A few thoughts for those new to financial giving to the church and pledging
By the Rev. Joe Hensley, Rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church
Giving money to the church is a spiritual practice. The connection between money and spiritual work, though, can be confusing and even hurtful. Society has so many mixed messages about why we should give, how much, and what the money is for. Here are some thoughts about giving at St. George’s Episcopal Church that I hope will be helpful.
Giving is just that…giving. It’s not an obligation or a contract. You can come to church your whole life and never give a cent. The church will not shame you. At some point, though, people who value the church start to realize that they want to give and that giving brings them joy.
- Why give? When we see the abundance of blessings in our lives, we often want to share them. If someone gave us a bunch of great food, we might through a party and invite our friends. Giving to the church is one way, among many, to share the blessings we receive. We often say in the church, “It all comes from God.” So giving back to God is a way to say, “thank you.” Giving is also a way that we express our trust in God’s generosity. We might not have a lot of extra income to share. When we share anyway, it’s a way to say, “I trust that what I need will be provided.” Many of us find that when we give, even in lean times, we still have more than enough. Giving can also be fun and joyful. It’s a great feeling to be generous.
- Why give money to the church? There are lots of charitable organizations out there doing good work in God’s name. Giving to the church community is different than other charitable giving. When we give to the church, we are supporting good work and keeping the ministries of the church available (for free usually). We are also participating in that community and letting that community shape us. When we offer our gifts to the church, we are less interested in “return on investment” or “results.” We are surrendering some of our wealth to the community and then letting the community guide, support, and inspire us in ways that are often beyond our expectations.
- How do I start giving? Start where you are. You may be ready to give 10% of your income right now. Great! Some people start by putting a few dollars or a check in the collection plate when it passes by on Sunday morning. Maybe they make an online gift once in a while. The “loose offering” is an important part of our church budget. Others start right away with a regular payment to the church called a “pledge.”
- Why pledge? At some point, like I said earlier, we want to give more. We start to feel that giving just when we have extra or when we feel like it is not helping us grow spiritually. There is a leap of faith and a deepening of faith that can occur when we make a commitment to give. Instead of giving out of what we have “left over,” we move toward giving of our “first fruits,” taking our donation to the church off the top and then using the rest for our other needs. Each fall, we invite anyone to make a financial pledge over the next calendar year. You pay that pledge weekly, monthly, quarterly…whatever works for you.
- How much should I give? The Bible talks of a tithe, a holy standard of giving which is 10% of what we have back to God. There are many St. Georgians who give 10% or greater. There are many St. Georgians who are also working toward that goal. Start giving at a level that feels hard but not impossible. Focus more on the percentage of your income rather than an amount. Stretching beyond where we think we can give often has the result of showing us that there is more than we thought. God provides.
- What if I can’t pay my pledge? Again, there is no penalty or shame. If your financial situation changes (up or down) and you want to adjust your pledge, just contact the church office and let us know.
- How does the church use my pledge information? The amount of your pledge is known only to the church business manager and sometimes the rector (lead priest). Your confidentiality is very important. We share how much has been pledged in the congregation overall with the leadership of the church. They use that information to make a budget for the coming year. It helps us greatly to know how much we hope to receive.
- What do you do with the money I give? It costs a lot of money to run a church. We have a facility, staff, utilities, and other overhead costs. We give away a lot of time and money to the ministries that help others. St. George’s contributes money to the wider community to help support people in need. We also give money to our wider Episcopal Church which actually helps us, because those bigger networks provide a lot of support and resources to local parishes. If you ever have questions about how we are spending the money you give, we are happy to share information. We occasionally post updates on the website and in the newsletter also.
- What’s the first step? Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray for God’s guidance in your giving. When you encounter obstacles or resistance, don’t make yourself feel bad. Just add that to your prayers and let God’s grace help you through it. Contact the church. We’ll be happy to talk about these things with you without putting any pressure on you. Again, it’s all about giving with joy and gratitude.
Thanks for reading. I hope these thoughts have been helpful to you and that you will, with God’s help, experience the grace that can come through financial giving to your church.