Chick Lane wrote a wonderful book entitled “Ask, Thank, Tell.”  He encourages congregations to ask the members for financial support, thank them for that support and then tell them what kind of great ministry was made possible by that gift.

I have never heard anyone say “I gave that organization money now I hope they never tell me how they spent it.”

In the same way, I have never heard anyone say “that organization never tells me how my contributions make a difference so I’ll send them more money next year.”

What I do see, is that if I make a contribution to a school or social service I will soon get communications with heartwarming stories about successful and grateful students or children yanked back from the brink of disaster.

I will also be constantly reminded of how my gift made all this possible.

A generation ago members simply gave to their congregation and those who wondered what ministries were funded by their gifts could attend an annual budget hearing between services.

Now, members want to know how their gifts are spent —

Not because they don’t trust the congregation, but because they want to feel a greater connection to the ministries.

When the congregation fails to communicate with the members, we rob them of the spiritual growth they could have as they connect with the congregation’s ministry.

Therefore, I suggest that as a part of the stewardship education congregations consider the following:

Communicate on multiple platforms

Use the newsletter, bulletin inserts, the web page, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram, to let folks know the various life-changing ministries that the congregation is involved in.  This will also communicate to the members how their offerings are being used across the congregation and the larger church.

Transform “announcements” into “engagements”

Use more photos, more stories, and more firsthand narratives in all our communications.

Example of an “Announcement:” Last week more than 50 children attended VBS.

Example of “Engagement:”  Little Mason had never been to Saint John, or to any church for that matter, in her eight short years. That is until best friend, Sydney, invited her to Vacation Bible School.  The two girls laughed, played, did crafts, sang songs, and enjoyed treats.  In the midst of all that fun, Mason also heard the Good News of the Love of Jesus Christ and now she wants to return to Saint John for Sunday school and to bring her siblings. What is your fondest memory of VBS?  (Insert photo of kids having fun)

Repost or reprint the best of materials from the Synod and ELCA.

Because some of the member’s offerings support ministries of the larger church, we want to communicate them as well. However, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.  The Synod and ELCA create many pieces of excellent material that can be reprinted or reposted with permission.

To find these subscribe to the Synod Newsletter and follow the Synod and ELCA on Facebook and twitter.

Pastor Mark Anderson
Assistant to the Bishop

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.

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