What on earth is a stewardship canvass?
That was the question I asked our wardens and treasurer after the new diocesan regulation, glamorously entitled “Regulation 6.10.05 – Parish Stewardship,” was circulated. None of us had ever done a stewardship canvass before, but together we worked out what it would look like — or rather what it would not look like. We decided from the beginning we would not be asking our parishioners for more money. Instead, our focus was to be on celebrating the continued generosity of our members, and to press into 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
In order to renew joy, we asked people to make an honest review of their giving, whether of time, skills, money or possessions, and to make the adjustments, whether up or down, that would enable them to engage in stewardship with joy rather than duty; energy rather than exhaustion; hope rather than habit. We sought a recommitment to giving in all forms as a spiritual discipline that can draw us not only into joy but into a deeper relationship with God.
We chose Lent to run our campaign, a natural time to review our spiritual practice and press further into God. Each Sunday we looked at a different aspect of our life together and reflected on ways stewardship impacts and enhances them. Our areas of focus were:
Community engagement: Volunteering with our pastoral care, communications or outreach teams; donating to our foodbank; or supporting our Blessings Boutique.
God engagement: Committing to attend and volunteer at worship services; engaging in personal and corporate prayer; studying the Bible; training for church roles; and giving financially to God and his church.
Partners in Mission (PinM) engagement: Supporting our monthly partners with prayer, money and action; joining a committee to review our practice (this is a new PinM model for St Peter); and choosing next year’s PinM.
Creation engagement: reducing car use; engaging with St Peter green team initiatives; growing flowers for the sanctuary or vegetables for our food bank; and making a rule of life to help us tread more gently on the Earth.
Future engagement: supporting our youth whether by prayer, mentoring or attending youth-led worship; coming alongside wardens or Area-of-Interest council members as deputy or trainee; supporting church building and maintenance projects; and leaving a bequest to the church in a will.
During Holy Week, a pledge form was sent out. The form reflected the topics we had considered each Sunday through Lent. The form allowed parishioners to reflect, to intentionally and mindfully commit afresh to offering time, money, possessions and talents — everything God has given us — back to God through his Church.
If they were willing to do so, people were asked to share their pledges with the leadership. Twenty-five of them did (about 12%), enabling us to fulfill Part C of the regulation to “report the results of said canvass to the Executive Officer…” In some ways, this is only a small sample of our church family, but is an acceptable rate of response, given that this is a very personal matter for some and a typical response to any survey is around 5–30% of those canvassed.
Through the pledge form, we identified areas of training, engagement and growth. And although the intention was not to ask for increased dollar giving, many people did pledge to do that, and we also received a pledge of a lump sum to further the work of the church.
But did we renew ourselves as cheerful givers? Well, I hope so. I certainly enjoyed myself and look forward to doing it again next year.