One of the key tasks in any stewardship campaign is writing The Letter. Sometimes The Letter is written by the committee, but usually by the pastor. Hours are spent wordsmithing, proof reading, getting a fresh pair of eyes on it to make sure nothing was skipped or could be misinterpreted.
This year I encourage you not to write The Letter.
Instead, write The Letters. yep. plural. Did I just ruin your day?
Think about the message you usually put into The Letter. Hopefully you talk about what the church accomplished this year and what you want to accomplish next year. You appeal to the left brains and the right brains. Your biblically-based theme is integral to the tone of the letter and not just stapled on as an afterthought.
Then it comes to The Ask. “This year, can Wesbury United Methodist Church count on you to…..” That’s when it gets tough because you’re really asking different segments of your church to do different things.
To your tithers and over-tithers we should be asking them to continue their generous support, thanking them for making the church a priority in their lives and being critical to the ministry’s success.
To most of your members you are asking them to increase their giving. Herb Miller’s Consecration Sunday invites members to take a step up in their giving, either in terms of a dollar figure or determine the percentage of income they are currently giving and increasing it, such as going from 2% to 3%.
I’m sure you have active folks in your congregation who give to the church but do not pledge. I’m more OK with this practice than your Finance Committee is likely to be. Invite them to indicate their pledge but remind them that it can be changed down the road, simply by contacting the church office.
If many of these folks are under age 35 I suggest strongly that you not ask them to make a commitment just so the budget can be determined. There’s a good chance they don’t have a budget at home and probably don’t care if the bean counters on the Finance Committee have their pledge or not (those aren’t my words, I love bean counters). Instead, suggest that they consider their entire commitment to the church, in terms of worship attendance, volunteer service, and finances.
The toughest can be the never givers. The folks who show up somewhat regularly, may or may not be members and if they do give, they do so with cash and you don’t have a record of their giving. This group, while it may represent very few dollars, will take some time and care. The barely-employed single mother needs a different message than someone who seems to have more discretionary income. Invite this group to support a specific cause this year, such as a mission project or special effort to update Sunday School curriculum.
You may also choose to do a different letter for youth, for first year members, or other similar groups as well.
Most of The Letter will be the same for all of these groups. Just amend the last paragraph, where you make the ask. Does it really make sense to say to a never giver “we appreciate your generous support and hope we can count on it again this year?”
And please, if at all possible, personalize the letters. Does opening the letter with “Dear Valued Member of our Congregation” really send the message that they are valued? I don’t think so. I also encourage the letters to be signed individually in blue ink. It really takes less than an hour to sign hundreds of letters and research shows that this touch can make a difference. And as you individually sign a stack of letters with inside addresses it is very easy to jot a quick note at the bottom in the interest of pastoral care.
A more focused ask will make it very clear to your members what is hoped or expected of them, and make them more likely to move ahead in this area of their discipleship.
PS, I’d be happy to read over a draft of your version of The Letter(s). Just email it to me and include “The Letter” in the subject line.