On 24th January, we met to look at the issue of ‘Stewardship and Share’ from the perspective of churches who significant numbers of young adults attending.
General Principles The Diocesan Stewardship Officer, James Emmerson, gave a presentation on some of the principles of stewardship – our generous giving of money, time and talents in response to God’s overwhelming love to us. In the particular context of the churches present, James suggested four key aspects to bear in mind: Right thinking; Four foundations of successful giving; Communications; Making giving easy.
- Right thinking: We must see all those attending church as people – the temptation is to see large number of families simply as a burden because of the Parish Share implications. But we must remember how strange a church culture can be – we get too used to it – and do our best to put ourselves in the shoes of a first time visitor.
- Four foundations for successful stewardship: Preach and teach generous giving; Link giving with mission and ministry; Review giving annually; Say ‘thank you!’
- Communications: Traditional ways of communicating Christian giving to young adults may not be successful and so thought needs to be given to how we communicate. When communicating verbally, we need to remember that the actual content of what is said accounts for only 7% of what is heard. The tone of voice accounts for 38% and non-verbal communication accounts for 55% of the message, so we need to pay attention to how we talk about giving. Churches can produce written communications in a number of ways, such as a specific ‘welcome pack’ to introduce the issue, through websites, email bulletins/newsletters, questionnaires (on-line?) aimed at making church meetings as relevant as possible to all.
- Making giving easy: Many people do not carry much cash with them, so it may be worth considering options for giving by text, for example by justgiving.com
Slides of James’s presentation can be seen here: Stewardship and Share
Stewardship and Young Adults Revd Jo Farnworth, the Young Adults Missioner looked at how we might want to approach stewardship differently if we want to engage with young adults and their culture.
- A different generation: Many of the parents who bring their children to church are part of Generations X and Y and so have a different outlook on the world to older church members. They are also less likely to have a longstanding connection with the church.
- Language: When we use terms (jargon) such as ‘stewardship’, ‘the envelopes’, ‘free-will offerings’, ‘the collection’, do people actually understand what we are talking about. Collections may be associated with the one-off donations that people make, for example for a leaving present for a work colleague, rather than a weekly commitment. When people new to church see some people putting cash into the offertory plate and others putting in possibly two types of envelopes (regular weekly envelopes/occasional Gift Aid envelopes), do they understand what is happening? Could this be perceived as indicating different levels of church membership? The ‘offertory’ could possibly sound too optional!
- Financial implications of membership: Most people understand that belonging to an organisation involves a financial commitment (subscriptions, fees) but rarely do they encounter voluntary financial commitment. How do they know what to pay? Notes or coins?
- What are the returns? ‘What am I going to get out of it?’ is a question that helps shape the decisions of Generations X and Y. There is a clear theological answer that giving is about our response to a generous loving God and this is one that we need to preach and teach. However, there is also the answer ‘a good education for a child’ and maybe churches might need to acknowledge this rather than ignore it. An awareness of other ways of giving might also be effective, through sites such as easyfundraising.org.uk where people can give as they shop at no extra cost to themselves. It may also be that some people can be encouraged to give as their time if being a volunteer can enhance their CV, job applications, etc.
- Lack of commitment? Younger generations tend to join institutions less but it is not true to say that they are not committed. Research has shown that Generation X and Y can show high level of commitment to groups/causes that they are passionate about and view as authentic. This might be a challenge to churches to be seen as attractive authentic communities rather than institutions. Often parents have many calls on their time, money and energy and churches will need to recognise this. When we ask for volunteers, can we arrange it so that the involvement required is less – eg bimonthly rather than monthly PCCs, teams of Sunday School leaders so that people are not involved every week. Good practice would be to make sure that the commitment is time limited so that people don’t fear that they will sign up for a job and still being doing it decades later, too embarrassed to step down! Shared collaborative leadership is more likely to encourage young adults to get involved, where they have appropriate responsibility rather than being told what to do.
Slides of Jo’s presentation can be seen here: stewardship and share.
Some ideas In the discussion that followed the presentations, a number of suggestions/ideas emerged:
- ‘Induction sessions’ for new parents: a social event with the opportunity to give out information packs on the church and to explain what the church can offer and how people can help/get involved. James Emmerson brought a booklet that churches could personalise and give out. If churches are interested in this, contact James at Church House and he and his department will be able to help you develop this.
- Magazines: some churches have found that good quality parish magazines have helped to build community and also have provided a space where people can find out about stewardship. St Mary, High Crompton has an ‘agony aunt’ column in their magazine where they can answer some of the questions that people are too embarrassed to ask – these could include questions such as ‘how much should I put in the collection plate?’, ‘How can I get more involved.’ The answers to these questions can then be given in a light-hearted and non-threatening way.
- Midweek services: Traditionally many churches have not had collections at these services but as more families attend, maybe this need to be reconsidered. Some churches have found ways of taking the collection at these services in ways that involves the children and this can prove effective in encouraging giving.
- Cutting overheads: It may be appropriate to consider whether there are ways that people can give in other ways, such as donating tea and coffee, postage stamps, etc.
- Making financial costs clear: It might be helpful if churches can let people know in very simple ways what it costs to run the church, perhaps as a cost per head figure. This may help people to reach a better decision on what they need to give.
Share Jo talked about how many churches who have significant numbers of parents attending to gain church school places for their children have to pay high amounts of parish share. There has been some amelioration of this through the discount offered to churches with high numbers of children. However to meet the diocesan budget, Parish Share has to be raised and paid by parishes. Different dioceses have looked at assessing parish share in different ways and in the future this may be reconsidered here in the Manchester Diocese. For now though there is no real scope for change. Should there be a reconsideration in the future, it may be that churches involved in Mixed Blessings may be able to join together as an effective voice as part of a debate. However, one of the benefits of this group is that as we get to know each other and share our stories (of joys and sorrows) that we can offer each other mutual support and share ideas. In the present situation, the key for each church is to encourage people to give generously and effectively (eg by Gift Aid where appropriate).
James Emmerson asked for people’s perspectives on how effectively the Diocese communicates issues of Parish Share to parishes – Do people receive enough information? Do people feel supported or berated? He asked that people who wanted to make comments on this should contact him (details below).
James Emmerson, Diocesan Stewardship Officer, tel 0161 828 1474 email email@example.com
John Truscott – offers a range of resources for practical church ministry, including communications
JustGiving – making giving easy, including by text
Easyfundraising– raising money for church as people shop online