Shuck and Jive

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is It Pledge Time AGAIN!!?

It is Stewardship time. This is the time of year the congregation asks its members to make a pledge for the coming year. Never have I felt confident regarding this aspect of my profession. I saw a Twitter today that said:
"How do you encourage increased giving for those who can, while knowing others fear they can't afford to go to church?"
I don't have the answer to that, except to say there is no entry fee.

Of course there is the stereotype (perhaps archetype) of the greedy manipulative preacher grabbing for every widow's mite with a combination of guilt, fear, and superstition, promising everything from material success, to a spot in heaven, to a cure for cancer, if you just send in your gift.

Yet I do believe in what we do. I think our community is important. I think that a community that embodies equality, respect, service, and joy is a good thing. And yes, it exists solely because people give to it.

I hope you have such a community where you live. I trust that if you find it worthwhile that you will support it.

Here is the letter I wrote to my folks for the October newsletter.

Dear Friends,

It has been five years already. I became the pastor of FPC Elizabethton in August 2005. I couldn’t design a better ministry than the one I have with you. I remember when I was in seminary I told my colleagues that I wanted to serve a progressive church in the woods. They laughed. Well, here I am.

What a great congregation this is. We are a green church committed to environmental and social justice, peacemaking, LGBT equality, science, art, psychology, religious diversity, great music, play, and food for mind and heart. We are a community that honors everyone’s unique spiritual path.

We are blessed with a talented and skilled staff. Each of them loves this church and is excited about who we are and what we do. Each of them puts far more time, love, and heart into their work here than his or her “job description” requires. They believe in what they are doing here and that makes all the difference.

We are blessed with a beautiful building and peaceful, green grounds. Many hands and many gifts made this worship space possible. We don’t have to build a new church every year. We only have to keep it well maintained and invest in its improvements so it can be an oasis for years to come. I find that our sacred space is holy ground not only for our members but for the larger community as well.

We are blessed with members and friends of all ages. I am impressed with the wide variety of gifts that are found in this community. Thank you for giving of yourself to this congregation. It is the time and talent that is given freely that makes it work. And it does work. People are blessed here. The church makes a difference in our lives.

Our congregation is growing. We see new faces each week. I hear again and again how much the support and compassion of this community has meant to so many of you. Others have told me that they weren’t in church for years before finding a home here. We have something special here and something vital and something we want to continue. This will require the support of every friend and member.

We will begin our Fall Stewardship Emphasis this month. Our theme is “More Than Enough.” God has given us more than enough and we respond to that gift of life by paying it forward. Within the next few weeks we will be talking about the importance of stewardship. On November 7th we will celebrate Stewardship Commitment Sunday. We will dedicate our pledges for the coming year.

This congregation does important work. It is as an honor and a privilege to be part of it!

Blessed Be,


  1. Ah, yes, John, that dicey moment when we worry about the appeal turning into a shill. But when the work speaks for itself--as it does for your congregation and the one I belong to--the opportunity to serve with our finances is a gift we can't afford to pass by.

    A couple Sundays ago, our pastor put it like this:

    100% of our life is gift. 100% of our ties to others keeps our life on track, grounded, centered. 100% of our life comes from the God who we know in our hearts. To commit 10% of our life's material wealth back to God is small in comparison to what we've received. But it's huge in what it can sustain and accomplish.

    As we like say out here in the Midwest, that's just good old common horse sense.

    I'll keep you and your community in my prayers for an abundance beyond your needs so the great things you do will abound!


  2. Thanks Tim! Good thoughts and a good comment from your pastor!

  3. John

    I've thought of a couple of ways to get past all this:

    1. Start selling indulgences. Offering to get people's relatives out of purgatory could raise a lot of money.

    2. Pew rentals. Sell off the seats for what they are worth. Oneida 1st in the late 1800's and early 1900's had an auction for pews. And there was always room for the poor. It used to be in the back on wood benches while the people who could afford pews got boxes with doors and could heat their space. In today's church this would put the poor people in the front fulfilling Jesus' promise that the last shall be first.

    So much for jokes. Seriously I hate asking for money too. I prefer to preach about holistic stewardship. It's so much easier to talk about what chemicals you put on your lawn than it is to talk about the church needing money to pay my salary.

  4. @Bob

    I have some special hankies that I have touched with my healing mojo. For an on-line contribution of $50 I'll send one out to you. Drape it on your ailing part and shazzam! Praise Jesus!