Kicking off your campaign with a good story

There are about 750 churches in the East Ohio Annual Conference and if all 750 did a stewardship campaign, all 750 would be different.  And I think that’s how it should be.  Churches have different cultures, serve different demographics, are in different places in their discipling.  But in my opinion each and every campaign should start off the same way.

The pastor needs to tell his giving story.

I think this is best done during the sermon, largely replacing the traditional model with an honest, spiritual discussion.  I think the pastor should come out from behind the pulpit, sit on a stool perhaps and just talk.

This is an easy assignment for a pastor who came out of seminary in a healthy place financially.  Easy if the spouse had a good job and there was at least adequate income flowing into the checking account.  The pastor saying that she and her family have tithed since day one is an effective message and a great example.

But I have learned that life, especially a life lived in a parsonage, is rarely that simple.

What happens if the pastor has struggled with giving?   If there have been years where finances have been tight or the spiritual commitment has been weak?   Then by all means tell that story!  This is the message your people need to hear, not that the pastor is perfect (psst, they already know that he’s not) but that she has had the same struggles as the person in the pew and come out of the other side.

I think it’s healthy for the pastor to speak candidly about things like student and credit card debt.  Whining is bad, but sincere struggle will resonate with your people.

Part of this conversation should include what you are giving to the church.  In a perfect world, this could be simple.  “My cash compensation from the church is $35,000 per year, my family and I are tithing $3,500 next year.”

Alternatively, “My family and I last year contributed 3% of our income last year.  We are committed to grow into tithers, so we intend to grow to 4% this coming year, 5% the following year and so on until we have met our goal for tithing.  So on my $35,000 salary we will be pledging $1,400 this year.”

I think it’s important to include the dollar figures for both the pastor’s salary and giving.  As the congregation hears the first half of the sentence, they may think, “How does he make it on that salary?” then when they hear that his contribution is larger than theirs, it may help them rethink their own level of commitment.

It gets dicier as it gets more complicated.

While the pastor’s salary is public information (and arguably the only thing most people look at during your fall charge conference) the question also arises about announcing the spouse’s income.  I suggest after disclosing the pastor’s salary and tithe amount, “And we also tithe on my husband’s income.”

Obviously the pastor should never divulge any family financial information unless the spouse is on board.

Don’t get caught up in the minutiae (like this blog post ended up).  Tell your story.  Be honest, be vulnerable, show that you are leading in your giving.

  1. No Minutiae here! Well said, Brian. I’m creating a special “stewardship kick-off” email for my pastors and sending this blog. Thank you for your amazing spirit and your perfect words. Peace, Kristi

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