Past failures can be deeply dispiriting and a real stumbling block to trying again. But if it is three years or more since your church last did stewardship, then in effect you are starting from scratch.
If you held an unsuccessful stewardship renewal in the last three years, then it can be helpful to explore the reasons why it did not have the desired effect.
How successful was your previous renewal? What impact had you hoped it would have, and what happened in reality?
If there is no history of stewardship teaching and renewal in a parish, then the first attempt is often not deemed a success but a second attempt a year later often bears good fruit. So don't be downhearted if your first attempt was unsuccessful.
It is important to acknowledge that for some people their earlier experience may mean that they want nothing to do with this new attempt - and to respect their feelings. It's not necessary for every member of the leadership team to be involved in everything the church does, and what matters is that they feel loved and valued for what they do contribute to the church.
Others who were involved in the past may be happy to try again, although they too may need understanding as previous ideas are replaced by new thinking. See the next help tool to explore this further.
Was the leadership team fully committed to what happened in the past? If not, has that changed or is it still an issue? See the previous help tool for more about this.
What was the vision towards which people were being asked to give? In general, people give more readily when they can see the difference their money might make, than when they are simply asked for money because a church isn't covering its costs. This time, do you need to raise money for a specific project, or do you need church members to be more generous in order to meet ongoing costs? If the latter, then they need to know what their giving makes possible. Your renewal literature will need to contain a reminder of all that the church already does, and a vision of all that it hopes to be able to do.
Who received the renewal literature last time? It's important to distinguish between regular church members, people on the fringes (those who have some contact with the church but do not consider themselves members) and the wider community. Any letters and literature that you send to regular church members can contain an expectation that people are growing in a Biblical understanding of stewardship, whereas literature for those on the fringes will need to introduce the subject more carefully - and communication with others in the community will need to focus on what the church does for them. For example . . .
To regular church members: "Our giving should be a priority of our disposable income as it reflects our response to God's overwhelming generosity to each one of us."
To those on the fringes of church: "Stewardship gives us an opportunity to give thanks to God for his many blessings and to commit ourselves to support his work."
To others in the community: "Your gift to the church will enable us to continue to run the children's holiday club and to maintain the historic church building on behalf of the village."
The size of your community will of course be a factor in drawing up your list of recipients. In a village context, you may be able to deliver letters to the whole parish. In a town or city parish, your communication is likely to be limited to those who have had some contact with the church.
How was the information disseminated last time? Sometimes renewals are launched at a special service or event. Sometimes posters are displayed. Often letters and literature are sent, but contacts may also be made by telephone or personal visit. Sometimes a special service is held to mark the end of the period of renewal.
The question is not only what happened last time, but also what currently feels right for your church and your community. Can you identify a form of communication that was missing last time, or something that was tried and didn't work in your context, or something about the way in which information was communicated that wasn't quite right for its recipients?
What about the presentation of literature? Colour printing, or at least printing on coloured paper, can make a big difference to how information is perceived. Word processing and home printing has made a high standard of presentation the norm even in the voluntary sector, and the church risks looking old-fashioned and out-dated if it doesn't match these standards.
Literature should be clearly expressed without being too lengthy. People are much more likely to read three well-spaced A5 leaflets (especially if they are printed in/on different colours so that it's obvious that these are three separate pieces of information) than they are to plough through one longer leaflet, or through pages of tiny, close-spaced text. For instance, a single-sided A4 letter and accompanying leaflet are more likely to be read than a letter that goes on for 3 or 4 pages.
Are there any problems in the relationship between church and community, or between church leadership and other church members, which might account for the lack of response to the previous appeal? If these have not been addressed or resolved in the meantime, then you may need to look at them now.
Are there any other organisations in the parish whose activities might account for the lack of response to the previous appeal from the church? Perhaps the village hall was raising money for its roof at about the same time, or the Friends Group at the school may have been newly formed. There may be other factors in the wider community that you need to take into account when planning the timing of this next renewal.
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