March 30 - April 5, 2009



Fixed Incomes

By Tuck Aaker

In a recent stewardship meeting with a congregation that asked me to act as its outside leader for Consecration Sunday, the stewardship team leader said, "Well, you can’t expect too much – most of our people are on fixed incomes!"

If I’ve heard that song once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. I replied, "The only people I know that aren’t on fixed incomes are those with their own businesses and sales people on straight commission. Nearly everyone else receives the same income every week or month."

"You know what I mean," he said with frustration, "most of them are retired!"

"Yes, I know what you mean," I replied, "but being retired doesn’t automatically put you into a low income category. Some folks have more disposable income today than they had when they were working."

The problem is that we assume that someone receiving Social Security has little other income and that it makes up the majority of their net worth. The truth is that although there are some that live only on their Social Security income, most retirees have additional pension and investment accounts that have accumulated substantial amounts of money.

If you walk through the parking lots of our congregations with a large number of retirees, you won’t find many older cars. There’s a whole lot more top-line cars than there are old beaters, and very few are over two or three years old.

Our job as leaders is not to judge other people’s lifestyle or how they should spend their money. But it is up to us to get a handle on the realistic potential of our congregation.

We sometimes have blinders on when we look at our possibilities. We focus on age or work experience and how much might be in the checking account. We tend to forget the large amount of liquid equity in investments and savings.

Many pastors find it’s easier to talk with almost everyone about their intimate personal life than it is to get them to open up about money. The motivation for becoming generous comes only when we realize who provided those assets to us in the first place and how we can show our appreciation.

The majority of the people in our pews understand that deep inside they have a need to say thanks to God for all those blessings. But most of our members won’t increase their giving until they know where the money is going and what it’s going to accomplish. They have to be asked to increase their gifts before they will respond. They have to be reminded of the source of their good fortune. Most everyone that comes to our worship services has God as a high priority in their lives. They have a need to say thanks. Show them the way.

The congregation I was talking about with all those members on "fixed incomes" increased their giving by 26 percent that year. God works miracles in most people when we take the time to ask. And that my friends, is what leadership is all about.

Tuck Aaker is a retired businessman who now consults and specializes on stewardship issues for the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the ELCA. He shares his expertise in Stewardship Now, a column he writes for ELCA Stewardship Resources.

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