I feel called to share a few things with you. These things have to do with stewardship and how people tend to support the things they believe in. These are bits of “wisdom” that I have learned in my reading on the subject and along the way.
In general, people like to support what they believe in. And, they like to support what is working. This seems to be a characteristic of the American people. We are basically generous and practical.
People also like to be able to have something to give to causes, organizations, and their church of choice. When they are asked for a donation or pledge and they do not have the resources to do so, they often feel badly.
If someone supports an organization that has a pattern of asking for contributions frequently, that person tends to hold back on the level of their support given at each asking. This is done because they believe that the organization will be coming back to them later in the year for more support. The person in question will then have the resources to respond at that later asking.
Public Radio is a good example of an organization that has built this pattern into their fund raising. Everyone knows their station has a spring and fall fund drive. As a consequence, many in a town pledge half of what they will give during the year in the spring, and half in the fall.
Over my years at the parish I served I encouraged the following Stewardship model. Ask the community to pray about what God is calling them to give and do for the building up of God’s Kingdom through their congregation. Fill out their pledge card accordingly. And then the parish leadership pledges to respect the fact that the individual members of the congregation have done exactly that. If the parish goes back for additional gifts to support the operating budget, to which people have already sacrificially pledged, it is implying that the parishioners did not do their prayer work in making their pledge.
The task of each year’s leadership committee is to receive the pledges offered as gifts of faith and from God. Following this they are to match the program they design with the gifts that God inspired. Including an income line item titled “Faith” is always appropriate. We need to leave room for God’s Spirit to work, even in the budgeting process. When we follow this stewardship principle, the people of the parish will have confidence that they will be asked to support the operating budget once, and they can take the leap of faith of pledging their entire God-inspired gift from the beginning.