All churches struggle with communication. I remember, as a pastor, when our church changed our worship time for a special event. Four weeks in a row I announced it. Five weeks in a row it was in the bulletin. It was in the newsletter twice in the same month. Then, when the Sunday arrived, several people came at the wrong time. Frustrated, they wondered why no one had said anything about the change.
Yes, communication is a problem. However, we must remember that communication isn’t only about the church telling the people something—it is also listening to what the people are telling the church. That kind of communication is even more rare.
Some years ago, a large study was done in the Catholic church by economist Charles Zech. He identified several variables that might affect giving—pledging, preaching on giving, annual campaigns, etc. In a surprise, at least for me, the variable that increased giving more than any other was communication—specifically, allowing for conversations and questions about finances from groups within the church.
Churches that invite an after-church meeting to discuss finances and hear questions, do better. Churches that discuss the budget (and its impact) in small group meetings and classes, do better. Churches that set meetings to share and invite transparency about the church’s money, do better. Churches that reveal what difference the money is making and hear whether that is the difference people want their church to make, do better.
It seems like such a simple thing, but allowing people to know the situation, the process, and the results makes a powerful difference. They feel like they are part of the church family and its decisions. An equally important difference happens in church leadership, as it comes to know what matters to the people it leads. Too often finances are a black hole. Information goes in but never comes out. Obviously, that attitude doesn’t engender much trust—or generosity!
As you think about ways to increase connection and giving, be sure to make communication a two-way street. It can never hurt, and almost always helps.
If you want more ideas for stewardship and giving, whether pastor or lay person, contact us here or call us toll free at 877-391-8811.
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Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana