How to ask…

OK–every church has a pledge drive–every year.
With the mythology around giving–that all churches beg for it and misuse it, what is the best way to communicate the need for giving?
The financial needs of the church are much greater than they were in the past, so what is the best approach?

32 thoughts on “How to ask…

  1. I prefer a straightforward campaign. A priest shouldn’t feel weird about asking the people to contribute. After all, it’s Biblical, so it’s not like you are making something up. Also an emphasis on time, talents, and treasure, and the need for all three. There are several levels of budgetary control to ensure that money is used wisely. What I don’t like are every member canvasses around pledge time. I don’t like personal testimonies about giving either, but that’s completely a personal preference. Just pony up, people. Everything we have is from God and therefore belongs to Him, and five or ten percent of our income is the least we can give back. Maybe someone can (gently) explain to me why this area is so hard for some people?

  2. I think it would be a good idea to show a video or provide some type of material showing how funds are used, and if there were more funds, this is how the church would benefit.

  3. I never minded my pastor asking for money, but Fr. Mike never does. But we also practice tithing at our church…The only time he looked at doing a possible campaign was for air conditioning. We took a vote and decided it was so expensive we would rather sweat and put that money towards outreach.A couple weeks ago a donor stepped forward and donated airconditioning and a new sound system to our church. The building is huge. The cost is in the millions.Fr.Mike was crying and saying it was because God saw our hearts… very touching…
    But I feel Amy is right, priest should not have to feel weird about asking for money. The only thing I don’t like are pastors who harp on giving and make it seem as if your entire relationship with God hinges on how much you give, or that rich Christians are rich because they are better Christians than the rest of us.
    I don’t like to feel strong armed or guilt tripped, or judged. Just present the need and let me make my choice.

  4. Sorry Angevoix, I don’t want to be provoking, but that doesn’t sit well with me.

    In the light of poverty and homelessness, is there any chance that God’s message got misinterpreted, and actually that money was meant for other, more pressing needs?

  5. The lack of air conditioning has been a problem in our church for those who are elderly and have other health conditions that make it difficult for them to endure the heat. And our sound system is demon possessed, I am sure of it. The amount of money being spent isn’t because we are deliberately trying to be extravagant, but is, rather because our church is a huge old gothic cathedral and was not built originally for modern day acustics.
    We took our money and rather than spending it on ourselves we decided to put that towards outreach such as homelessness we do address those needs. We have a social service center that provides for nearly every need imaginable. We have an employment agency, we have a school and a youth center, we have a senior housing facillity, this is what we put OUR OWN money towards. In turn God touched someone elses heart to provide for this need for us. Many times because donors know how Fr. Mike is, they will specifically designate what the money has to go for becuase they know how unselfish the man is… He would give the coat off his back to someone in need.

  6. I know in Canada air conditioning might seem like an extravagant luxury, but in the extreme humidity of Chicago it is indeed a God send.

  7. No, I do realize that your climate requires some kind of cooling just as ours MUST have a heating system in the winter or we’ll wake up dead in the morning.

    I’m extremely negative about churches period, especially after reading j-holder’s quote in the thread above, and the existence of an enormous structure that gobbles resources like that seems monstrous. To me it’s a metaphor for the overgrowth of institutionalized religion. If there are too many people to fit in the living room, it’s time for a church split, says I tonight.

    I think I need to take a break from this or I won’t be labelling myself as a Christian in any sense, not even an arrogant, questioning one.

  8. No, I do realize that your climate requires some kind of cooling just as ours MUST have a heating system in the winter or we’ll wake up dead in the morning.
    Yes, we have had people pass out before and faint. And I know our church is huge but I love it. I don’t feel guilty about it at all because our whole focus is outreach. We are an extremely hard working church. Also living in this community our church is like a beautiful oasis from the surrounding turmoil. There is so little beauty in the inner-city, I honestly don’t know how I would survive if I didn’t have somewhere to go that transcended the ordinary. Where better than the house of God? Being a former Protestant and going to church in shoe box churches all of my life it is a huge sorce of joy to me to go somewhere so beautiful.
    But as far as taking a break…why would you let someone else define for you what it means to be a true Christian madcap? Why is someone else’s opinion anymore valid than your own?

  9. No to prolong the discussion, but we do fill our church, twice every Sunday. As there is no other facillity in our are that could contain us it would be impractical to move. The idea of splitting!!! If your house gets too little which one of your children are you prepared to give up? any new facillity we would build to house our church, school, social services, employment resource center, etc.. etc… etc… would no doubt be much more expensive than even the millions its costing to simply install air and a new sound system…

  10. madcap,

    We’re all cool here–jholder is a self-procliamed pugnacious Orthodox nutcase {grin}.

