This month in Stewardship: November

October 22, 2018 by Robyn Davis Sekula

November is the big month for many congregations when it comes to stewardship. You may call the day that your members dedicate their financial promises for the coming year Pledge Sunday, Commitment Sunday or Generosity Sunday. It is typically in November with churches observing this important day in varying ways.

Does  your church set a goal for number of pledges, and a monetary goal to hit for total amount of pledges? My home church, Highland Presbyterian Church, sets a goal for each category, which our pastor brought to my attention when she was relatively new to our congregation. I had never thought about the number of people participating in the life of our church in this way – I had only really examined the total dollar amount we needed, not how many of our members were supporting the church. Indeed, if stewardship is to be thought of as a spiritual discipline, then the invitation should be emphasized to all that their participation is important.

At our church, the monetary goal is determined after a careful analysis of our budget, our call to mission and with guidance from our pastor and finance committee. The goal for number of pledges is usually set by examining last year's pledges and planning for an increase, always hoping to inspire more to fully participate in the life of the church.

Having a goal for the number of pledges is helpful for those who feel they may not have a substantial amount to give. Even our youth are invited to pledge to help everyone play a part in contributing to the church. My own children pledge and it has become one of the ways in which they contribute to the life of the church, and I love instilling giving habits and generosity in their lives early on.

What does Pledge Dedication Sunday or Commitment Sunday look like in your congregation? This is typically one of the most stewardship-focused days in the life of  the church. Hymns, prayers, the sermon and entire liturgy can flow along this theme.

I asked several of our Ministry Relations Officers to share with me their ideas for pledge Sunday, and many 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 pledge 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, who works with our Ministry Relations Officer team, asks congregations to spend 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.

Stewardship can be a struggle, and we recognize that. We are here to walk with you through stewardship emphasis season, and help you along the way. You can find your church’s Ministry Relations Officer here. May God bless you during this important, and very busy season of prayer, Thanksgiving and the holidays.



Previous This Month in Stewardship posts:

May: Quarterly Statements and Minutes for Mission as stewardship updates

June: Creating a Stewardship Team 

July: Narrative budgets

August: Capturing and telling stories of impact

September: Ask church leaders to make the first pledges

October: Generosity is a response to God's grace