Do you have The List?
The List isn’t the one that has all the stuff you need to pick up at the grocery store. The List is your wish list. Or rather, your church’s wish list.
What would happen if the family of a deceased parishioner told you they wanted to buy something in mom’s honor? Would you have suggestions? Would you have to get back to them after an endless round of emails and phone calls to your lay leadership? Would you guess and hope you’re right, both about the priority and the cost?
This is why you need The List.
Wouldn’t it be easier to simply hand the family a document that a number of suggestions on it, items that were a priority, items that would truly be a blessing in your congregation, that would fill a need, rather than just the first thing you thought of?
Your list should have between 10 and 20 items on it and the estimated gift that would be necessary. The cost should range from a couple hundred bucks to maybe $25,000. And when you consider the cost, make sure it is the total cost. Sure it would be great to get the $5,000 to replace the commercial dishwasher in the church kitchen, but do you have the additional $1,000 to have it installed? You should probably list $6,000 as the cost for the unit.
In addition to a variety of costs, you should have a variety of interests. Certainly capital improvements should be on The List. So should worship needs, items for Christian Education, the music program, maybe an item or two for the parsonage.
Some will be very practical, like the new lights for the main entrance and some won’t, like the advent wreath or the wedding kneeler. I don’t have a problem with the comparatively impractical, but just make sure that if someone wonders why it’s a priority you can answer with some integrity.
People’s motivations to give are as varied as people themselves. The goal, of course, is to have something you have given thought to that will be attractive, no matter the dollar amount or the interest.
I don’t suggest you spend a lot of time on the format of The List. A simple heading like “2011 Church Needs” at the top of a typewritten page. On the left, the name of the item (again, keep it simple: New Dishwasher) and a tab, then the dollar amount. I would sort it by the dollar amount, smallest to largest, or you could put them into categories like capital improvements, then sort by cost within the group.
As an item is purchased, replace it on the list with a similar item in terms of category and cost. And please update it every year. It doesn’t send a very good message when you hand someone The List from 2002 and none of the items has been purchased.
Remember, this isn’t a list of demands. It is merely a tool to match the desire of someone to help the church with the items that are most needed. It should be the beginning of a conversation that respects both the needs of the church with the desires of someone making a gift.
And in this business that is really the best we can ask for.