This month in stewardship: April
March 7, 2019 by Robyn Davis Sekula
April is a busy month in the life of the church. Lent is coming to a close, and Holy Week is coming quickly. But it is still important to maintain a consistent stewardship team meeting schedule. If your pastor is directly involved – and they should be – schedule your meeting earlier in the month so they can attend. You may also decide to have a shorter meeting, or a lunchtime meeting, if that’s easier for all involved.
This is a good time of year to begin examining materials connected to your stewardship campaign. I recommend examining your pledge card in April so that you have time to make adjustments and re-print if needed for a fall kickoff if that’s when you normally host pledge Sunday.
For this article, I talked to ministry relations officer Robert Hay Jr., who has some great thoughts on pledge cards. Robert notes that younger church attendees aren’t as likely as those in the past to fill out a pledge card, but they will give. A name change may be helpful in getting younger generations to make a commitment to giving during the next year. He recommends calling these cards “Estimate of giving” rather than pledge. “That’s not a significant change,” Hay says. “The older generations won’t even notice it. But for a 35-year-old with a family, it’s an important shift.”
Pledge, he explains, sounds like a firm commitment, and it may scare off those with lots of financial pressure, such as raising young children, saving for college and other expenses. An estimate of giving sounds less firm and may be more inviting.
Robert makes another good point about pledge cards: what’s on those cards shouldn’t determine your church budget. Instead, look at historic giving data, and draw from past information to plan your budget. “I’ve seen a lot of churches collect the pledge cards and then wring their hands in fear and plan a budget that’s a cut from previous years based solely on what’s on those cards,” Robert says. “Instead, look at historic giving data. It’s a much better indicator of giving and better for planning your church budget.”
Pledging time, talent, treasure
Robert also brought up another terrific idea that can encourage greater commitment to God through service to the church. Consider having three different pledge cards: one for time, one for talent and one for treasure.
The time pledge card is dedicated in January. It invites church members to commit to worship attendance, prayer, service, volunteer activities – whatever you’d like to add into this category. Church members can check boxes on a pledge card or fill in blanks as to how they plan to dedicate their time to God in the coming year. You can collect those cards in the offering plate, or have members come to the front of the church and place them on a special receptacle, or you can even ask people to fill out a form online; you can also offer online and print options (always my recommendation).
What do you do with the information? I would suggest that the church consider reporting back in some way the total number of people committed to attending worship, praying, volunteering, etc., in the coming year. Report this in your newsletter, bulletin, from the pulpit, along with an earnest thank you for this significant commitment to God.
Undergo a similar process for collecting commitments of talent. Ask members to fill out a talent commitment card just prior to the time when your church receives nominations for committees and other similar volunteer activities. What are their areas of strength that they would be willing to lend to the church for the glory of God? You can provide checkboxes or blanks (or both).
I would recommend a printed pledge card as well as an online form that you can share in emails and social media. That information can be provided to your church’s nominating committee to be matched with committees and other volunteer opportunities around the church.
You can report this information back to the church as well if you’d like. It can be very uplifting for a congregation to see all of the talents of its members!
Estimate of giving cards
Finally, you’ll need a traditional estimate of giving or pledge card that’s what you’re probably accustomed to using. Yes, collect the typical information: name, address, contact information (including email), and estimated amount to give in the next year. Allow people to choose if they’d like to give weekly, monthly or annually.
Here’s another important addition for this estimate of giving or pledge card: add two lines with checkboxes that allow members to indicate the following:
- I have included the church in my estate plan.
- I would like more information on how to leave a gift to the church in my estate.
Those two items can be the start of a legacy society at your church. At my own church, we added these lines to our pledge cards and were surprised by how many, and who, checked those boxes.
Robert notes that your pledge card can change each year according to the theme of your stewardship emphasis, but it’s not necessary. It may be more work or cost than you want to undertake, and that is fine.
We also discussed the color of the pledge cards. My only note on that is to be sure your cards are legible for aging eyes – my own included! I’m 47 and must whip out my reading glasses far too often. Larger print is very helpful to me, and let’s face it, preserves my dignity! Also, remember that black type on a dark background is very difficult to read. Go lighter and brighter; it will stand out in a pew rack.
Do you have any great ideas for stewardship? We’d love to hear from you. You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (502) 569-5101. If you’d like to talk about stewardship in your congregation, find your Ministry Relations Officer at www.presbyterianfoundation.org/mro.
Robyn Davis Sekula is vice president of communications and marketing at the Presbyterian Foundation. She is a ruling elder and member of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky.