I came across a fantastic church giving letter from Mike Schreiner who pastors Morning Star Church. I liked it so much that I contacted Mike to see if he’d be willing to answer a few questions. I’m grateful that he allowed me to share this letter with you and took the time to answer my questions. I know you’ll enjoy reading his responses as much as I did.
1. Why did you decide to send a letter like this?
We wanted the information to be clear and concise, easy to read and comprehend.
2. How did you decide what format to use?
We decided to create an identity package around our annual giving initiative, so every element our church family encountered had the same look and feel. By doing so, I hope our folks experienced the series as both purposeful and well-prepared. Using bold colors and disarming language is one of strategies we employed to address the “money issue” head on, rather than shying away from it . . . which is a more authentic approach to the topic. Let’s be honest: Many of the people receiving this material really didn’t want to receive it. So, we chose to call that out, rather than pretend that wasn’t the case, and tried to find ways to draw them in anyway.
3. What feedback did you receive from the congregation?
The one consistent piece of feedback has been how much people appreciated knowing the information. And the real key to our stewardship campaign this year was the idea that, if each of us grows in our giving by just an average of 1% of our Annual Household Income, that will translate to about a $500,000 increase in tithes and offerings. This whole idea just came to me one day. I was thinking to myself: “Hey, if we all give 1% more, then the church will have 1% more, right?” But that’s NOT right! Just a 1% jump—each family/giving unit increasing their giving 1% of their household income (i.e. going from giving 3% to 4%)—would, in fact, raise our overall giving by about 30%! This is something that I think every pastor and church could benefit from—seeing what could happen when each family commits to growing at least 1% more in a year (simultaneously encouraging them to tithe or to be intentional about growing toward the tithe).
4. What impact did it have on church giving?
We had a great last quarter. Overall our tithes and offerings increased 30% in 2009 over 2008! And I’ve personally heard more people talk about giving, stepping up to the full tithe and/or, for the first time ever, to commit to grow toward the tithe! It’s really been cool to see how God is using this… and blessing people in the process. (It should also be said that our church has now run Financial Peace University for a couple years, and this class has helped us in coming alongside debt-ridden families and offering them very practical teaching to equip them to be financially victorious.)
5. What did you learn through the process?
1. Share information! Do it through mailings, Town Hall Meetings/All Church meetings/Small Group meetings, messages, website. People really DO want to know. And they need to see the same information multiple times and in multiple formats.
2. Be transparent with your finances. (This isn’t something we learned through this. We always have been. But we hear lots of stories of folks coming from other churches where the details of financial spending and accountability were not open to the membership.) We encourage any and all questions through our Town Hall Meetings as well as in our worship services (we take questions via texting on cell phones, and we answer a few at the end of each message). Members of the church can come in the office and see a full, line-item detail of our budget and monthly Profit/Loss statements—anything we have is open for them to see.
6. If you had to do it again, what would you change about it (if anything) and why?
I’d share the step-chart that showed the number of households in our congregation who gave at various levels (i.e. 0-$100; $100-250; $250-500… on up to $25,000+) in worship and not just in our Town Hall Meetings.
7. What advice would you offer to other pastors considering doing something similar?
Think with the end in mind: I’ve heard it said that communication isn’t about sending the right message; it’s about eliciting the right response. So, be authentic to your particular church environment. We can get a little sarcastic in our language because that’s kind of the “voice” our culture has around here. (That sounds terrible! It’s not disrespectful or vulgar of course . . . it’s just real.) If you were to repurpose our materials for your church and ended up offending half your people, that’s no good. So take time to explore the best way to communicate with your people.