This month in stewardship: November

October 18, 2019 by Robyn Davis Sekula

One of me favorite photographs in our collection is of a woman praying over her pledge during pledge Sunday at her congregation.

The pledges were collected in what normally functions as a baptismal font (no water, of course) and each person was invited to pray over the pledges that were dedicated that day.

Woman prays over her pledge
Woman praying over her pledge

What I love about the photo is her peaceful countenance as she dedicates her pledge to God. It serves as a reminder to me that all we have belongs to God – and I need to be more mindful of that as I complete my own pledge for 2020 to my congregation. Prayer while pledging is an invitation to slow down, connect with God, and remind myself why I support the work of Christ through my local congregation.

There are many more photos from pledge Sunday at this same church – which is University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio. In another photo, a father lifts his son up to place the pledge card in the baptismal font. His toddler son has a big grin on his face as he drops the pledge card into the bowl. This would seem the opposite of prayerful – but what I've come to love about both photos is that they're both correct ways to pledge.

Father lifting son to place their pledge in the baptismal font
Father and son making their pledge

In the second photo, father and son, the father is introducing his son to an important decision in a fun way that's age appropriate. That's an exemplary way to introduce generosity and good stewardship to your children. It can prompt great questions – such as “what were we doing there today? Why did we place those cards in the baptismal font?” And it opens up a chance for good conversation and education.

I asked several of our Ministry Relations Officers to share with me their ideas for pledge Sunday, and several shared with me thoughts that are inspiring and innovative.

Rob Hagan, who serves as a Ministry Relations Officer in the Northwest, has an idea that requires some front-end homework, but it's extremely powerful and worthwhile. Hand out a worksheet during the prior week's worship asking members to tell you what volunteer activities they participate in each week and to quantify those activities in some way. For example, they can tell you they helped serve 200 families at a local food pantry, or that they spend two hours at the food pantry serving; either number could be used. Collect those sheets and total up the numbers in preparation for Pledge Sunday.

During the service itself, members of the church place their cards in a “Joash Chest” (see 2 Kings 12:9-16) or a large basket. The congregation sings “Take My Life and Let it Be” while ushers collect pledge cards and place them in a Joash chest, or a member of the congregation can walk the pledges forward and place them in the chest. The chest is a wooden box made by a congregant or a large wicker basket that could be seen by all. The pastor then dedicates the offering.

After this portion of the service is complete, the pastor or another speaker will announce from the pulpit the results of the previous week's contributions of time and talent in the community. It is inspiring and uplifting to consider all the ways in which members of our churches are serving the community.

Kevin Garvey, Senior Vice President of Development, asks congregations to spend at three weeks in prayer prior to Generosity Sunday. Three weeks from Generosity Sunday, ask the congregation to pray over the vision and mission of the Church. Two weeks from Generosity Sunday, ask the congregation to pray that God will provide the resources to accomplish the Church vision and mission. One week before Generosity Sunday, ask the congregation to pray for what God is calling each of them to commit to on Generosity Sunday. Some churches will have prayer cards for each week, he says.

I love to hear from churches about their pledge Sunday ideas. What does your church do? Drop me a note and let me know, and we'll share it on this blog.

Grace and peace be with you as you plan for the future of  your congregation, ministry in your community and sharing the love of Christ with the world.

Robyn Davis Sekula is Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Presbyterian Foundation.