Is Your Church Hindered by 42%?

By Adrian P. Schoonmaker

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This week hundreds of thousands of churches across the nation will receive at least 42% less in contributions than what they could be receiving. The reason has nothing at all to do with the economy. The reason is impersonal methodology. Most churches in the United States simply do not ask their members for financial support in a personal, relational way. Many excellent pastors and church leaders with the best of intentions are systematically and chronically hindering their church’s financial potential because they fail to ask properly.

Jesus Christ stated these words: “Ask, and it will be given… For everyone who asks receives…” (Matthew 7:7, 8). Although this teaching may not have been on financial support, many empirical studies reveal that there is a stewardship application to these words. In early 2010 another study was completed by the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University on the methodology used to approach potential givers: “A study of more than 8,300 donors… found that donors who were asked to give in person by someone they knew donated 19 percent more to secular charities when compared with a request by other methods such as telephone, email, or letter. For religious organizations, when the donor was asked to give in person by someone he or she knew, the average donation was 42 percent higher!” (Lewis Center for Church Leadership, March 2010)

There are many reasons why the personal visit is so important in the stewardship life of your church. Here are some of them:

  • People Respond to Relationship. Consider the volunteer recruiting that has been done in your church. In most churches, the best recruits and the most lasting recruits are those that were asked to be volunteers in a direct, one-on-one conversation. Consider the spiritual conversion experiences of people with whom you are familiar. Many of the most devoted, most enduring commitments to Christ arise from face-to-face, personal interactions or invitations from other believers. Compare this with how many people are introduced to the faith through some sort of mass appeal, and there really is no comparison. Meaningful commitments result from meaningful asking.
  • The Individual Connection. There is no more effective way to involve someone in your cause than to personally approach them and ask them to join you. This can happen on paper or in a group gathering, but the intensity of the response will be in proportion to their level of anonymity. I may win some support by asking a whole group, “Will you join us in this?” But I will win significant support when I take time to visit with an individual, asking, “Please join me in this.”
  • The Personal Visit Distinguishes You. Every person in your church receives countless solicitations every month. People at the door, telethons over the phone, mailers from numerous charities, even scores of Internet requests. The church has a unique opportunity. You are different from the any other organization. Your members have already personally come to you – and many of them personally come to your church door every week. Do not waste the opportunity before you by asking for support in the same way that everyone else does. Use the personal visit. Be different. Set your church apart, by declaring with your methodology, “This is one of the most important places you can put your money.”
  • The Personal Visit Brings Sobriety and Dignity. Don’t assume that your congregation is aware of the urgency of your church’s needs. Many pastors and leaders make this mistake. A common line of reasoning is: “We’ll put a note in the bulletin, hold a special Sunday, write a good letter, and people will see the need.” Rest assured – they probably will not. They will not see the need nearly to the extent that they will if one of their peers comes to personally sit and discuss the need with them. Moreover, they will not feel nearly as valued as an individual in the congregation. There is something about a peer making the time to come and sit and talk with you that causes the donor to sit up straighter, incline the ear sharper, and dig significantly deeper. The personal visit makes the gift more… personal.

Among the many practices we can teach your church leadership to increase your congregational giving, the personal visit is just one of them. The question is important for all church leaders to consider: Has your church’s approach created a giving “ceiling?” One way to immediately raise the stewardship “cap” is to make this adjustment in methodology. If you are not conducting personal visits, your budget may well be hindered by at least 42%.

These are just a few of the factors that come into play with a personal visit. Read more on this subject in Jim Klote’s book, Stewardship: The Proven Path.

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