By Todd McMichen
I’m inspired by how the local church is responding to this new COVID-19 ministry season.
At first it was unsettling as we walked through the reaction stage two weeks ago. Pastor after pastor was going live and communicating a brand new plan as changes were being forced upon us in uncontrollable ways.
Then we moved into response stage. The climate for the next few weeks seemed more clear and plans were being made. All the programs had been cancelled.
Now we were either going virtual or doing drive-in church. (You drive-in church pastors are my heroes! Genius move.)
Now it’s time for the generosity stage. With schedules somewhat settled and two weeks of online offerings under our belts we have both clarity and concern.
Here are some thoughts on how to begin leading your generosity ministry with a focus on the offering time.
1. Make sure the offering moment is not at the end of your service.
This is especially true if you’re streaming and people start logging out before the service is over.
However, the bigger opportunity is to properly honor the moment.
2. Shorten your service and expand your offering moment.
In this season attention spans are shorter and the normal service length is probably not best.
Additionally, you’ll need to provide more instructions related to the offer which will take up time.
3. Help people get settled and focused prior to your offering moment.
There has been so much change and disruption that most people aren’t quite ready to hear an important and specific message.
Use the first part of your service to do two things. First, lift their eyes heavenward. You cannot relieve their burdens; only God can. Lift their spirits.
Second, remind them of your church vision. We are still the church together doing the same things fulfilling the same mission. Purpose calms us.
4. Sharpen your generosity message.
As you lead your offering moment make sure to cover several items.
First, begin with a generosity story of how your church is already living generously by serving people during COVID-19.
People need to see how their past generosity is making a difference.
Second, provide as positive a financial update as possible. Givers want to know their gifts are being handled well.
Third, state the obvious: your current ministry spending plan didn’t see COVID-19 coming.
So you’ve redeployed your resources to minister as powerfully as possible during this season. You’re now turning your church budget into a ministry response fund.
Fourth, direct everyone to one simple online giving page to facilitate generosity right now.
I know there are many ways people can give today, but too many options will be confusing during your worship service.
5. Post links and remind people at the end of your service.
If people are watching on their device they won’t be able to stop the service to make their gift.
Post links in the feed and remind people about how to give at the end.
6. Set up a digital giving page that leads with transformation.
Most churches limit their online giving experience to a transactional credit card form or even gate the experience behind a login screen.
Be mindful that your giving page is now your offering plate.
People need a transforming worshipful experience that is personally rewarding. You want them to like it and come back for more.
7. Repeat and remind.
All week long keep people focused on the few things you’re doing as a church to fulfill the mission. The time for busy church calendars, changing schedules, and temporary confusion needs to subside.
Engagement is the number one indicator of generosity. Help someone stay connected by simplify your mission, message, and means of staying united.
This season of virtual church is unlike anything we’ve been equipped to lead and the offering is no different. Running the plays of the past will be limiting.
It’s generosity season. People understand hurt and want to help. They’re actually already doing it by checking on neighbors and finding ways to serve the vulnerable.
So if we focus on repairing our budgets instead of living generous lives of community impact, giving might just go elsewhere.
TODD MCMICHEN (@ToddMcMichen) is Director of Generosity & Digital Giving at Lifeway and author of Leading a Generous Church: Making Disciples without Chasing Money.