October 6, 2020
“Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises”
- Psalm 50:14 – The Message
After months of churches scrambling to add or improve electronic and/or mobile donation options during the pandemic, it seems safe to assume that online giving is here to stay. What I wonder about is how churches are faring if they previously did not strongly promote the concept of annual pledging. Sure, people may find it easier to donate online, but how do they determine the size of their gifts if they did not promise to give a certain amount this year?
There are bottom line reasons why most faith communities appreciate those who pledge to give a certain dollar amount in the year ahead. The most obvious is that the total amount pledged helps the Vestry set the overall spending plan (budget) for the next year.
After serving many years in stewardship as a volunteer and as a consultant, I have done my own soul searching about the most important goal of an annual giving campaign. My conclusion is that it has nothing to do with the church budget. It has to do with the hearts of the givers and their relationship to Jesus Christ.
A close relationship with our Creator deepens over time as we commit more and more to placing God first in our life. God’s commitment to us is already there – we’re the ones who need to keep working on it. Each time we renew our Baptismal Covenant we work on it. With each decision about using our time and talents we work on it. Each time we spend money we work on it, one way or another.
Regarding our commitment, Rev. E. Angela Emerson, former Board President of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), asks:
“Is it time to do away with the word ‘pledge’ in the context of our commitment [annual giving] campaign? What I really want people to do is make a commitment, to invest, to risk something important and precious in the hope and promise that God will continue to show up in their lives. I pray that people will ‘own’ a portion of what we do in church, at church, as church – own it and feel responsible for making it happen.” (Read her full article here).
In this time when we are more separated from each other than ever, it seems good for our annual giving campaigns to emphasize commitment – a pledge of commitment to demonstrate our connection to God and to each other.