It has been a tumultuous year. Despite its wild uncertainty, 2020 – the year of the pandemic – will go down as one that forced many of us to reimagine how we do church and to adapt to that new reality. In the Stewardship office, this resulted in a pivot from the annual Bishop’s Company fundraising dinner to an online cabaret. The latter, a free event that was open to everyone, allowed us to showcase talent from across the diocese.
We also placed renewed emphasis on Pre-Authorized Giving and introduced a new giving resource in the form of a QR Code. The level of generosity was unparalleled. We received more online gifts in April of this year than all last year. People want to help; they have a need to give thanks and be generous.
The pandemic gives us permission to try new things – largely online. It has emphasized the importance of maintaining and building relationships, staying connected with one another and continuing to being a faithful Christian witness in uncertain times. As the year comes to an end, it is an opportune time to re-evaluate what we did in our parishes and consider how we remain vigilant in promoting generosity and supporting ministry.
I invite you to consider, and challenge you to adopt, the following ways we can continue to support stewardship and encourage discipleship:
Stay in contact with parishioners. Many of our members are particularly vulnerable to the risks of COVID-19 because of age or illness. They need to know that they are being prayed for and are valued and loved by our church communities. Call them if you can. They want to hear from you.
Maintain a web presence. Even though we can worship as a community, many choose to stay away. If you do not have a website, parishioners will lose a sense of belonging. At worse, they may drift away and never return.
Develop some sort of online worship. The service of Holy Communion is the lifeblood of our Christian experience. Many of us crave the fellowship and solemn experience that participation in church brings. If we do not fill that void, how are we maintaining a Christian presence and responding to the worship needs of our congregants?
Ask all your congregants to continue supporting ministry. It is a great joy to know that most parishes are sustaining their operations. However, our clergy are working twice as hard as during normal times while dealing with the stress that each one of us is experiencing. The work of the Church continues, but in different ways. The Church still needs your support.
Make your giving regular, reliable and real. If you can, switch to a first-fruits electronic form of giving like e-transfer or Pre-Authorized Remittance. This will help ensure a steady stream of revenue for your parish and help alleviate the stress that parish leaders feel regarding money woes.
Consider some sort of virtual special event. Community building is still important. Churches are experimenting with online kitchen parties, pageants, potluck dinners and cabarets. Do the same. No one expects perfection, though they will appreciate the effort.
Thank, thank, thank. Gratitude for generosity is always welcome. Send thank-you notes to donors and non-donors alike. Thank and invite prayers, acts of kindness, and financial generosity.
Pivot. COVID-19 is our reality. Use this time as permission to try new things and be creative. Perhaps that means introducing new giving vehicles like QR codes, text-to-give or using CanadaHelps.
Ask for a gift of encouragement. The pandemic has precipitated renewed interest in wills and will preparation. We know that only five per cent of churchgoers include their parish in their end-of-life planning. There is no better time than right now to encourage members of our congregations to consider leaving to their church in their wills.
COVID-19 has forced us to fast-forward and modernize the way we do ministry, stay connected with one another, engage with our community through outreach, celebrate, give and worship. It may seem like a long way off, but the pandemic will come to an end at some point. Will your church emerge stronger from the experience?