by Marlie Whittle
M&M International had the privilege of attending the Stewardship Education Network for Development’s Annual Conference with the Anglican Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The theme of the conference was generosity but these insightful presentations and discussions sparked questions about aging congregations, mission renewal and discipleship.
With a stunning view of the South Saskatchewan River, Queens House Retreat Center created a calming atmosphere which cultivated conversations about re-envisioning the role of the church within changing community demographics and spiritual desires throughout the nation.
Participants were invited to broaden the scope of stewardship in their dioceses or parishes to tackle issues of planning and community engagement. Throughout the three days of presentations, dialogue, reflection and prayer, we gathered the five steps to talking about and inspiring giving:
1. Identify “Cheerful Givers”
The Very Reverend Andrew Asbil spoke about what he has learned from listening to his parishioners’ reasons for giving to their church. He has witnessed the joy of generosity on the faces of his parishioners who regularly “give until it feels good.” A cheerful giver is someone who happily gives a proportionately generous weekly offering to your church. Find these parishioners and listen to their stories.
2. Inspire with Stories
Each church community has many stories to tell but, unfortunately, we often forget to share these narratives with each other. Stories are a powerful way to grab the attention of our parishioners and engage in important conversations about our mission, ministry and future plans. Many clergy avoid “asking for money” like the plague, only voicing the need for a few thousand dollars at the end of the year to prevent deficit. But is making our minimal annual budgets all that these wonderful stories are meant to invoke? Of course not! These stories are meant to inspire people to become more actively engaged in their parish because they illustrate the integrity and humble necessity of the church.
3. Develop a Plan
Through these stories, these conversations with parishioners and spending time in the surrounding community, church leaders can develop a clearer vision for the future because they understand the needs of their community, both inside the church and outside. The compelling needs of the community will lay the groundwork for your plan. The plan should address issues of building maintenance, ministry and discipleship. The plan should show that the church recognizes that times are changing and is responding positively to those changes.
4. Invite People In
Be open, stand at the steps of the church and smile; be welcoming. Now that your church has an exciting plan for the future, it’s time to share it with all your parishioners and the members of your broader community. Creating a stewardship team to teach others about your plans and advocate for generosity will be crucial to putting the plan into action. Training people to become stewards should entail scripture and testimonials from parishioners, especially those “cheerful givers”.
5. Thank Your Parishioners
This is the most important step but many churches don’t have efficient processes in place to thank their parishioners. Priests have different opinions on whether they should be privy to matters of the collection plate but regardless of where you stand on that issue, as a leader in the church you must ensure that parishioners are thanked for their contributions. A simple way to make this process more effective is by sending out Thank-You letters with tax receipts.
On the last day of the conference, Susan Graham Walker, Stewardship Ministry Associate, introduced the Anglican Church of Canada’s newest resource on stewardship: ‘Giving our thanks and praise’. Here you will find guides to getting started on a stewardship model, workbooks for your Giving Team to deepen their conversations and ideas on sharing your mission and vision.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.