Believe it or not, now is the time for Stewardship Committees to be reviewing and selecting a financial response method for the fall annual appeal. There are various options. Some have more details and activities than others. Choosing your approach depends on the stewardship history of the congregation, the commitment and availability of your stewardship leaders, and whether there are specific new needs for funding in the congregation. It is important to remember that an effective stewardship response method yields more than money. It is about the opportunity for spiritual growth among members, teaching the principles of good stewardship practices, bringing the congregation together for the mission of the church, and making a clear case for the ways in which the work of the congregation makes a difference in the lives of the members, the community, and the world.

There are basically six major response methods for an annual stewardship program. They vary in intensity, number of volunteers needed, and length of time to implement. A good rule of thumb is to change methods every two to three years. Long term repetitive use of one specific program can cause a sense of familiarity that can lead to unintentionally cutting corners, or leaving out steps in the process that will diminish the effectiveness of the response method. Each of the methods require providing information for the congregation concerning the impact of your ministry.

It is important to tell the stories of what is taking place, who is benefitting from these ministries, and how the work of the congregation impacts the lives of those who receive the benefits of your good work. Frankly, if the message is about just paying the bills because you have these salaries, heat and light, and building maintenance to pay for, then any response method probably won’t be very helpful. There should be a tone of celebration and joy in all of the messaging. This is the congregation’s story of how sharing and proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel is taking place.

Conversation with local church leaders in your area can be helpful in learning about the various response methods and how others have used them. Also, your local judicatory can usually provide access to obtaining materials for various methods.

So, what are the various stewardship programs or response methods?

Commitment at Worship – A designated Stewardship Sunday where the focus is commitment as an act of worship. Strong publicity is required. Worship will focus on high quality – possibly a guest speaker, special music, a congregational meal and celebration of the ministry. Commitment, or Pledge cards, are distributed and brought forward as an important act of worship. High attendance is important for this method to work well.

Relay – This method is designed to contact every household in the congregation for a stewardship response. The congregation is divided into geographical groups. Each group has a leader to track the relay of the packet from house to house. The packet includes a commitment card and return envelope for each household. When the member receives the packet, they fill out the commitment card, seal it in their envelope, place it in the packet and deliver the packet to the next house on the list. There is a celebration in worship when all the packets have been returned.

Fellowship Meal – The entire congregation gathers for a stewardship fellowship meal. There is a special program celebrating the congregational volunteers, various ministry activities, and an inspirational presentation. Commitment cards are distributed, filled out, and turned in.

Dessert and Prayer – This is a less formal gathering than the Fellowship Meal. Commitment cards are received within a devotional time focusing on prayer. This approach can be done as a large congregational gathering or a series of smaller group gatherings.

Home Gathering – A series of small, intimate gatherings in homes, where authentic sharing and personal testimony are the focus. Good attendance at a variety of homes is essential. Requires good organization, skilled presenters and a number of group leaders.

Home Visits – Individuals, or teams of two, visit members in their homes for a stewardship conversation or presentation. Questions can be answered, and financial commitments can be received during the visit, returned during worship, mailed, or completed online. This method requires extensive training of visitors, high organization, and coordination of visits.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Some are more volunteer and time commitment intensive than others. All of them require telling ministry impact stories and creating interaction among the members. Blessings on your planning and implementation of which ever response method you choose!

Now is the time to plan . . . don’t wait!

Need help? Contact us, we have years of experience partnering with congregations to help expand their ministry of financial generosity.

Scott Jacob
Sr. Program Director
The James Company
Phone: 218-830-0335