It was only last month that Bishop Hughes directed all churches in the diocese to refrain from public worship and gatherings. And they did. Even though some parishioners thought: How will we bear it? What will become of Holy Week? How will we celebrate Easter? And day by day, we saw and we continue to see that, yes, we can still be church even if we are not "in" church.
Not being "in" church does present new challenges, many touching on Stewardship. Ask Thank Tell: Improving Stewardship in Your Congregation, by Charles R. Lane, provides a helpful concept for Stewardship any time, but especially for a time like this. Lane describes the virtuous triad of Ask/Thank/Tell: first you ASK (for the gift/help), then you THANK (the donor for making the gift/the person for the help), and you follow it TELLing what was made possible by the gift or the help. And then you start over again.
If there ever was a time to do some "telling," it's right now.
When I was a child, in the morning my dad went to work and in the evening he came home. For all I knew, when he was at “work,” he could have been on the moon. What did "at work” mean to me? I didn’t have a picture of it in my head. It was invisible.
Now, my dad’s dad, my grandfather, was a dairy farmer in Wisconsin. When my father was growing up they had over 900 head of dairy cattle. Do you think my father had a clearer idea of what it meant for his father to go to “work” than I had about mine? You bet he did! He could see the cows, he could hear them, and for anyone who has actually been on a farm, we can be pretty sure he could smell them too. He knew better than to ever stand behind one, and he knew how to make butter from fresh milk. I know all of that because my dad told me stories about his dad at work.
Our churches are at work right now, but that "work" can be just as invisible as my dad's work was to me. It's our job as stewards to tell those stories, and even better if we make them as real -- as visible -- as a black and white Holstein in a green field.
What are some of your church's stories? How is your ministry playing out? Here are some ideas of stories to tell in your e-newsletters, on your website, in your Facebook posts....
- Celebrate workers on the front lines. Perhaps you have members who are doctors or nurses or other healthcare workers, or grocery store clerks, or delivery people... any of the legions who are making others' lives under quarantine possible. Can you share some of their stories with your faith community?
- Prayers and pastoral care. Members of your church family may not know what pastoral care is available to them. (This may be less a matter of storytelling and more of making it clear how to reach out for help).
- Share the inside scoop on online worship. Has your church transitioned to online worship? How's it going? Any "behind the scenes" stories to share with parishioners?
- Raise up new ministries. Perhaps new ministries have risen up in response to current circumstances. Prayer chains? Calling circles? Has your church family developed ways to reach out to the most vulnerable in your community?
- Promote groups and gatherings. Aside from online worship, perhaps you have groups who are continuing to meet through Zoom or Google Hangouts or Facebook Live. My choir, even though we aren’t singing, is still gathering for a weekly social session each Wednesday night when we’d normally have practice. That’s a ministry!
- And of course, there are other practical changes. Over the past several weeks, a whole slew of our churches have made the jump over to online giving and are now able to offer their parishioners the convenience of being able to pay their pledge (and to make additional gifts) online. If you're still unsure about how to offer online giving, check out this recent article for resources.
When we tell our ministry stories, we share the good news of the Kingdom, and show our members' Stewardship at work in the world.
Let's share those stories!
The Bishop's Office on Stewardship offers one-on-one and group Stewardship coaching through ZOOM. While the building of Episcopal House is closed, the Stewardship Teaching Team is available to meet online through Zoom. Why not take advantage of this "work from home" time to tackle key Stewardship challenges? Just reach out to Cynthia McChesney, Missioner for Stewardship and Legacy Giving (yes, new title!), by email or phone (973-430-9909) to schedule!