Starting a New Call in a Pandemic

In the last week, I have spoken with three pastors and senior seminarians who are anxious about how to be stewardship leaders in their new calls during the national pandemic of COVID19. They recognize that financial issues could surface quickly and they don't have the relationship capital built up yet to know how to have conversations about money.

Here are the first five activities I suggest for stewardship in a new call these days:

  1. Listen. This is a great time to ask people questions about the impact that the church is having on their lives. Questions like:
    1. How have you been cared for by the church at this time?
    2. How has the congregation connected you with what you need from your faith in days like this?
    3. What have you missed most about gathering together as a congregation?
    4. What do you look forward to most when we can gather again?
    5. What do you think God is leading this congregation to in the future as a result of what we are living through now in times of physical distancing?

    This listening will help you understand the impact and the case for gifts and will allow you to enter into the congregation’s story so that you too can tell the story of why people should support the congregation.

  2. Analyze. Take this time to get to know the giving patterns of the congregation. If giving is down because one of the largest donors died or moved last year, but those who remain are giving more than they did before, be sure to tell that story of generosity. If one or two donors have grown significantly in their giving, be sure to thank them. Check in on those who may be pulling back.
  3. Partner. Ask the Council President or Stewardship Chair to be your partner in any messages about money that need to be made during this time, especially when asking needs to happen. It is critical that messages now promote abundance and don’t scare the congregation into a scarcity mentality.
  4. Tell. Become the storyteller for the congregation about the generosity that is happening in their midst and telling the stories of the outcomes of the ministry that you are doing together. Also, witness to your own generosity and how you are personally growing in your generosity at this time.
  5. Dream. Point people to the brighter future that God is calling the ministry to live into in the future. God tells us not to worry about tomorrow (Mt 6.34), but many people right now are very worried about tomorrow. Knowing that they have a leader who has faith in the future and the capability to lead them there will provide comfort and confidence.

You have the benefit of being new. It may be easier to change congregational bad habits now than it will be when you are part of the system. Sharing financial information with the pastor, talking openly about money, inviting people to share about their generosity, and telling stories of ministry impact can begin the culture change that will benefit the congregation over the long-term.

If you would like to walk with us, two programs for annual stewardship are available this year:

  • Stewardship for All Seasons which is a full-year (with many congregations enrolled for many years) to change the culture around stewardship. In addition to the stewardship drive, it also focuses on council leadership, strategic planning, special appeals, communication, and more.
  • Beginning a Culture of Generosity is a new program that focuses on the stewardship drive and year-end giving.