By now your fall stewardship campaign may be over, for others that time is still a month or so away.
Whatever your timeline, keep in mind that the day after your commitment Sunday does not indicate the end of the campaign. There is still work to be done.
I strongly urge you to contact each person in your congregation who has not yet returned a pledge card and encourage them to do so.
Does that seem prickly to you? I hope not. I think it is great congregational care.
First, let’s get something straight. The script for that phone call should not be “Hey, knucklehead. Yesterday was Commitment Sunday and you didn’t turn in your card, what’s your problem?”
Instead, let’s go with a more Christian approach. “Hi, this is Bob at the church, sure is a nice day out, isn’t it? (if it’s raining you may want to amend the last part of that sentence.) I didn’t see you in church on Sunday, I hope everything is OK. (you’ll notice we don’t ask why they weren’t in church). We’re going through the commitment cards that were turned in and don’t seem to have one from you, should we put a new one in the mail to you, or if you’d prefer I could just fill one out for you now and put it in the pile.”
The first thing your committee needs to understand is the most important part of this whole process is in the middle of the conversation. Asking if everything is OK isn’t just a formality, it’s time to pause and listen. This may be the time you hear that she hasn’t been feeling well and can’t get out or the neighbor who used to provide a ride can’t do that anymore. These thoughts should be carefully recorded and passed along to the pastor and prayer team, with the member’s permission, of course.
They should also keep their ears open to other indications such as unhappiness with the pastor or other things that may have changed that person’s relationship with the church. Again, this is important feedback that should not be treated as top-secret.
Of course if the answer is that they had tickets to the Ohio State game the day before or that was the day they took their boat out of the water then it’s a different situation, isn’t it?
You will get additional information at the end when you ask about the commitment. You may get a vague “send me a card and I’ll mail it in” which is fine. But you may also hear that “money is tight since my job was cut to part-time” or “Bob’s medical bills have us in a real pickle.”
In classic sales training we would train your committee to overcome these objections with a “I’m sorry to hear that, but the church still needs your support, can we at least count on you to maintain last year’s pledge?” This may work when you’re selling aluminum siding but I wouldn’t recommend it for church stewardship work.
I suggest the committee member acknowledge what they said and offer compassion and understanding. This will, of course, depend largely on the relationship between the two of them. Give your committee permission to respond with a heartfelt “Then this is really no time to worry about your pledge. I’m sorry about your job and you’ll be in my prayers. I hope to see you in church real soon.” Then he should write “no pledge at this time” on that person’s card and turn it in. That way you’ll know that no more follow-up by the stewardship committee is necessary.
We need to remember that the offering is not the cost of admission to the church. A member who has supported the church in the past will continue to do so as they are able. Reaching out in both the context of the campaign and pastoral care can be an important of the church’s work with that member.