While growing up in the early sixties, I vividly remember the annual visit made by an elder, a deacon, and sometimes even the pastor. They came waving the pledge card and made a pretty convincing biblical case for my parents not only to make the annual pledge, but to pledge the tithe of 10 percent of their income! The visit was followed by the Annual Stewardship Banquet, or as it was called one year, The Banquet of Generosity. It ended on Stewardship Sunday when church members came to the communion table bringing their pledge cards and placing them on the designated baskets.
This may have worked then, but it is no longer as viable a strategy given the changing conditions in our congregations. As Presbyterians, we have been taught that everything we are, have, and use comes from God (Jas. 1:17). As ruling elders, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to be the voice that teaches in some creative ways regarding mission and finances (Book of Order, G-3.0201c). We should not be afraid to look for alternative ways to fulfill the financial needs of the church. For example:
- Shift from the annual three-week fall approach of asking for money to pay bills to a constant approach; giving people opportunities to examine and reflect on their own reasons for giving to God’s mission and ministry on a regular basis.
- Involve the congregation. Ruling elders can identify the strong pillars of the church. Ask these people to share their stories as to why they give and how it makes a difference in their lives.
- Hold an intergenerational Bible study series on simple living, biblical money principles, greed, and/or consumerism before talking about budget needs.
- Give a generous portion of the church budget of at least 10 percent to missions and ministry beyond the local congregation.
- Invite other elders and deacons to share how dollars are used for mission inside and outside the church, rather than showing reports simply illustrating dollars and deficits.
- Serve others. Connect to the community around the congregation and find a way to address the needs. Find a community project or mission where members can use their gifts (local shelter; a local public school program that serves low-income or homeless children, youth and new immigrants; a women’s shelter). Help the younger generations understand how their time and financial contributions can show the love and justice of Jesus Christ in our church and our communities.
- Be sure that the church’s mission is clear and known to all members. Is there a call to action, a call to participate? Making a financial commitment should always be a call to further the vision and mission of the church as well as a call to commit time, energy, and financial resources.
In the end, the goal should always be participating in God’s mission inside and outside the church walls rather than just maintaining the building!
Loyda P. Aja is a ruling elder and a former Associate Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly. A graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, she currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where her lifetime partner, the Reverend Dr. Tony Aja, is the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church. She serves on her presbytery’s PJC, and plays in the hand-bell choir. Loyda loves visiting her grandchildren and walking her dogs, Lucero (Lucy) and Patrick.