As I have coached Congregational leaders about stewardship, a frequent question is; what about time and talents? I always give them a few pieces of advice:
1. Separated it from the financial appeal. This only diffuses the focus on financial stewardship. Financial support for congregations is difficult enough without diffusing the energy around three different things at one time.
2. Never offer an area of ministry that is not available or is screened by an uncooperative gatekeeper. When people fill out a sheet that contains the various ministries of the congregation, and they indicate an area of interest, that area needs to be available. For example, a smaller congregation list for time and talents lay reader. However, the church already has seven lay readers, and adding more lay readers will only mean less opportunity to read. This de-motivates the leader of the lay readers from adding the person.
3. Always follow up. This is closely related to the above. A common complaint from many people is that they volunteered for something and no one followed up. When a person experiences this, they are less likely to volunteer in the future.
In recent years, I've been challenged by the need to get people to sign up for areas of ministry. Like many of you, I have put announcements in the bulletin and in the newsletter with little or no response. Part of this can be explained by the high demand on people's volunteer time. Recently, I gained some new insights into the difficulty of recruiting people for ministry, especially younger people.
First, I was reminded that for those under 50 years of age, membership in an organization is not a destination. In the book titles “Bowling Alone” the sociologist author contends that many more people are participating in activities but refusing to join organizations.
Second, the younger people are, the more they want to make a difference, a hands on difference.
The combination of these two insights led me to create for the Cathedral The Acts of Love Campaign. Here are the steps I followed in creating and executing this campaign:
1. I ask all my leaders to develop a one sentence description of what a person does in their area of ministry. (It was amazing to see that some leaders were not able to do this.)We prioritized the list to one page. This allowed for 15 to 20 items.
2. We balanced these between internal ministries (benefiting current members) and external ministries (reaching those outside the congregation.)
3. We communicated the purpose of the acts of love campaign based on the theology of tithing; giving 10% of one's time and talents.
4. To the left of each item listed, we had one box that indicated an interest in a new area of ministry, and a second box that indicated continuing in an area of ministry.
5. I set a goal of having 25 to 50 new commitments. We created a thermometer of new commitments and continuing commitments to place in the entrance to our parish hall.
6. We mailed the sheet to everyone in the congregation along with a reminder sheet that they could keep for their own benefit.
7. We followed this for one month reminding people to make their commitments, providing additional sheets to those who needed them, and placing sheets at the front and side entrance to the Cathedral.
8. We had a staff member follow-up all new commitments by communicating to the leader of that area of ministry the contact information on those who had indicated an interest.
9. We followed up with leaders to be sure that they had contacted the person and invited them to participate.
The next time I do this campaign, I intend to incorporate short testimonies from volunteers in various areas into our Sunday liturgy. I also plan to track these commitments, particularly the new commitments, to see which areas of ministry are of most interest, and which are not. I hope by doing this to find out something about our people’s passions. As of today we have had 114 new commitments and 116 continuing commitments. Amazing!