This month in Stewardship: September

August 14, 2018 by Robyn Davis Sekula

September is typically when many church stewardship committees gear up for pledge Sunday. By now, you should have a theme selected, your budget close to finalized and your committee should be meeting on a regular basis. Additionally, you should be asking members of your congregation to tell their stories of how the church has supported them. Each of these topics were discussed in previous blog posts, which you can find in links below.

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

In many nonprofits, the board of directors are asked to make gifts ahead of a capital campaign to help lead the way. You may want to borrow this model for your congregation, making appropriate adjustments for a church context. Asking members of your Session to make a pledge ahead of the stewardship season allows the pastor, stewardship or generosity committee chair or other church leaders to tell the congregation that pledges have been secured already. It shows leadership and sets a positive outlook for the church.

It’s not the amount of the pledge that is important. It is making the commitment to God and to the future of your congregation’s ministry. You are asking each member of your Session, and perhaps deacons as well, to prayerfully consider their pledge for 2019 and make their pledges ahead of the start of the stewardship season.

While you are asking for money, what you’re really asking is for them to spend time in prayer discerning the role generosity should play in their lives. Your intention isn’t to raise a specific amount, but for them to acknowledge their blessings.

How to make a pledge

Offering envelopes and pledge cards are typically available at most churches in the pews.

Ideally, pledges should be made in writing on a pledge card. That is the simplest way to handle pledges. Bringing pledge cards and envelopes to a Session meeting is a good way to get the conversation started. Add it to the agenda and tell the Session that you will be discussing pledging at the meeting.

The pastor should be prepared to lead, providing spiritual guidance on generosity to the group. Some Session members may fill out the cards immediately and turn them in, having already discussed their pledge at home with their family. Others may not be prepared or may be facing an uncertain financial situation. Establish a deadline for pledges to be returned and explain why you want to do so.

Those who are facing an uncertain financial future, perhaps dealing with a job loss or illness, may simply not be able to make a commitment, no matter how small. If this is disclosed to the pastor or a member of the stewardship committee, the church should offer to step in and help, as needed and desired by the family in question. Meal deliveries are a special way to say the church is thinking of them, as is a card signed by the pastor and staff to indicate the church is praying for them. Follow up again in a few weeks to simply ask how they are.

A time of transition

This may not be an easy transition for your Session. Seeking leadership pledges ahead of the stewardship season, may be a bit of a surprise to your Session. You may find that the first year, not all members of your Session are ready to lead in this way.

Remember that stewardship is a process, and that while you may not get everyone to pledge ahead of time this year, when you bring it up again next year, the results are likely to be better.

Robyn Davis Sekula is a ruling elder in the PC(USA) and active member of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., where she led stewardship efforts for four years. She serves as a communications consultant to the Presbyterian Foundation.