Will people give in response to a letter?
In September 2011 Pastor Steve Johnston, from St. Peter’s in Brodhagen, was considering sending a Thanksgiving mailing to members of the congregation. Steve wrote:
“I’m preparing to write my first pastoral/stewardship letter to all the families in our congregation. Two things are driving this. First we do have a high percentage of “alumni”, those who claim membership but I never/rarely see them – and the pastoral letter aims to re-connect or strengthen their tie to St. Peter’s. Second – our treasurer liaison reports that we are down on our givings compared the past two years. This will be possibly be the first ever pastoral or stewardship letter for St. Peter’s – council have no recollection of this happening before.
“So we are planning to send this letter to arrive 1 ½ to 2 weeks before Thanksgiving Sunday. We get a lot “home coming” guests that weekend at church. We are sending this letter to ALL families and we plan to TELL of our mission work here in Brodhagen (which will include our givings to work beyond the village & area). I’m using the Ask, Thank, Tell book as guide and re-reading it now.”
Here is the letter that Steve sent to members of St. Peter’s: brodhagen thanksgiving 2011 letter
Two months later he reported on the outcome of the venture:
“The letters started arriving in mailboxes Friday 30th September – one parishioner that rarely, if ever, comes to church, dropped off a $100 cheque at the parsonage on Sunday morning before worship (and he still didn’t stay for worship).
“Council Treasurer reported on Oct 11th that we received about $1,000 marked as “Thanksgiving Gifts”. We received in October 2011 (with only two Sundays counted the 2nd and 11th) almost as much in offering (about $600 short) as we receive in all of October 2010. There are 3 Sundays left to count and 2010 also had 5 Sundays.
“I got this email from one of the key families in the congregation:
Hi Pastor Steve:
Thank you so much for your recent letter that we received from you outlining the recent happenings at our church and also the way that your appeal for funds was presented.
I don’t know how this suggestion came about for you to send letters to appeal for funds but I thought it was such an excellent way to approach the members that can the most afford to support our church. As a result we took a look at our givings this year so far and then realized that we needed to “catch up:” Our gift of $1500.00 to current was given on Sunday.
In our opinion this was a more effective way of appealing to the congregation than just an announcement at church. However a gentle reminder can go a long way especially now that the end of year is approaching. We all know that many of the congregation do not have the money to give as they would love to be able to.
We commend you and church council for such a splendid job you all do. God Bless you all!!!
Thanksgiving is one obvious time to send out a pastoral letter like this. Are there other appropriate times in the year? Consider:
- Christmas, where a theme of gifts and giving would nicely fit the season. In the secular calendar, December 31 is the last date to make donations in the income tax year.
- Lent, a time of spiritual searching.
- Easter, when we consider the meaning of sacrifice and new life.
Do you have a story to tell about generous giving?