Are you making the most of what could be a powerful stewardship and community building tool?
At any given time, many congregations are looking for a bit of change in their stewardship campaign. One option that is often mentioned is Celebration Sunday, sometimes referred to as Commitment Sunday. Frankly, I used to down play Commitment Sunday as a lazier way to capstone a campaign (compared to Visiting Stewards, for example), but I have come to the view that I was wrong, given a few caveats. Done well, this is a good tool, although like other approaches, I think it runs out of gas after 2-3 years in a row.
The best ones I have seen really work as the culmination of about a year of messaging, testimonials, etc. Interest builds over time. If it is pretty much a stand-alone event, chosen as an easy way to conduct a campaign with minimal effort, it is unlikely to do well.
I had two of my best stewardship years in my last two years at my home congregation, and both of those years we used the Commitment Sunday format. Here are some elements that worked for us:
— The aforementioned build up and congregational conversations. Commitment Sunday was not an event, it was crossing a finish line and celebrating what we are and who we are.
— In both years, we were able to publicize early on (but not too early) that the leadership (the board) had all committed to our target goals (some had to do so over two years rather than one, but that was fine) and all were Fair Share Givers. It set the standard.
— The Sunday itself was a celebratory day and rather than taking up the cards, we had 3-4 members of the stewardship team stand up front with baskets and asked everyone to come forward and put a card in the basket. If they had already pledged on line – which was encouraged – they were asked to put in a card so noting. Having everyone step up and make eye contact with a fellow member holding that basket turned out to be a powerful, personal moment for a lot of people. We were all surprised how this resonated.
– We paid a lot of attention to the testimonials in the weeks prior, ensuring that the roster represented the entire congregation, including new members, those who had not pledged before, those who were first time Fair Share Givers, etc.
There are many good sources and references for doing one of these Sundays well. A few you may wish to consider are:
A Planning Calendar for Commitment Sunday On Line, (Lutheran), found at:
An oldie but goodie article on how Arlington Street Church did this a few years ago, at http://www.uua.org/interconnections/57013.shtml
Not to highlight the obvious, but I periodically put the term Commitment Sunday into a search engine and usually find several pages of listings from individual churches of all denominations that have good ideas I am happy to borrow.
Set up your special Sunday for success and reap the rewards.
What about you? Do you have a story of this approach doing well? Feel free to share it here, or on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/S4US1/
Bill Clontz is a stewardship consultant with the Stewardship for Us Team, supporting the UUA. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, via UUA Congregational Life, (http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising), or via regional staff.
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