Mastercard’s “Priceless” ad campaign is world-famous and fairly well satirized at this point. In those ads you might expect to see Friendship identified as “Priceless.” But a survey by the Gallup folks in 1998 puts a definite value on friendship, $118. That is, that for every friend a church member has in his or her congregation, that member’s giving increases by $118.
But friendship isn’t the only thing that pays off in the offering plate:
- Reading the Bible every day: $545
- An adult who had a special Bible as a child: $221
- Doing volunteer work: $528
- Praying every day: $358
This is not to say that simply having more potlucks where friendships can develop will mean a significant increase in your offering next year. But then again maybe it does.
People will give more generously to an organization with which they have a strong connection and a strong affinity. This is why nonprofits put major donors on the Boards of Trustees, to help galvanize the relationship. In your own church I hope that you see a new member giving at a certain level, but as they become more ingrained in the church community, make those friendships, develop a relationship with the pastor and the church becomes a place where they spend more than an hour on Sunday morning, their financial support goes up.
We lived in East Tennessee for five years in the late 1980s and I was amazed at the churches with Family Life Centers, gyms, that had a variety of youth and adult recreation opportunities. They were great tools for solidifying friendships in the congregation and if I might be squeamish about inviting my neighbor to church, it would be far easier for me to invite him to join my kickball league.
It’s been almost 20 years since Lyle Schaller released his book, The Seven Day a Week Church, that puts all of this into a decidedly Methodist context.
Perhaps you have noticed in your church the couple that comes to church and while she jumps right in volunteering, he holds back. A year later the church is very important to her, but he is still on the fence.
How effectively does your church help its members connect with each other? Are there opportunities for mission, for volunteering, to explore intentional faith development? A Habitat for Humanity work day, an adult bell choir, teaching kindergarten Sunday School and a potluck with lime jello and pear slices are all great opportunities and may attract vastly different corners of your congregation.
I have written before that a lively church must be outwardly-focused. But it takes a committed and connected congregation to help make this happen. Your efforts will pay off, maybe even $118 at a time.