Several years ago it was reported that we had a severe stewardship issue, as a concentration risk was identified when two large annual donations to St. Peter’s were lost for reasons unrelated to the church. In response, the Church Council presented a budget that year with benevolences zeroed out.
Members of the church responded to this by digging deeper to help fund some of the mission partners, service organizations, non-profit agencies and missions recipients that depend on our support. The Faith Forward campaign was a one-year only effort to fund these commitments.
Another way the church responded, along with two nearby UCC churches with similar issues, was to engage a stewardship consultant. Rev. Michael Piazza collected data on us and the Elmhurst area, shared his experience and gave us a report on how we can improve our stewardship and grow our church membership.
Since we received this report, we have been rolling out his key suggestions. You have already seen automated giving implemented, as achieving regular ACH giving at 50% of pledges was a recommended goal. We are not there yet and we encourage any and all church members to sign up to pay their annual pledge in this manner.
We have also implemented online giving on our website, via an app, and now on our Facebook page. We are using Tithe.ly for online giving via the www.stpeterselmhurst.org website and via an app for your smartphone or tablet device.
On Facebook, anyone visiting the page can donate to St. Peter’s or start a campaign and raise money for a church-related cause. We are using the Facebook donations to help fund our Changing Tomorrows program. You will hear more about this soon.
Another Rev. Piazza recommendation was to separate benevolence giving from the annual pledge campaign and to create a year-round culture of generosity in the church.
Last year, between the success of the annual fall giving campaign, the Changing Tomorrows program, the Haiti House fundraising, a special event for Bridge Communities, special giving on key church dates and other giving, we had a truly successful year-round effort to support the life of the church and the many mission partners we help.
Changing Tomorrows is a program that begins in Lent to help us fund our monetary benevolence giving, but as part of the culture of generosity we seek to build at St. Peter’s, gifts may be given at any time during the year.
We will be instituting new campaigns via Facebook and other means to grow our benevolence giving. After the Faith Forward program raised over $25,000, the Deacons set goals of growing benevolences to $50,000 in 2017, $75,000 in 2018 and $100,000 in 2019 in the name and spirit of truly Changing Tomorrows.
We also lend support to many mission partners, service organizations and nonprofit agencies with hands-on work. Many St. Peter’s members give their time and talent in numerous ways inside and outside the church various not-for-profit organizations. Our consultant also wants us to collect data on this giving, as it is not an insignificant charitable contribution fueled by the faithful service of St. Peter’s members.
Improving communications was another recommendation of our consultant to grow our church membership and stewardship. We recently hired an Elmhurst College student as a media intern with the help of an endowment allocation. The Church Council has allocated $35,000 from the endowment fund 2017 proceeds to help fund an updated Sanctuary multimedia system. A task force of Council and church members is assessing a proposed plan and the best way to implement it. Another $40,000 or more from the 2017 endowment proceeds or other sources will be necessary to complete this upgrade.
We have added the Constant Contact email program to improve our email communications.
We recently added a welcome desk to the lobby of the church to help grow our membership.
We are improving the functionality of our website and extending our reach to far flung members and friends of St. Peters through greater use of Facebook.
Our M&M team has developed a postcard campaign for new Elmhurst residents and Rev. Wolf has joined the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce to help this effort.
As you can see, we have taken our stewardship and church growth challenges seriously, while also maintaining our place as what our consultant describes as a Vital Vintage Church.
The Church Council will soon be appointing a Long Range Planning Task Force to work across the lines of authority of the church and provide future goals and the action plans to achieve them.
Lastly and most importantly, we seek to spread our message of loving God, nurturing faith and sharing gifts. We seek to empower our members and community to individually and collectively spread that message through worship, prayer and service to others in Christ’s name.
Yours in Christ,
Board of Deacons