You know you have been around the life of a church a long time when words like chancel, narthex, Trinity, pledge don’t make you pause and wonder what is going on. One of those words, “pledge”, is a fixture of many churches each year. Longtime members know what it is all about. Some church attenders groan and plan their fall vacations away from church attendance when they hear the word “pledge”. Some newer members and regular visitors hear the word as a “blast from the past” to prove how irrelevant modern congregations can be.
Although some churches choose to no longer do Stewardship Campaigns, this church continues a long and helpful tradition. Those churches who do not have Stewardship Campaigns must rely on a continuous evaluation of incoming and outgoing expenditures, asking the congregation to increase giving periodically throughout the year. The Pledge Drive System allows those entrusted with the financial management of the congregation to present a responsible budget which allows for the fair compensation of staff, the ability to pay the utilities, and the resources for programming and mission giving.
A “Pledge” is an individual or family’s considered decision about how much of their resources they will contribute the life and ministry of the church for the following year. It is not “set in stone”. No one comes after anyone if the pledge is unpaid or if less than the original choice is not paid in full. It is not a tax. In ancient times, and in some churches to this day, it was expected that each family give a tithe of their income (produce, money, whatever). A tithe is 10%. A pledge is the way you let the church know your projected gift – whether the classic tithe, or whatever number fits into your financial planning. What’s more, only one person, the financial secretary, knows what you pledge and what you give (and that person swears to confidentiality).
How does pledging help the church? It helps them in planning. It is particularly crucial for churches in pastoral transition because it allows decisions to be made around pastoral compensation that will be both fair and attainable. That includes whether a church can support a full-time or a part-time clergy leadership. Having an estimate of projected giving allows important planning to occur. Can the roof be fixed this year, or do we need to wait? Are we able to support a spiritual retreat off campus or will we need to ask participants to assume the full expense? Can we give cost-of-living raises this year since the inflation rate is higher? Will we struggle to afford electricity and any heating oil? It is much easier to plan the budget if the planners know the financial foundation.
We are in our Stewardship Campaign, and I hope you will choose to pledge to the church. And if you are a longtime “pledger” I hope you will consider a modest increase. Thank you.