Another common question I receive is about using the Focus on the Five Practices: A Congregation-Wide Initiative materials during the lead-up and preparation for the congregation’s fall stewardship emphasis or consecration pledge Sunday.
First, numerous churches have already done this by using the original book on the Five Practices and integrating the material into their Consecration Sunday lead-up time and preparation period. In fact, one option Abingdon Press considered with me was to develop a specific in-depth consecration-type emphasis culminating with Extravagant Generosity and then receiving pledges. But I didn’t want the Five Practices to become too narrowly viewed as simply a lead-in to fund-raising. However, I do think that the material lends itself to this kind of use.
Second, the timeline, schedule, and planning for the congregation-wide initiative parallels in many ways the kind of in-depth preparation a congregation would experience if they paid a professional consultant to lead them in a capital funds campaign. There are leadership teams, communications teams, youth and children’s ministries teams, prayer teams, and work teams that develop specific strategies for ministry. There are every-household daily-devotional books, (as in Forty Days of Purpose and other congregation-wide resources). And there are celebration events and work-day events that unify and stimulate renewed commitment. The difference between the initiative as designed and using it specifically for stewardship pledges is one of purpose and outcome. The key purpose of the material as printed is to unify the church, stimulate new ministry initiatives, renew commitments to ministry and help churches regain an understanding of the “why” of church life and the mission of the church. By using it for Consecration Sunday, the congregation’s goal would be to achieve these things, but also and primarily to stimulate conscientious and prayerful financial commitments to the church’s ministries.
So, can Focus on the Five Practices: A Congregation-Wide Initiative be used for a congregation’s annual Stewardship Campaign?
Absolutely! By using the five-week period of preaching, small group work, and personal daily devotions focused on the Five Practices, people will see how their giving interconnects in an essential way with the whole mission of the church. Congregations wishing to use the material in preparation for Consecration Sunday or Stewardship Commitment will want to adapt their planning and schedule accordingly. For instance, they might add a sixth Sunday as Commitment Sunday so that Extravagant Generosity is the focus one week prior to pledging. They could involve more laypersons in sharing words of personal witness about the church, the practices, and their personal giving in the weeks leading up to pledge Sunday. They could provide additional special invitations to be present for the commitment service, including personal contact from a team of church leaders. They might plan a celebration lunch or dinner on the last Sunday of the emphasis, providing follow-up with those members unable to be present on the Commitment Sunday so that they can offer their pledges. By intermixing elements of the Consecration Sunday program with the five-week plan, your communications, announcements, and personal witnesses maximize participation on Commitment Sunday.
Yours in Christ,