+Rev. Dee Pederson, Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA
Dearly beloved in Christ –
Our stewardship teaching focuses on giving as a spiritual practice, shifting from a mindset of scarcity to sufficiency & abundance. But how do we do that today when it feels like there’s scarcity all around us? We as the church trust in God’s promises to provide what we need! We believe, as Rev. Harry Wendt has said, that “It all belongs to God.” That means we all are stewards who have been given responsibility to care for what belongs to another – God! We see God’s generosity overflowing in others through astonishing stories of compassion, self-sacrifice, and love these days. We see lived out our synod vision statement, “Together, we have what we need.” We witness abundant generosity in our relationships with God, one another, and with our communities. Here are some ideas for talking about stewardship and generosity “for such a time as this.”
1.) Whether live-streaming worship or pre-recording, make the worship offering time special. Focus on God’s mission. Resist handwringing over scarcity.
- THANK people for their generosity at this difficult time.
- TELL a short story about what people’s generosity made possible this week. Tell how your ministries are impacting people’s lives. These stories are so real for us right now. Remind people that God’s mission, our ministries, and their partnership together is more important than ever!
- ASK people to consider the various ways to give. If you’re live-streaming, show a visual that lists all of your congregation’s giving options and how to access them, including a QR Code if you can. Keep the camera on the screen for the offering time, so people have time to act. Enlist your musicians to include beautiful music – like you always do!
- THANK Because we can’t say it enough. 😉
2.) There are so many streams of generosity available today. Each church is unique and needs to consider its own context and culture; its population, demographics, and needs; its preferred giving patterns. People who use their phones solely as phones probably won’t be comfortable giving offerings on a phone app. Folks who never carry a checkbook or cash expect to utilize the same electronic payment options they have in other areas of their financial life. So consider:
- What do your people already know how to use?
- What’s most important for you to learn right away?
- What do you want to learn in the future?
Communicate clearly, positively, and passionately that our giving is even more important for God’s mission in these days. We are making a difference when people need us most!
Remind people of the many ways they can give:
- Send checks by mail.
- If the church office is open, stop by during open hours, respecting physical distancing.
- Remember internal best practices. Keep a two-person rule when carrying offering, securing it, and recording. How do you need to adapt standard processes for today?
- Use Electronic Transfer of Funds (EFT) or ACH (Automated ClearingHouse) for recurring donations. It’s secure, increases consistency and cash flow, and reduces administrative work.
- Many of our churches use one of the ELCA-preferred vendors below for EFT, Web, or text giving. This is a snapshot of the details, but things change, so speak with them directly about your congregation.
- Vanco. https://www.vancopayments.com/
“Simply Giving” is the electronic method many have used for years. To enroll your congregation, call 1-800-675-7430 or visit SimplyGivingByTFB.com
Options include: GivePlus+ Mobile, text giving, kiosk, card swipe, and online giving.
Transaction cost to start: 2.75% + $0.45 per transaction; to sustain: 2.35% + $0.30 per transaction. Monthly Fee depends on total platform. ACH to start: 1% + $0.45 per transaction; to sustain: 0.80% + $0.35 per transaction. Text to Give – $5 per month to include this capability
- Tithe.ly https://get.tithe.ly/elca
Online, mobile, text, participation app, Church Management System, Web design, and more. Provides special, great ELCA pricing! Transaction cost to start: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Monthly Fee depends on total platform, as does the set-up fee. ACH to start: 1% + $0.30 per transaction. Text to Give – $19 per month to include this capability.
These two vendors are used most widely in our synod; there are others. Figures vary; church leaders should speak with vendors directly for their current info in relation to the size of your congregation.
3.) Contingency Planning keeps us proactive, prudent, and strategic. Plan for the question of what will happen, what we will do if income received deviates significantly from the approved income budget. Please don’t avoid this conversation. Breathe. Components of contingency plans include:
- Operating reserves
- Cash flow projections
- Have a special appeal if you’re at a point of not being able to pay staff or expenses like the mortgage. Remember 2 Cor. 8:14, that the abundance of some can create balance when others are in need.
- Budget reductions
- Banking relationships – be in touch with your banker
For an abundance of resources on financial best practices for congregations, visit:
4.) God’s generosity turns us outward to consider how time, skills, passion, and money can be of help to one another and our community right now. Pray together and ask:
- Do we know the people living next door, have their phone numbers, know something about their life situation?
- Who in our congregation or community might need additional support right now? Who’s out of work? How can our generosity of time, skills, passions, and money help others get by?
- Do we have funds that could be shared to help people in need?
- Where do we see God’s healing, compassionate presence showing up in other organizations? How can we partner with them?
- Who are the Full Communion, ecumenical, or interfaith people we can link-up with?
- Which agencies or organizations are stretched and in need of our time, skills, and money? Money especially, when we can’t show up in person.
Thank you for leadership and your partnership in these life-changing times. We hold you in prayer. We see God working in and through you and give thanks for the generosity God has poured into your hearts and your lives.
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. (ELW, p.76)