By David Gaddini
Last fall our church nearly launched into a three million dollar building project. This was, of course, before anyone heard the word Covid-19. We decided to wait until spring before committing to the project. Then came March and Covid became our new reality.
Our giving dried up at first as our people braced for what they thought would be a two-week shelter-in-place. When April hit, the realization that Covid might be with us for a while sunk in and questions arose about the new normal. We wondered about the capital campaign and how to navigate giving while I thought, “Who asks people for money when people are losing jobs and getting sick?”
As we started reaching out and checking in on people in our church, I started seeing something interesting. People kept offering help instead of asking for it. They said things like, “Pastor, just let me know who I can help. If anyone needs groceries or help with a bill…” or “Pastor, here’s a check. Put it aside and give it to someone who needs it.”
Despite all the uncertainty, our people wanted to give.
I’ve talked to many other churches experiencing the same thing. As giving dries up in one area, outpourings of generosity are happening in others – church members helping each other, churches helping their communities, capital expenses raised for livestream equipment and outdoor sound systems.
People want to give.
So how are we good stewards during a pandemic? Here are some tips on how to navigate stewardship during this time:
- Make sure you’re helping each other. We pastors know the Acts 2 vision well, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” An Acts 2 church needs to be about people helping people before people paying church bills. Make that clear. Put people in contact with each other. Stock your benevolence funds. Tell people they can come to the church to give help and find help. Model generosity. People will respond to this.
- Track individual giving. Have your financial team flag those whose giving is strong and those who have fallen off. Reach out and personally thank the former. The point with the latter is not to get them back to giving, but to see who might need help. Reach out and don’t mention the giving. Just ask, “How can we help you right now?” Even if they don’t need the help, more often than not, they’ll appreciate the ask.
- Keep the vision clear. People want a bright future, especially in a grim present. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, not just to keep an organization afloat. The Bible gives that picture and we get to share it. Be transparent about the needs, struggles, and hurts. Be prophetic about the call God has placed on your church and show what you can do together. Embrace a sense of urgency that the work of the church matters now more than ever. It starts with a mindset that God has us in times like these for a purpose. Be quick to share it.
- Provide multiple ways to give. Online, by text, auto bank transfers, mail-in, drop-offs. The more options you can reasonably manage, the better. It’s not enough to have them, you have to communicate them and encourage them. Make it easy for your people to give.
- Ask your people to give. To benevolence funds. For congregational support. Towards capital projects. Call people to action. I’m amazed at how many pastors forget to do this one simple thing. You’ll be surprised how many people will give when you ask with sincerity, handle it with transparency, and show how it matters.
In 2 Corinthians Paul writes that out of the most severe trial, people’s overflowing joy and extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. He writes, “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” Stewardship is important now more than ever. If people believe in what it’s for and trust the church to get them there, they’ll give. They often just need to be asked and given some direction on how to get there.
David is the senior pastor at Fellowship of Faith in McHenry, Illinois. His heart is for helping people connect with God wherever they happen to be in life, especially among younger generations. David and his wife, Tina, have been married for twenty-three years. They have two teenage daughters and one teenage son.