In the next few months, your church may transition back to in-person gatherings. During this social-distancing hiatus, you may have added new ways to worship and give. Now is the time to think about how you carry those new ways back to your in-person worship.
Every church is different. Not all of these transitions will apply to you. But every church can and should consider what lessons they have learned and what practices will serve them best as we move to the next stage of this global pandemic.
- Follow legal, ethical, safety, and spiritual guidance when considering whether or not to resume in-person worship. Faithful generosity includes care and respect for one another. Consider your attendee and your community demographics. If you do re-open, make sure you are doing all you can to keep your attendees well and safe.
- Include a giving moment now in your virtual worship. Create some background music and a visual that lists the ways persons can give. Include a QR code that can be captured by smart phones and links to a giving page on your website. Take an extra step and share a ministry story before your giving moment.
- Sidebar—recognize your online visitors! Some churches are reporting phenomenal growth in online worship attendance. While I’m a bit skeptical about these numbers because I’m not sure that all churches understand social media metrics, in my anecdotal worship service surfing I’m not seeing much recognition of this great cloud of visitors. Make sure you are welcoming your online visitors—now and in the future if you continue to offer online worship. And if you provide the opportunity to give in your online worship, this may be one of the first ways you receive enough information to make a deeper connection with these virtual visitors.
- Transition that online giving moment to in-person worship. The Lake Institute on Faith & Giving’s National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices reports that half of US churches surveyed provide more than one giving option when the plate is passed. Use your visual, share your stories, and invite gifts in the plate and gifts online.
- Not offering online giving during worship? Then provide something that anyone can put in the plate. Some churchgoers’ income flow means that they may make gifts only once or twice a month. And while you might not receive gifts on a website or mobile app, perhaps you offer the opportunity for persons to give through electronic transfers from their bank accounts. Placing cards in your pews that say “I gave electronically this week” (laminate them so that they can be disinfected each week) makes your giving moment less awkward for those persons.
- Stop Passing the Plate. The Lake Institute study also reports that more than a quarter of US churches surveyed don’t pass an offering plate. If you decide to join them, then consider making your giving moment a time when you share that ministry story. And as you send out your congregation to serve for the week, consider a statement something like this: “As we leave today, God calls us to be generous in our witness, our service, and our financial stewardship. Please remember to support the ministry of your church by giving a financial gift in our offering basket as you leave today, so that we can continue to serve our community and make a difference, like we have for (your storyteller for the day).”
- Provide a small group study about the Offering. “Spirited Generosity: Offering Vitality for the 21st Century” includes four video sessions and a study guide to explore the history and theology of the offering, its spiritual significance, and how faith communities can continue to make giving a vital practice. Use for an in-person or online gathering.
But after you make your decisions about transitioning your church giving, your work is not done. This to-do list is just as important.
- Involve your staff and volunteers who manage your church’s giving.
If you add new giving options, make sure those responsible for your church finances understand them. You need to decide who will have access to giving and bank accounts to authorize transfers if necessary.
- Communicate about your giving options through all your channels.
Besides your in-person and online worship moments, remember to communicate about your giving options through your social media, website, email, and print communications, including your church bulletin.
- Review all of your practices around receiving gifts and make sure they are the best. Do you have an emergency plan in case your staff or volunteers are no longer able to serve? Does a qualified individual or company from outside your congregation regularly conduct a financial review? Are you transparent with your congregation about these practices?
- Plan ahead with your ministry stories. Can you name 52 ministry stories? Now is the time to make your list. Don’t forget to include stories about how your church supports community, judicatory, and denominational ministries. (They would love to help you with your stories!) Consider scripting and even pre-recording your stories to make the best impact. Sometimes less is more.
- Ask the question: Are we focused on funding, or are we growing faithfully generous givers? What are you doing in your church that encourages faithful generosity as a spiritual discipline?
- Say thank you, say thank you, SAY THANK YOU. A quarterly statement is not a thank you-note. Saying “Our ministry isn’t possible without you” and showing what the gift made possible, is.
P.S. Want to take a step further? Download a PDF document with a sample giving slide, ministry story, and giving card. Or download the whitepaper “Giving Beyond the Offering Plate” for a more in-depth look at various giving options.
Marcia Shetler, Executive Director/CEO, Ecumenical Stewardship Center