Communication Case Study: The Anatomy of a Successful Stewardship Campaign

Date Posted: 8/14/2015

Engagement is most often thought of in the marital sense, however it is of central importance in terms of a congregation as well. Engagement, in both contexts, implies emotional involvement and commitment –- as in, personal participation. What better way to see engagement in action than a stewardship campaign? This “back story” will demonstrate how one church made it to the Winner Circle in the 2015 TAC Communications Best Idea Contest – and equip other congregations with ideas on improving stewardship campaigns in their own unique environments.
According to Communication Director Rebecca Llenos, the main goal of the First UMC Pearland 2015 Stewardship campaign was to increase participation from the congregation. “It was not so much about pushing the amount of giving  -- though that is always important – but, rather, creating a culture of giving our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness,” she explains. “Through a strong Sunday morning message, a well-communicated plan and tangible take-aways and opportunities, we received an increase of 33% more pledge cards compared to the previous campaign.”
 

Step 1: FUMC Pearland formed a stewardship committee to choose a program, initiate and lead the campaign. They chose the Living Generously campaign for its compelling video series and numerous suggestions and best practice examples.

Step 2: The team created a week-by-week communication plan to help leadership and staff stay on task and communicate the points of the campaign through many different media.
 
Step 3: Through print, pulpit announcements, email and social media the campaign coordinators were able to keep the congregation engaged in the campaign, even if they were not there on a Sunday morning. Sermons (both audio and video) were available on the church’s website. 
The bulletin was used for prayers specifically written for the five weeks of the campaign and for weekly synopsis of the videos. A unique, dedicated e-mail was sent out during the weeks of the campaign with links to sermons and prayers as well as how to use the takeaways (listed in Step 4) and thoughts on how to Live Generously. Social media was also used to create focused conversations and receive feedback on the concept of living generously.

Step 4: Takeaways were used on four of the five Sundays to re-iterate the teachings of the Sunday topic. Notes Rebecca, “We used bookmarks, generosity jars, spoons/ladles and seed packets to demonstrate the points of the videos. The bookmarks used the sheep graphic from Living Generously.  The generosity jars encouraged people to fill their jars of slips of paper with ways they lived generously.  The spoons and ladles represented us serving ourselves and then serving other.  The final week seed packets were given out to all. All packets included Texas wildflower seeds except for a few that had cash inside. Those who had cash in their seed packets were encouraged to share how they helped others with the money they received.” Two members of one family shared their story in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abi3HaQjsnY. She adds, “We also had a service opportunity at the City of Pearland’s Trick or Treat Trail so we could volunteer as a team and share the Living Generously theme in our community.”
 
Step 5: FUMC Pearland mailed the pledge cards a week in advance and had cards available for Commitment Sunday. Baskets were placed in all worship areas for cards to be turned in. Members also had the option of filling out an online pledge card and these were printed out and placed in the baskets to be prayed over.  Adds Rebecca, “The cards were not only for monetary pledges, but allowed the congregation to pledge their service and their presence. There was also space to request information about the many growth groups or service/mission opportunities available – which helped boost personal participation.”
 
In measuring success, church leaders solicited quotes from the congregation about how this series made a difference in their life or how they were Living Generously. “The feedback helped us decide to share the second installment of this series Loving Generously for Lent which had an emphasis on Service.” Here are a few quotes from church members that participated in the series:
What I learned from Living Generously: it is not about money. You can be generous with your time and service. I loved the spoon and ladle. The spoon feeds me and the ladle serves others. Rachal Dahse
 
This series has touched my inner spirit like no other "commitment program" ever has. The Holy Spirit convicted me; I humbly say, I have been guilty of giving money in lieu of service. I will pray for and act on opportunities God presents to interact and serve. Thank you for this series. Debbie Gilbert
 
Recapping Results
According to Rebecca, the successful result of this campaign was two-fold: 1) the team effort of the clergy, staff and lay leadership increased the knowledge and built excitement around the campaign and 2) the constant execution of the communication plan and media kept the congregation engaged and intrigued. “It is always important to keep your audience engaged if you want people to ‘get it’,” she adds. “Our members are constantly receiving messages of what to do and where to go and why to do it. As a church, keeping what we teach on Sunday relevant and life-applicable (i.e. stewardship in its many forms) will certainly result in a culture change because it becomes part of what we do.”  

Shares Rebecca, “The result of a 33% increase in participation made our goal a reality and we are continuing to cultivate the culture of giving to God and our church in all areas with great strides and excitement.”

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