Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pledging, Stewardship of Money, and the Parish Budget: An Introduction

St. Timothy’s funds its ministry largely from one source: the money gifts of its members. There are a number of ways one can do this. Many people, when they first begin to attend St. Timothy’s, put cash or a check in the offering plate when it goes by. This is a great start, but is important to ask: “why am I giving?” Is it due to peer-pressure? How about “fee-for-service” or perhaps something like a club’s membership dues? If it is anything like these answers, it is time to go deeper into what we call stewardship, meaning our care of God’s gifts to us in faith.

All we have—from life itself to our relationships and possessions—is a gift from God. We don’t own anything, not even our selves. Christians are supposed to be stewards, not owners. Learning to live this way is one part of growing in Christian authenticity.

A central way of becoming a conscious steward of God’s gifts to us is by giving a portion of one’s income back to God. This is called proportional giving. It mean consciously deciding to give God the cream—not the dregs—of our money. That translates to making a commitment and doing it “off the top.” The standard of proportional giving in the Episcopal Church is the tithe, or one tenth of our income. All Episcopalians are called to give the tithe as the basic standard of financial giving.

Some people were blessed to grow up in a tithing household; they know it is not some extraordinary thing; it is the “natural” level of giving, freeing us from fear-based relations with our money, making us stewards and not owners. Others have to learn to trust God, moving their proportional giving up a percentage or two each year until they reach the tithe. Either way, this is something we need to pray about, consciously offering our monetary assets to God as a thank-offering for the many, many blessings we have received in life. Being thankful is a mark of true stewardship.

Once a person has become a conscious, proportional giver, it becomes natural to make a pledgea commitment to the parish of a specific amount of money weekly, monthly, or annually. Our annual pledge is in the fall, but new members—or those who do not currently pledge—may request a pledge card and fill it out any time.

If, during the year, circumstances change and you cannot fulfill your pledge, there is an easy process to change it: contact our treasurer with the new amount. It will be taken care of confidentially. 

Do remember: money is just one measure of stewardship: how we use our time and talents is just as important. Many opportunities are given through the year for the stewardship of time and talent.

Some other points:
  • No one is required to pledge; but giving in your own name is part of how full membership in the Church is defined.
  • The amount you give is not the issue: it is the commitment and the prayerful intention.
  • Pledge information is confidential (the Treasurer, the Bookkeeper, and the Rector are the three people who might know it—and they aren’t talking)
  • St. Timothy’s sends out reports through the year to all pledgers to help you keep track of your pledge payments.
  • Automatic withdrawal may be set up, if you wish.
  • One of the Church’s important missions—believe it or not—is to help us learn how to relate to our money properly, from a position of faith. This is one of the main reasons we give proportionally, tithe, and pledge.
  • We do not pledge to a budget; we give God a share in thankfulness for the blessings we have received from God’s own hand… thus freeing us to be generous is giving out all our time, talent, and treasure as directed by God. The budget is built in response to our Mission Statement, annual goals, and income, and may be adjusted through the year as necessary.
  • Let your giving be an act of faith: not of fear or of mere habit. Amen!

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