Some Thoughts About Pledging
By Ted Jones
Money. Let’s talk about giving money to the church. We talk about “the three T’s”: Time, Talent, Treasure. We just had Let’s Connect Month this January which focused on Time and Talent. Now we’re on the third T: Treasure, or … Money.
First, let me just say I have no idea how our committee got to be called the “Stewardship Team.” The steward – the overseer – of your monetary gifts is the Board, not our group. If it were me, I’d call us the Giving Team. Or the Marketing Team. Or the Evangelism Team.
Anyway, some people say “Oh, I don’t want to do that. I hate to ask people for money.” I don’t find our task that unpleasant. I see it as giving people the opportunity to experience the joy of giving to a wonderful and worthy cause. Giving to TVUUC brings joy and happiness – our team wants you to share in that joy.
Now giving is not the same as pledging. Giving is good. Giving to the collection plate – or as I do, texting an amount to 73256 – who carries cash around any more? – is good. There is also a giving process at TVUUC called “Angel Giving.” It was set up by Norm Rausch, bless his heart, in 2007 – though most people don’t know it exists. Angel Giving is a mechanism through which large gifts are made for special projects. The latest example of that is the Ginna Mashburn stadium, er, amphitheater, near our garden. So there is a way for large projects or gifts to be accepted and used by TVUUC.
But I think pledging is a bit more difficult than giving. It’s one thing to give money when it is in your pocket. It is another thing to promise to give a year from now. It takes a bit more of a leap of faith and hope that you will have the money in the future.
As the new Stewardship Team Chair, I took the opportunity to read up on church giving, and I thought I’d share some highlights with you from the ten books I read. The literature tells me that there are four types of church givers. These speak to the emotional relationship one has with the church.
- The first type of giver could be called a “Customer.” Church customers give to the church when asked or when the collection plate comes by. The gift is seen as paying “the price of admission” for attending. They like what they see here and give a gift.
- The second type of giver could be called “Dues Payor.” Fair Share Giving is in this category. We pushed FSG in 2007 and there is still a FSG chart in our electronic pledge packet. The idea is that people basically pay “graduated membership fees” – gifts to the church based on one’s income, trying to make it fair for everyone.
These two categories of giving – “customers” and “dues payers” – are often reactive to one’s opinions about the church. If you like the minister or some activity the church is engaged in – you tend to give more. If you’re angry with the church or the minister, you tend to give less. Giving is based on a perceived value of return on one’s gift. This is externally motivated giving. Paying for services, essentially.
There are two other categories of church giving and they are based more on the motivations of the giver.
- The first could be called being a “Partner.” Being a partner is like being in a committed relationship or marriage. Giving is based more on what the partner (you) has available to give and is less conditional on what has been recently going on at church. Partners give because they are devoted to the church and they feel called to give as much as they can. How much they give is based on how they feel about giving and not based on a chart.
- The fourth category of church giving is what can be called “Family Giving.” Family givers are joyful generous givers. They typically are only about 1-3% of the congregation. I think Kim Haynes was in this category, if you knew her. These folks live a life of generosity and give in all aspects of their lives. They often have been blessed with financial resources and they desire to share their bounty with others, including the church. Giving in this way is like being a grandparent. (Anyone else here a grandparent?) You give generously out of love and deep unconditional never-ending concern for the recipient.
Just as there are several types of love relationships in the world, there are different relationships by congregants to the church which determine how much one gives. In my view, I’m not here to tell you how you should relate to the church and how you should go about choosing how much to give. If you want to be guided by an external source on how much to give, then use the FSG chart. If you want to contribute to TVUUC because you support it, by all means do so. If you want to give based on personal internal motivations, then we will gladly accept your gift as well. All church loves are accepted and welcomed here. I do hope that your love for TVUUC will result in your pledging something for this year.
Giving your money to someone else is usually a difficult decision. For me, I worry about having a safety net of money. And I think about being able to give to my family now and in the future. Letting go of fear and worry about the future can be a challenge. I hope you take a chance to read the letter Jim Person wrote to the church in 1950 about his pledge. It’s part of the display in the lobby and is on-line as well. Mr. Person is celebrated as the first Black member of TVUUC but his letter goes deeper and captures his love for the church. He was a poor retiree with little money to spare, and his health prevented him from offering much time or talent. For me his letter captures the never-ending challenge of paying one’s daily bills and still finding money to give to the church. He is poor, but he ends his letter by giving money because he loved this church.
I hope you think about your love for this church and about the importance of giving money to the church. And I hope you pledge something. I hope you will feel the joy in giving. Whatever your pledge, we thank you for your gift. Every pledge helps.