The Stewardship Committee will provide educational articles to promote understanding about the work of this ministry in July 2023. While Saint Matthews is a connectional church, there are limitations relative to performing all that is recommended by the United Methodist Church. The Stewardship Committee will consider all information and use tools that might work for our congregation.
As we proceed with Campaign 2024, please know that a lessened pandemic environment still exists, recovery may not return to 100%, and UMC funding as a denomination has decreased the last three years but not our church. In all facets of stewardship, we are called to serve, participate through use of our gifts, resources and advocacy, and be accountable. The UMC has advised all members to use eight principles for Campaign 2024 and they are presented without modification.
8 financial lessons for the post-pandemic church
By Lovett H. Weems Jr. and Ann A. Michel
- KNOW YOUR GIVERS. Not every family or individual felt the economic impact of the pandemic in the same way. Some lost wages, jobs, or businesses. Others drew paychecks while working safely from home, reduced expenses, pocketed stimulus checks, and saw their retirement portfolios grow. Paying attention to your congregants’ economic circumstances and monitoring their giving patterns is not only a sound giving strategy, it’s a vital expression of spiritual and pastoral care. A one-size-fits-all approach didn’t make sense before the pandemic, and it makes even less sense now.
- KEEP ASKING PEOPLE TO GIVE, BUT DO SO IN SENSITIVE WAYS. Some congregations simply assumed people couldn’t afford to give during the pandemic or felt it was inappropriate to ask in a challenging time. Such churches surely worsened their own financial plight. Even in the best of times, there will be those in your congregations on hard times due to illness, job loss, or family challenges. When inviting people to contribute, it’s important to signal that they are still valued members of the community. Simply say, “If you’re out of work or suffering a financial setback, this is our time to help. You’re always welcome at this church, even if you can’t make a gift at this time.” This lets everyone know the church is sensitive to people’s financial reality. And those who can give feel better doing so when they know their church cares about people’s financial reality.
- EXTEND GENEROSITY EFFORTS BEYOND THE WALLS OF THE CHURCH. The COVID-19 shutdown was a dramatic illustration of the church’s dependence on place-based giving linked to worship. But traditional ways of cultivating generosity have, in fact, been waning in effectiveness for years. In a post-attractional era, when fewer and fewer people find their way into churches and even our regulars attend only a couple of Sundays a month, churches that don’t expand their generosity efforts are fishing in a smaller and smaller pond. A silver lining of the pandemic is that it forced churches, some decades behind the times with regard to electronic giving, to put systems in place quickly. Electronic giving has the potential to reach younger generations, occasional attenders, and even people who don’t yet attend church by leapfrogging beyond our traditional reliance on the pledge and the offering plate. But only if churches develop creative new ways of soliciting electronic gifts from those beyond the reach of Sunday services.
- DEVELOP MULTIPLE STREAMS OF INCOME. In the post-pandemic era, many more churches will find it necessary to develop funding sources beyond tithes and offerings. Churches often see their financial circumstances through the lens of scarcity, failing to recognize assets and opportunities within their grasp. A more holistic approach to economic sustainability can involve greater creativity in deploying physical assets, seeking new partners and sources of support, and embracing more efficient ways of sustaining the church’s mission.
- TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO REASSESS EXPENSES. As the pandemic pause lifts and new patterns of ministry emerge, congregations have a unique opportunity to reassess programs and activities that were put on hold and ask: What needs to continue? What can be set aside permanently? What needs to be done differently? And what do the changes mean for staffing and building use patterns?
- BE REALISTIC WHEN SETTING YOUR BUDGET. In tough times it’s tempting to boost the revenue side of your budget on the basis of wishful thinking, hopefully assuming that new members, higher giving, or lucrative fundraising opportunities will suddenly materialize in the next budget year. While we all work and pray for these developments, it’s not prudent to build a budget on the assumption that these things will come to pass. The most important principle of building a sustainable budget is to base your revenue predictions on predictable and recurring sources of revenue, which entails a careful analysis of past revenue trends and budget performance.
- MAINTAIN A RESERVE FUND. The pandemic has underscored the importance of budgeting for a reserve fund and maintaining a reasonable cash reserve. Financial experts suggest that individuals and families maintain an emergency fund sufficient to cover expenses for three months, and churches should do the same. While no budget is disaster proof, your budget will be more resilient if you don’t live too close to the edge.
- KNOW WHERE YOU STAND. Too often, churches are caught off guard when their financial circumstances change simply because they haven’t paid close enough attention to key indicators and trends. And by the time they realize what’s going on, their options for responding may be more limited. As we enter a new and uncertain period, it is more important than ever for churches to establish systems for monitoring key financial indicators (see 9 Questions to Assess Your Congregation’s Financial Health) and to gauge subtle changes in giving patterns (see the Congregational Giving Profile.) The pandemic was in some ways a wakeup call to face problems and opportunities that had existed long before the advent of COVID-19. The crisis has revealed areas of vulnerability and has increased the receptivity to change. Savvy church leaders will take this opportunity to create a healthier financial future for their congregations by managing resources wisely, engaging givers more effectively, and seeking creative new approaches to economic sustainability.