Annual stewardship drive as action planning

January 25th, 2016

Most congregations are in the process of distributing year-end giving statements for 2015 along with letters confirming pledges for 2016. Some stewardship teams think their work is wrapped up for the year. Other stewardship teams realize the annual stewardship process has created an action plan for growing discipleship in the coming year.

Every annual stewardship drive results in the identification of four distinct groups within the congregation. These groups can be used for creating unique action plans based on these giving behaviors.

1. Those who pledge. Within this group, there are two subgroups: those who have made a pledge previously and those who are pledging for the first time. The primary action for this group is to say “Thank You.” Express your gratitude for their pledge and let them know how much their faithful support means to the ministry of the church. For first-time pledgers, send a brief, handwritten note from the pastor acknowledging their pledge. After they have begun contributing toward their pledge, send them another note to thank them for their faithful support.

2. Those who have pledged in the past but have not pledged for 2016. For this group, their change in giving patterns likely signals some kind of change. It may represent a change in their feelings regarding the church or, perhaps a change in their personal circumstances. The action for this group is a personal pastoral contact within the first couple of months of the year. Check in to see how they are feeling about the church or if there are some personal issues that may need your pastoral care. Explore their hopes and dreams for this next year of ministry. Listen carefully for problems or issues that may need attention.

3. Those who do not pledge, but give. Continue to communicate regularly through the year with this group as you do with all of your donors. Be sure to keep track of their contributions and send personal notes of thanks when warranted.

4. Those who have never pledged and do not contribute. There are both challenges and opportunities with this group. This group requires a three-step action plan:

  • Conduct an individual household assessment. Consider where these families are in their engagement with the life and ministry of your congregation. Gather your leadership team and consider how each family is participating in areas such as prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Consider membership expectations for spiritual life, worship attendance, participation in active ministries and small groups. You may want to assign a condition color using a stoplight analogy where “green” indicates a good level of engagement, “yellow” for moderate level of engagement and “red” if there is no engagement. 
  • Based on your evaluation, develop an action plan for each individual household. Determine which activities, special events, small groups, ministry initiatives and work team projects might appeal to each family, and make a plan to personally invite them. As you move through the year, track the invitations as well as their participation in all aspects of the congregation’s life together. 
  • As a leadership team, review your action plan quarterly for each family using the stoplight framework, adjusting the individual family plan as appropriate and necessary. 

The process is simple and will become streamlined over time. Congregational leaders become focused on the central issue related to people’s giving: their heart-level connection and engagement with the congregation. It really is all about discipleship!

This article first appeared on the Horizons Stewardship blog.

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