“God’s people want to know that their giving makes a difference in people’s lives.” Charles Lane
While we give in response to God’s generosity, we also like to experience the joy that comes from knowing what kind of ministries our contributions have supported. No one wants to feel like his or her gift has gone into a black hole, but oftentimes that can happen when our churches hesitate to talk about money.
As communities of faith, we have to tell. We have to tell our stories, we have to tell people how their gifts make a difference, and we have to tell them “thank you” for being generous.
According to the “experts”, you have to say something seven times in seven different ways before it is really heard. We think we’ve told people, we think they know, but how often do we hear people at church say they had no idea about an activity or hadn’t heard anything about the needs for a particular ministry? A friend recently told me how she was trying to recruit new volunteers for her church’s annual spaghetti dinner, so she asked a woman who had been involved with it for years to tell her the story of the dinner: why it got started, what ministries it supported, how many pounds of pasta are prepared each year, etc. The woman responded, “People know all that. We put an article in the church newsletter a few years ago.” This same member was frustrated that no one new was stepping forward to help, yet the church hadn’t told the story of the dinner, much less asked people to get involved. Everyone assumed people just knew and would help if they wanted.
How many of us have seen something similar happen in our congregations? Seven times, seven different ways. We have to tell the stories.
When we meet with churches, I’m especially interested to find out how they tell people what their stewardship supports. Whether through the church newsletter, website, emails, special mailings, bulletin boards, talks in worship, bulletin inserts, mission fairs, small dinners in members’ homes, congregational meals, a narrative budget, sermons, or classes, it’s exciting to see stewardship come to life.
“The goal of our stewardship ministry is to help God’s people grow in their relationship with Jesus through the use of the time, talents, and finances God has entrusted to them.” I read this quote on a bulletin board while visiting a church in Pennsylvania. They recognized that telling the story of the ministries their members’ stewardship supported would help those members grow in their relationship with Christ, as well as inspire them to be more generous. When I spoke with people, I could feel the joy they were experiencing through the life of their church, their involvement with its ministries, and their contributions of time, talent, and treasure. I listened for a long time to tales of Meals-on-Wheels adventures, mission trip escapades, "the night the Senior Friends set the church on fire", and how the church was ministering to its neighbors as the town changed. I also heard dreams of future service, such as how the congregation could support its aging members who didn't have children or other loved ones nearby to help with their care.
One woman said, “There’s always a story to tell around here and there's always new ways to serve the Lord!” Thanks be to God for that. Now let's be sure to tell everyone.