October 2 -8, 2006



Giving is a spiritual discipline

First of all, we're NOT asking people to pledge. Got it? Not pledging.

Instead, we are asking for members of my congregation prayerfully to weigh all of the blessings that God has given them, and then to thoughtfully estimate how much they would like to contribute to the church in 2007 in response for all that God has provided. Lastly -- and here's where we get on slippery ground -- we are inviting them to tell us, church leaders, so we can plan our ministries.

You probably noticed the careful wording. We are treading lightly because this is new stuff to our congregation, which is over 200 years old and has never before asked people to think ahead of time about how much they might give to the church and then tell us. We are working hard to make it an exercise in discipleship that will invite our people to venture more deeply in their faith walk, and NOT play into their sense of guilt or shame. Sure, we could probably wring out a few extra bucks by making people feel bad, but that's not going to create any of the "cheerful givers" that Paul talks about.  

We are asking members to enter into prayer over what they have and to determine what they can reasonably give as a response to God's providence. In doing so, we are suggesting that giving is an act of spiritual discipline entered into with commitment, reverence and faith.

The process addresses a key issue: Many members -- perhaps most -- don't really think much about  their contribution to church, or really don't want to. Instead, giving is whatever money happens to be in the wallet or pocketbook when the plate comes around (just so long as it's not a $20 or a $50 bill).  In any spiritual discipline, when there is a lack of forethought and commitment, there is also a lack of responsibility and self-accountability.

Saints, sages and mystics through the centuries have testified on the benefits of spiritual disciplines. It takes some commitment and effort to make a habit of prayer, Scripture reading, public service,  worship or financial giving, but ultimately all these practices yield enormous personal benefits and help transform and enlighten the individual who undertakes them.

That's the pitch. We're excited about the prospects. I'll keep you posted on the response. And if anybody from my church should ask, remember it's NOT pledging!
--Rob Blezard, Editor and Webmaster
Reprint rights gladly given to nonprofit organizations. Please drop me a line at rcblezard@earthlink.net to let me know you're using it, and be sure to publish it with the following notice:  (c) Copyright 2006 by the Rev. Rob Blezard of the Stewardship of Life Institute, archive.stewardshipoflife.org. Used by permission.

New this week:

Transforming Lives by Teaching on Money
"If the local church is to live out its redemptive potential, it must provide not only hope but practical help and biblical teaching that meet people at their points of need. One of the most critical needs in the church today is helping people come to grips with their finances." Click here for "Transforming Lives by Teaching on Money," from  Building Church Leaders.

Breathe -- and be thankful for breath
"I was a nurse long before I was a pastor and I know how intricate is the body and how many things can go wrong. Given this, I am always amazed that we are healthy so much of the time. How many times does our heart beat? A reasonable estimate for the number of heartbeats in a lifetime is about three billion."  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

Church Giving by Electronic Fund Transfer
Maybe you've heard about these programs to make church contributions automatically and electronically, but don't know where to start. This article outlines the pros, cons and the how-tos of electronic giving. Good piece for the stewardship committee wrestling with the issue. Click here for "Church Giving by Electronic Fund Transfer," from the United Methodist Church's Center for Christian Stewardship.

Eight ways congregations raise pledges.
If you're looking for a way to increase giving at your church (and what leader is not?), here's an article for you! This piece looks at the strengths of eight pledge-raising approaches in order to help churches find the one that best fits their own situation. Good reading for the stewardship novice and seasoned hand alike. Click here for "Eight ways." From the Alban Institute's Congregational Resource Center.