    Why are you negative towards churches?

  11. Amy said, “Everything we have is from God and therefore belongs to Him, and five or ten percent of our income is the least we can give back. Maybe someone can (gently) explain to me why this area is so hard for some people?”

    Hi Amy. As recently as yesterday, I was listening to some Radney Foster (Labor of Love). 🙂

    Anyway, to you your question. I suppose that giving should be done with a cheerful heart. So says scripture anyway. If tithing and cheerful giving don’t meet at the crossroads of a person’s heart then something gets lost in the translation. If that’s the case, whatever one may give on impulse on any given day, it’s doubtful to become habitual. So maybe the real question isn’t the imperative to tithe but getting others to understand what it means to give cheerfully. This way it’s not about rationalizing the command to tithe, but instead about helping someone understand the “need behind the need,” so to speak. I don’t know, just a thought.

    Also, as a Roman Catholic, I know what it is to be extremely unhappy, nay infuriated, by the probability that my dinero is being used to defend the indefensible (priest pedophilia).

    Also, is “seeking the kingdom of God first” really about giving? Maybe. It’s hard to say. Is “giving to get” a legitimate truth (principle) outside of the whacky “name it, claim it” health, wealth, and prosperity gospel? When “give to get” and “seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” are used in the context of a “pledge drive” it always carries with it the baggage or perception of manipulation. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s so in a given situation, but the baggage is there nonetheless. Just saying it like I know it is.

    Having said all this, I’d say that indeed it is important to give, and as you said Amy, to give time, treasure, and talent. But the money part is important. It reminds me of a scene from the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when after the angel saves Jimmy Stewart’s character the two strike up a conversation. During the conversation money is mentioned to which the angel responds in so many words that money doesn’t have any value in Heaven. Jimmy Stewart’s character has the perfect response. He says, I’m paraphrasing now, “it sure comes in handy down here buddy,” or something like that. I’d say, yep, that’s the truth.

    Sorry for the random and meandering thoughts. Just thinking out loud.

  12. My greatest fear is that people look at the church as an irrelevant money drain–an institution that has too much overhead and beauracracy and that is already loaded with cash. ‘The pastor is called to a life of sacrifice’ they say, ‘so he can get by on very little’ (I am not dissatisfied with my pay btw).

    The truth of the matter, however, is that most churches are scraping by (the average Sunday attendence in the US is 80 and half of those give–the average amount someone gives to the church in a year is $1500–do the math) and have pastors who are doing a helluva job. The big churches that have pastors with airplanes are quite rare. The big churches that have lots of overhead and huge staffs are also quite rare. What is a fair gift/pledge? A tithe? 5%?

  13. We teach ten percent at our church as a base.

    As I’m sure you know only too well, Fr. Neo, no matter what you do, or how well you do it, you will always have your critics. But you know in the end who you answer to. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your flock.

  14. Costa, Thank you for the thoughts. You really gotta hear the new Radney. Regarding giving, I hadn’t connected the cheerful heart part to tithing. And Neo is right, if people view their money as going to some overblown beauracracy, or worse, like you mentioned, it’s hard to be cheerful. I admit, we really struggled with this the last couple years we were in ECUSA. Unfortunately I didn’t come up with any good answers, only that we are called to give. Eventually the higher ups will be accountable for the decisions they make.

    The more I think about it, the more complex this whole issue seems to be to me. Not enjoying complexity in too many areas, I immediately retreat to my personal belief that tithing isn’t too much to ask. Admittedly it might be legalistic and I’ve never faced the choice of giving versus feeding my children. I don’t really understand what it is to give the widow’s mite. And while I’d like to say I’d love to have the grace to do the same in her position, I don’t know if that’s true. Lord have mercy on me.

  15. And btw, I don’t know how big your congregation is, but don’t despise the day of small beginnings…Fr. Mike had less than 100 when he stared here 30 years ago…most of the church was closed off and in a state of disrepair. Now we are totally renovated and fighting for space. A very good problem to have…

  16. I’ve been thinking about the question re. negativity towards churches for the last couple of days, and I think I’m ready to answer now.

    I don’t think that institutions are a good thing, period. They ALWAYS have it in them to self-perpetuate, rather than follow a natural life cycle of birth, life, death. A person comes into the world, and it’s understood that that person will leave the world as well. Churches, businesses, schools, not so. They are built and maintained with the aim of staying.

    Because of that, they invariably consume resources and human energies unrelated to the aim of the precepts of the religion itself. When I said that when a church exceeds the living room, it’s time to split, I meant an actual living room, not its church walls.

    And because I don’t take the Bible as the actual word of God, but rather as a book of wisdom to be considered very seriously before diverging from it, I’m not influenced absolutely by its prototypes. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I see churches or synagogues or mosques as being a human attempt at security rather than an idea that works well. They may sometimes do good things, but those same things could be accomplished on a smaller, but wider scale, by individuals or small groups of individuals that group and disband when the project is over.

    This is the same precept I’m trying to apply in my own life, doing things personally rather than having them supplied for me. It’s not the norm to supply your own food, but I’m having a stab at it. (Not there yet, but further this year than last.) It disintegrates the power structure in a way like no other.

    I’ve decided that the same applies in my spiritual life. Power structures are obviously a huge problem in spirituality. If others have different opinions about it, they should go for it. This is what I think I’m called to, and it’s a consolation to me that I’ll never be indirectly responsible for stupid investments or scandals other than my own, by financial complicity.

  17. Amy, I understand the widow’s mite all too well. God has proven himself to be more than enough for this single mother for a long time now…

  18. MCM, I wish you could come for a Chicago visit…I think I might have a great deal of evidence to the contrary…
    To be sure there are churches that don’t earn their keep, but I walk out my door everyday and face the astounding evidence that it doesn’t have to be so. Thousands upon thousands of lives in our community have been impacted by the work of our church, most of whom sill never darken our doors or throw a cent in the collection. I’m not bragging, I’m just here to offer the evidence, that the church, no matter how small or big doesn’t have to be a drain. I don’t think judgethe validity of a ministry by the size of the building or the budget, but how well you use the resources you have…

  19. Btw if anyone ever does want to visit the Windy city…send me an email. I might be able to help with housing. But be forewarned, people don’t come here for the weather…but hey, wouldn’t MPN know about all of that?

  20. Angevoix:

    Thanks for the invitation! You never know!

    I’m not disputing that your church does great things. What I’m saying is that it’s the individual’s responsibility to do those wonderful things, and I think it’s actually unhealthy for society in the long run to institutionalize them. I think it makes individuals weak and prone to passivity, and makes them susceptible to having others make decisions and value judgements for them. It also commodifies the poor, by making them your reason for existence as an institution.

    But you know, dear lady, I could very well be wrong, and this is only my opinion. I admire your jump-in attitude and I know you work at listening to God’s voice.

  21. You know MCM, my persistent stories of how wonderful my church is more than likely do get tiresome to everyone subjected to them. But my enthusiam stems from some of the very complaints that I feel you have. For most of my life I went to churches that did not earn their keep. As far as the surrounding community was concerned, with the exception of their members, they might as well have not even exsisted. I sat under pastors who were afraid. Afraid of the government, afraid of the church board, afraid of their congregations… Their vision was inverted, and they felt rightly so. They had an “us against them” mentality to the outside world, rather than an invitational, “taste and see” attitude. When I came to the church I now attend I was blown away, as are so many people who visit here, especially those who travel around the country. I remember shortly after arriving here turning to another parishoner during a sermon and exclaiming, “Finaly! A pastor with some guts!” I do literally live in the midst of a miracle. I haven’t gotten used to it, and I really don’t want to.
    I don’t feel that collective responsibility negates individual responsibility. As far as character building, I think it actually enhances it, as it is much more difficult to work as a team than it is alone. Just as in our individual faith walks we are called to personal relationship and worship, we are called to corporate worship and relationship as well. Yes I can feed a homeless person on my own, but can I get the government to hear my lone voice and bring change to the government policies that are conducive to homelessness? I doubt it. Could Gandhi have brought change to India alone? Would Apartied in south Africa have been ended with the efforts of a lone individual?
    I would love to have you come for a visit. I mean it. Thanks for coming back into the discussion. I’m not saying one method is better than the other, I’m saying we need both. Please excuse the spelling for the 900th time.

  22. So, it sounds like your church is in the “life” portion of the cycle, between birth and death. But when death becomes present, whenever that may be, will it be fought off or entered into with peace? I don’t know of any church (and I’ve attended about 25-30 with some regularity throughout my life) that was able to let go when it was amply evident that the time had come. Because there was this building, you see, and you can’t just leave it empty…

    Your examples of India and South Africa support what I said. Those things weren’t accomplished by groups established in permanency. They were individuals who united to accomplish something, and then dispersed. That was the breath-taking quality of it.

    My husband and I do give monetarily, and we help seniors and handicapped individuals in our community. I’m not bragging, just saying that it’s quite possible to work together in a community without being “organized”. We try to get to know our neighbours and townsfolk. Absolutely we are sharpened and challenged by other people.

    We still get our weekly Catholic newspaper published by the Archbishop’s office, and almost every week I read a little sermon from him telling us how important community is, lay-involvment, supporting your local church, “stewardship”.

    On the next page, he’s closing another small church, not because the people haven’t kept it up, or because it’s in debt, but because there aren’t enough priests, and instead of small community churches, we’re going to be treated to enormous mega-churches. Because God-forbid a married man (or even less a woman!) would be ordained to fill that need.

    What a load of codswallop! In one breath we’re supposed to establish community and take care of one another, in the next we’re to obediently hand over the reins to the head of a power-structure so he can tell us where to go and how to get there. Because there’s this building, you see, and it’s the diocese’ asset….

    I’m not negative towards churches because they didn’t measure up to my expectations of ministry. I just find them unnecessary and imposed and top-heavy. Not the right tool for the job, as my carpenter husband would say. I can fix a picture frame with a 28oz framing hammer, but it’s overkill, and eventually I’m going to smash something.

  23. I would say that rather than not being the right tool for the job, we have too many who don’t know what the job is.
    I would be all too happy for the Job to be over. When there are no more poor to feed and shelter, no more broken lives to counsel, no more seniors to help with their untilities and housing, no more children to educate, no more jobless to train and help find employment, no more foster children to take in, no more mentally ill to find services for, no more need of a youth center, no more need for community development, no more need to take crooked police officers to task, no more need to change bad laws, or close loopholes in good ones, no more drug dealers, no more bad stores selling drug paraphernalia and outdated food, no more racism, …when all of these things which we deal with as a church family cease to exist, the kingdom of God will truly have come on this earth as it is in heaven…but then it will still be time to worship Christ the King… So I’m not so sure about when or if that time is coming… Jesus said the trees that didn’t bear fruit would be pruned. Usually when you prune bad branches off of a tree it is so that the remaining ones can thrive even moreso. As far as the political movements, I used them as an example of the power of a unified group as opposed to individual effort. And it is a very good difference, because it highlights the difference between having an eternal purpose and a temporal one.

    But as far as churches being top heavy — and in reference to the Catholic Church in particular…you are most certainly right about that one. We are, I am, extremely frustrated over the things we have witnessed from the hierarchy. Not only the top heaviness, just the out and out politics and power struggles. The decisions that are made to assert authority, rather than for the good of the individual.
    Its sickening and heartbreaking…

  24. BTW, I do love your out – of – the – box way of thinking. I do agree that we need to make a serious evaluation of what we are doing as church. Not to be patronizing, but I do understand your point of view. Maybe I take the argument a little too personally. Probably comes from having a church that is always in the position of defending every little thing we do. Which is truly amazing when you stop and think about it…

  25. btw, the store where we did our recent protest over drug paraphernalia was in walking distance to a mega church with 18,000 members and a television ministry. The surrounding community was the closest thing to hell on earth I’ve ever encountered. You have a valid point MCM.

  26. Just adding my 2 cents here.

    MCM makes good points in #17. I am sure a percentage of money could well be channeled from the ‘machine’ to services.

    My thinking is that true spirituality is a 24/7 way of life. The building on Sunday is great, but not the miracle. We all contribute to the whole, every minute of every day. I suppose the big question is “are we aware of the contirbutions and the true value of same?”. Sometimes giving is enableing, you know, the teach a man to fish story.
    Ange and her group sound as tho they have a handle on it.

    Gary

  27. Yes, and remember that the Church is supposed to represent Jesus. That means, among other things, helping the sick, feeding the hungry, being there for those who come, and all the rest. That’s the Church, not the church. The bride of Christ, not the place.

    Nil desperandum!

  28. Gary said: “I am sure a percentage of money could well be channeled from the ‘machine’ to services”

    Unintended pun? More services? (grin)

    MCM, this might not make sense if you don’t have an understanding of sacrament, but think of the Church as a hospital. Those who come are in desperate need of treatment for their sickness (sin). Some are in better shape than others, but we all have it. But we come to receive the medicene of Christ’s Body and Blood in the sacrament, which is to heal us and continue the indwelling of the Spirit within us to mold us into Christ’s image. Priests are there as representatives of Christ, almost iconographically, to bring us into Christ’s love for us.

    Have you ever thought of it that way?

  29. Thanks, yes I have. In fact, I’m “officially” Catholic and have read many apologetic materials. I’ve come to the conclusion, however, that it’s a support system for a very human power structure. Not that God can’t work through it, like he works through all of us and our cages of imperfection, but I don’t think it’s any less a cage for all that.

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