Lovett H. Weems, Jr., explains that while only a few members of your church may be currently experiencing hard times, most of the others live with the reality that they could face hard times some day. And they will feel better about giving to a church that acknowledges that reality.
The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are often filled, as they should be, with admirable efforts to help those with limited financial means. Most of this help goes to people outside our congregations, again, quite appropriately, since churches exist to serve others. These seasons should also remind us, however, that there are members of our congregations going through hard times.
Some in your congregation may be experiencing a difficult period in their lives due to their recent circumstances. The loss of a job, the breakup of a marriage, or the sickness of a family member can turn lives upside down emotionally and financially. Find ways in all you do to acknowledge such diverse life situations, as you also offer the appropriate pastoral care.
Stewardship appeals should acknowledge the financially challenged
In your stewardship campaign, even as you encourage people to increase their proportional giving, become tithers, and move beyond tithing, never forget to acknowledge those who are in challenging places financially. Always add something such as, “Remember that if you are out of work or have had a financial setback, tell us on your commitment card that you cannot make a pledge at this time. This is our time to help you. Above all, don’t ever fail to attend just because you can’t contribute.”
Everyone feels good about being in a caring church
Some of you may say, “Those who are unemployed or suffering financial hardship represent a small portion of our congregation. Why would we want to reference them in our communication to everyone? Why don’t we just go to them individually?” You should, but you still need to acknowledge this group publicly — if for no other reason than you can never know the true personal circumstances of everyone.
But there’s a more important reason. You may not have many people unemployed at any given time, but you have a church full of folks who know they could become unemployed. And when they hear that reality acknowledged, they don’t think, “This doesn’t apply to me.” They are glad to belong to a church so sensitive and caring. Often those who are financially secure themselves have children or others about whom they care deeply who are going through hardship.
Ways to help
Your language matters, but your actions matter even more. Finding specific ways to help people sends an important signal that your church cares about its members and provides practical help. Ask church members with human resources training, career counseling, or other relevant experience to meet with those looking for jobs. Offer financial planning workshops to help people with the basics of budgeting, debt, saving, and other financial matters. Whatever mechanisms the church uses to support those in need beyond the church can be used or supplemented to provide modest assistance for members in the most need.
Yes, these are the days when we think especially of those in need. Be sure to include those who are closer to you than you may think.
- Optimizing Annual Financial Campaigns Video Tool Kit
- 5 Ideas to Increase Year-end Giving by Lovett H. Weems, Jr.
- People Want to Attend a Generous Church by Tom Berlin