Many of us know how to celebrate the first time something happens.  We celebrate a baby’s first steps, the first day on the bus, the first bike ride, the first library card, the first driver’s license, the first job, and the first passport.  We celebrate such things because they are a gateway to a bigger and better future.  While it may be inevitable that we would one day walk, drive, or work, it is important to acknowledge the importance of the moment—as a sign of more to come.

Sometimes churches forget that.  That first time someone walks in the door is very important.  They didn’t accidentally confuse the church for the mall and stumble into the narthex.  Something has happened to change their behavior and we should remember that—and celebrate it.

The first time someone volunteers to serve is special, as well.  Their stewardship of time is changing.   God has moved them to help others.  The leader of that ministry should follow up with such persons, thank them, and see if there is a story there.  Usually, there is.

This is also true in relation to giving.  When someone gives for the first time, or pledges their gift for the first time, we need to swing into action.  A letter should come from the church office thanking them for the gift, and reminding them of all the good things they are supporting.  Perhaps the pastor could make a phone call and share a “well done.”  These conversations often lead to important places, as the giver has made some decision about their spiritual life that they haven’t before.

Following up with first time givers lets them know you notice the change and confirm it.  It reinforces their newfound stewardship positively, which makes them more likely to keep it up.  It also gives the church a chance to remind the giver of the difference their gift makes in God’s mission through the congregation.  Finally, it says “we see you, and we are glad you are a deeper part of the family.”

Don’t take first time giving for granted.  Don’t see it as something they “should” have been doing all along.  See it for what it is—a reason to celebrate that God is leading them somewhere important.  Do that, and you will have more givers and more gifts.

Glenn HowellWe make house calls.  For more information about stewardship and giving, contact us here or by calling us toll free at 877-391-8811.

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Glenn Howell
Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana