Phil Schroeder, associate director of Connectional Ministries for the UMC’s North Georgia Conference, has an interesting idea for helping people take steps toward becoming more generous givers.
From his column in the Sept. 19 Wesleyan Christian Advocate:
Several years ago I was working with a friend’s church that was resistant to having any kind of pledge campaign to set their budget. They finally decided to try something different in order to set a budget based on what God was calling them to give.
We presented a pledge card with a perforation down the middle, with the person’s name, and their commitment to pray and serve on the left side — and a place for them to make their financial commitment on the right side.
After the card was completed, people brought their cards forward and tore them in two before the altar as a sacrifice unto the Lord. One half was placed in each of the two offering plates to echo Matthew 6:3 on giving alms.
The church knew who was giving and what was going to be given, but not who was giving what.
In challenging economic times, this allows the church to set a budget based on faithful promises — while sending a quarterly statement thanking people for their giving, rather than sending a statement that reminds them of what they have failed to give.
People appreciated that we trusted them to be faithful to their pledge. In fact, over the years, the amount and the number of people willing to pledge grew as did the budget.
Here’s a sample of what a two-part pledge card might look like (click to enlarge):
Thinking more about this: The card above echoes the longstanding membership vows of the UMC, which call on members to “be loyal to The United Methodist Church” and to “faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, presence, gifts, and service.”
Effective January 1, 2009, these vows will be altered, based on action by the 2008 General Conference.
Soon, members will pledge “to be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church” and to “faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness.”
These are good changes. Challenging people to be loyal to Jesus Christ is much more apt to produce generous givers than challenging them to be loyal to a denomination.
When Jesus is first, giving becomes much more than support for an ecclesiastical institution. Giving becomes a means of witness — to us and to others. Through our giving, we declare that the One to whom we are loyal is the source of our financial resources and the Lord of all.
Praise be to you, O LORD…. [E]verything in heaven and earth is yours….
Everything comes from you, and we have given you
only what comes from your hand.
(1 Chronicles 29:10, 11, 14)
[T]hey went beyond our expectations; having given themselves
first of all to the Lord, they gave themselves by the will of God also to us.
(2 Corinthians 8:5)