COVID-19: Generosity & Giving During the Crisis

Updated: Apr 8, 2020


Jim Sheppard, CEO and Principal of Generis, discusses the importance of generosity within a congregation and best practices to keep up with your donors during this time.

"It's not that you talk about money, it's how you talk about money… you’re talking about what happens to them when they partner with God to do the great things in ministry . . . now you are talking about the discipleship of giving, which is a whole lot about generosity than just giving to the church."




Tommy Rosson:

So as we look at COVID-19, and we look at the agility, what is some of the advice that you've been able to see within churches that you've been able to give them to deal with some of these issues they're running into right now.

Jim Sheppard:

Yeah, there's a longer list of things that churches are going to have to deal with down the road because I think part of what you have to think through, Tommy, is the churches that haven't been paying attention to building their culture of generosity are probably the ones that are paying the biggest price right now. And so I hope that's a wake up call for them come back to that. And that's a longer list later on. But if I were a church leader and I were looking to stabilize, let's just call it a stabilize giving in this season, I think there's three things at the top of my list. The first one is to anchor your core givers. Anchor your core givers. Now maybe not everybody out there listening understands. I'm guessing a lot of them do, but it is fairly typical that 65% to 80% of the giving in a church comes from 15% to 20% of the people.

So, and by the way, I'm not setting up the idea that some givers are better than others. They're not, you know, all givers are the same, but not all gifts are the same. All givers are the same, but not all gifts are the same. And so some gifts go a lot further toward providing ministry than others. We don't give them special access. We don't show favoritism. But yeah, in this season I would reach out to them and make sure that they know you're thinking about them, you're praying for them. They're probably successful and they probably have businesses, probably some of them are trying to think through all of this. They probably need a friend. They're leaders at the top of an organization. It's really lonely at a time like this, man, when times are good, you got a lot of folks knocking on your door.

But right now decision making is really lonely if you're a leader at the top of one of these organizations and some of them need a friend. And it's a time to thank them for their faithfulness and giving and, and to let them know that in this season it would mean more than ever. Not begging and you're not asking. By the way, you know some people are doing well in this season. I mean you, you just think about some of the industries out there that are doing well. I know a guy who is in the business of making swimming pool chemicals. He just turned over, you know it happen in a week and a half, on April the 13th, the day after Easter, he will have half of his manufacturing capacity converted to hand sanitizer. Right? Hand sanitizer is not just in short supply now. Hand sanitizer is going to be the commodity in the future.

All of our gathering spaces are going to be changed forever. You know, they are going to look like a cruise ship. If you've ever been on a cruise ship, they have hand sanitizer every 25 feet, right? The people, boats have a lot of germs apparently, but so, so he's not being crushed by this. I mean, and you know, I've got a, I know a pastor who was making some of these phone calls, just pastor and his people, you know, Hey, I know, let me pray over you. You know, pray over you as you think about some of the cuts you're going to have to make. I know it's going to be some people you hate, love, just all of those things. One of his guys calls him back and he says, pastor, he said, look, so I was thinking this afternoon we're talking through kind of, you know, if we have to make a few cuts, more cuts and then a lot of cuts.

What does that look like for us? He said, I'm guessing you all are having those conversations down at the church. And the pastor said, wow, yeah we are. We're not going to have to activate it right in that right this minute. But, and he said, promise me, that pastor before you do that, will you call me and let me see if I can't get some guys together to fund the gap. Right. That's because he's pastored these guys well and he's built these relationships or anchor your core givers in this season. You know, lots of them would love to continue giving. We'll continue giving and some of them might even be able to give more anchor of your core givers during this season, whoever that group is. Right. So that's step number one. Step number two. As we've moved into the online church environment, Lots of churches have struggled with the offering moment or the giving moment, depending on what you call that. I watched it in the first week and almost every church I watch was terrible, including my own model, which is frustrating. It's like, haven't I've taught y'all better than that. I mean, you got me in the myths, so, I understood, I mean, it's their first time through the long run and they hadn't thought through that gotten, I mean, nobody was thinking through it. And so what happened is for far too many churches, it felt like an administrative DPL strip then in the midst of a service. And so I did a video and I think you guys are going to point to some of our resources here later on. I did a video to coach people through it.

I coach people on the phone call and I've kept doing the phone calls and I was like, why do I keep saying the same thing on these phone calls? I just need to do a video and point them to the video cause it's easy. And here's what I'd say. There's several tips. Now. Firstly, you have to make it authentic. I mean I have to make it authentic and it's not going to look or sound like it does in your auditorium, in your sanctuary where you do worship on a regular basis, you're not going to look like that cause you're coming to somebody in their living room. You're also not going to be passing the plate or the basket of the bucket in the back or whatever you do. So you don't have that moment. So you don't have to do a choir, you know, special offertory or you know, whatever.

My church, we run stories during the giving moment sometimes. Okay. But the third thingis, and not just make it and make it real and I'll bend it, but make sure that you're clear about how to give in this season, right? So you know, I would have a slide up there on the screen. You know, even churches that don't have screens in their sanctuary now have a screen in your sanctuary, bro. You can put slabs up there to your heart's content, right? Have a slide. Explain. Remind people who give online. This is how you do that. If you're not getting online, here's how you can sign up to do that. If you have texts to gift, give them a number and text instructions. And then this one is the one that most everybody missed. If Jim and Nancy love to give by check and don't assume that they're going to want to work, we're going to move over to electronic giving.

They might just want to continue to give by check and since You're not meeting, how do I do that? Give them clear instructions on how to do that lock box outside the office door. Send them envelope. So they can mail it back and make it really clear, really easy for them to do. By the way, the lockbox out by the bothered by the actually office door is pretty popular cause people apparently like to get out and ride around and not have to touch any people. And you just drop your little offering right there in the slot and you can break the bored being at home. So it's been a very popular option for a lot of churches. So that's what I'd say. Make your offering know, think about it, be focused, be intentional about it and make it real. Make it authentic, give clear instructions to do those things.

I learned how to do that well. And you know, what we've seen is we've seen lots of churches that saw a big bounce in their second week online offerings off of the first week. First week was way off. Second week was much, much, much better just because of that. Third thing is this time there's that your leaders, your people, not these key givers, but your key volunteers and service people that are bittering Gates in your nursery ministry, your kid's ministry, parking lot ministry first and probably whatever else should take strategy. Can you do on Sunday mornings and throughout the week, they're not engaged right now. You've got to engage them. You've got to engage them maybe in new ways. You know, maybe you take the guys in the parking lot ministry and you talk to them and you say, Hey look, the food pantry, they've got plenty of food.

They just made some trucks and delivery guys to go out and pick up the food and get it to them or whatever it is. I mean, redeploy your volunteers. Think of new ways to redeploy them and use online tools to engage with them. And then here's the thing. Communicate, communicate, communicate with them. Use video blogs. You know, community's Zoom messages. A segmented email to them. Do the, all the things you've got to communicate with them and keep them engaged because their engagement. And usually it looks like coming down to the church and serving and they're not able to do that in the season. So that would be my top three. Anchor your core donors. Do your offering moment well in online season and communicate, communicate, communicate with your key leaders.

Additional COVID-19 resources for congregations available here.

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