As you enter into full-blown pledge season, your horizon for this season's stewardship necessarily tightens up. You need to get your materials out, pledges in, stragglers contacted, totals tallied. You're into short-term thinking. Short-term thinking can be helpful, as anyone who ever had a college paper due the next morning knows. Nothing concentrates the mind quite like an actual deadline. Not much time! Let's get to work!
But beware. When we humans are faced with something important to do within a tight time we naturally tend to "tunnel in." We narrow our focus, concentrating solely on the things we have to do to get the job done. And it becomes tempting, oh so tempting, to jettison the "that would be a nice idea to try" because we just don't have the time.
When there's a clock ticking in the back of our minds, we can think – Oh, it would be so much easier just to do what we did last year. Can't make that much of a difference, can it?
Yes, it can. And not in a good way!
Every pledge campaign is a chance to work smarter and more creatively. And it is the time to take advantage of best practices. Here are two stewardship best practices that there is still time to include in your pledge campaign implementation:
1. Commit to personalizing. Please don't send out pledge letters that say "Dear Member" or "Dear Friend." Use your parishioners' names. With mail merge it's easy to personalize each letter, and if the person preparing the letters doesn't know how to use mail merge, there are YouTube videos like this one that show how step by step. The letters should be signed by hand (a nice touch is to use blue ink, which makes it clearer that it's been hand-signed). And even better to add a personal note!
While you're at it, check out this article for more good direct mail tips, including why every direct mail letter should include a P.S.
2. Get your Ministry Minutes scheduled! Ministry Minutes are brief personal testimonies by parishioners made during worship. Individuals speak to the congregation about their own personal reasons for pledging and stewardship. A Ministry Minute ties stewardship to the ministry of the church as lived through the members of the congregation and is especially meaningful when someone truly speaks from the heart about how they feel when they pledge, what it means to be generous, what it means to their family.
Ministry Minutes are typically, three to five minutes long, We recommend six speakers, one for each week of the typical 6-week campaign period. (If you can't arrange for six, that's OK! One or two are better than none). Try to present a diversity of messages as well as speakers. One topic per speaker is best, and they could represent various ministries/strengths that are important in your parish, for example:
- Care for the sick
- Care for the elderly
- Christian formation for children
- Youth ministry
- Adult spirituality
- Outreach in your community
- Outreach beyond your community
- Beauty of your worship service
Once you get your Ministry Minute speakers scheduled, think about ways you can expand their impact. You could take a video and post it to your website. You could get their script (a 3 minute talk is about 250 words), and print it in the next week's bulletin or online newsletter. How might you share the stories?