You Might Be a Pledge Drive Leader If . . .

Dan White

You Might Be a Pledge Drive Leader If . . .

I have heard it said that leading the pledge drive is the worst job in the parish. I don’t feel that way. I have led pledge drives, now called the Generosity program at St. Matthew's, more than twenty times in three different parishes. I love it because it is important work and helps me feel that I am making a positive difference for my parish. Like almost all volunteer jobs, it is the person doing the work who is the real beneficiary, not the people for whom they are ostensibly working.

I can’t really blame anyone for feeling that working on a pledge drive or other fundraising is low on their personal totem pole of choices. In most parishes giving of our own funds is unglamorous at best, and is probably about as eagerly anticipated as our next Covid booster. But it does not have to be that way, and more importantly, it should not be that way.

At our lowest level of pledge drive functioning, we make our pledge to Almighty God resemble nothing so much as our Xcel bill: we have to pay it to get services we want. Hey, somebody has to pay the heating oil bill, right? On about that same level I have heard it said, with every good intention, that our pledges are an investment in the future. Sure, you pay a few bucks now but in the future your kids stay in the church, we help a few people who need it and you get into heaven. What’s not to like?

I believe the next rung up the ladder is articulated by Dave Ramsey when he says “We need to give more than God needs the money.” I think Mr. Ramsey is absolutely right. Giving is one way we move closer to being the people that God wants us to be. When we crack the shell of self-centeredness, break outside it and give more that we might have planned to, we live a fuller life than before.

There is a next and admittedly tougher level of giving. It is the level of giving or generosity as a spiritual practice. Quite a while ago our parish identified The Way of Jesus as having eight components, one of which is Generosity. We defined Generosity as “Trusting in God’s abundance and sharing what God has entrusted to us.” This is a spiritual practice and, like all spiritual practices, it is not easy.

Who do you know that, after trying contemplative prayer the first time said “Boy, that was great!  I really felt that I became one with God”? Nobody, that’s who. No one is changed without effort and practice. But as my friend Bob Bros says, the heart is changed through practice. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” "Treasure" represents whatever a person values most and that gives them security, both present and future. "Heart" represents the deepest and most intimate part of a person and the source of their life.

Jesus knows that the more we stretch to give of ourselves the more deeply in love with God and with each other we will fall. It is hard. It is intended to be. I have struggled with giving. I only came close to tithing once. Believe it or not, couples who are in agreement about almost everything else may not agree on their giving. There are special circumstances that may make it difficult in any given year. But I think the point is to be in the struggle. That is where I have found God: in the rough and tumble of making these choices. Sometimes we have to get roughed up, to have the smooth edges of the barriers we erect to keep us safe be chipped away, for God to show up.  I believe that is what God wants from us--to be engaged with God and with each other in this and every other way.

Our pledge drives, our Generosity programs, have become too difficult for too many of us. They do not have to be that way. If you would like to talk about it please contact me, Dan White, at Love and Peace be to you and yours.

Dan White is the Generosity Chair at St. Matthew's in St. Paul.