My neighbor, Rick, loped up the driveway the other day and after a couple minutes of chit chat he said, “Hey I need to get that edger off of you this afternoon.”
Now I don’t mind lending out my tools. Rick’s earned a reputation for taking care of stuff he borrows and prompt returns, but I was a bit taken aback from his, well, his informing me. I’m sure in his mind he asked to borrow the edger, but he really didn’t. Perhaps by definition a question requires a question mark. I would have appreciated something along the lines of , “Could I borrow your edger?”
For the record, Rick left with my edger, I didn’t mind lending it to him and predictably it was returned quickly. All’s well that ends well.
Some 20 years ago I was in a seminar led by the legendary fund raiser Jerry Panas. He was adamant that every ask needs to be an ask. And an ask has to have a question mark. If there’s no question mark, there’s no ask.
As you plan your fall stewardship work, I encourage you to check for question marks.
- “Would you consider a gift of $X this year to help us strengthen our children’s program?”
- “Is this the year that you would be willing to increase the percentage of your income that give to the church by one percentage point?”
- “Would you consider including the church’s endowment fund in your will?”
- “The church is obviously a priority for you and your family. Can we count on that support again next year as we work to reach more people in our community?”
Here’s the thing about a question. At least in theory there are two reasonable answers: Yes or no. This terrifies Finance Committees. What if you ask a generous tither to renew her pledge and she says “no?” Then I say there’s a good chance she would have anyway. But if you look at it from her point of view, you’re giving her the courtesy of acknowledging that what she does or doesn’t give is up to her. And the better she feels about giving it, the more likely she is to continue to be generous.
Have you ever been backed into a corner by a pushy salesman? There’s a good chance you have and an even better chance that you never went back there again.
So make the ask, use a question mark and invite, rather than demand, your people provide your church with the financial support it takes to change the world.
You just might be surprised by the response.