Celebrating, Not Pledging

I don’t necessarily enjoy being on Facebook, but it does keep me connected. I am part of several denominational Facebook communities where pastors can share questions and get support.  I normally just skim my way through, but the stewardship posts normally catch my attention, and they often get my blood pressure going.

The other night, someone posted that they were so excited that the congregation decided not to pledge this year!  I was furious and perplexed.

Studies show that those who pledge give many times more than those who don’t.  The same people who complain about pledging are willing to get married and take out mortgages—both forms of pledging.  By not pledging, we proclaim that something is not important.

If we believe what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, your heart will follow,” then for our organizations to get the hearts of our members, they have to be investing their treasure in them.  The average donor gives less than 3 percent of their income to the church.  The median member gives 0.9 percent.  Therefore, the majority of our members are not investing their treasures in our organizations or churches.

We need to expect more of our constituency, not less.  It is about their hearts.  I’m not interested in not having the heart of my people in my organization, therefore I am not willing to let people not pledge.  Our organizations deserve our best.  If they don’t, then we need new leadership in our organizations.

Ignorance Will Kill the Kingdom

I was speaking with a group of pastors the other day.  The topic of stewardship came up, as it often does when I am in the room.  We talked about how larger portions of congregation budgets are being provided by fewer donors.  There used to be the 80/20 rule that 80 percent was given by 20 percent of the people.  Recent studies have shown a shift to 90/10, and worse.

The critical problem occurs when these large donors leave, either because they move, they get mad, or they die.  Making up the difference from a few large donors can be nearly impossible for many churches.

When you have a large donor or several, you should celebrate.  However, you should work exceedingly hard to raise up other donors.  Just because the Smiths will write a check at the end of the year to balance your budget, doesn’t make that a good thing.

In fact, when you have that situation, growing your donor base should become even more critical.  I suggested to these pastors that they encourage these large donors to use their gifts to help raise up other generous donors.  This can happen by matching or challenge gifts.  Even better, it can happen by personal witness and faith sharing by the donors who understand generosity.  If we are going to replace these donors someday, we have to be teaching the next generation how to become like them.