran Church, Ettrick, WI
What is your why? What would your congregation do with an additional 10-15% in giving in the next year? Does God invite your congregation to grow in generosity to make new ministry possible? GSB will kick off a new year of SAS in the spring of 2021. More information is at stewardshipforallseasons.org, or contact Rev. Pete Reuss directly at email@example.com.
About the Author:
Pastor Pete Reuss works with congregations and leaders across the country as a consultant with GSB and a facilitator for Shape of Leadership. Through the death of his mother as an 8-year-old and the death of his wife in 2015, Peter remains convinced that nothing, not even death, can stand in God’s way.
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