Welcome to the first column focused on giving, also referred to as stewardship or generosity, in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. I’m glad you are here. The odds are that you and I have a lot in common. We both probably have a long history of service to the church and we want the church to be here and be successful long after we are gone.
A lot of my experience in the church has been in leading pledge drives and capital campaigns. Approximately fifteen years ago I had completed a term as senior warden and we had a new rector join us. I wanted to continue to help and I saw that someone needed to step forward and lead the pledge drive. I did it because I thought my own skill set and interests were in that area and because it seemed to be about the last thing that most parishioners wanted to do. It looked like a good fit.
Oddly, though I have led well over a dozen pledge drives, I feel I have only started to learn deeply about it over the past couple of years. I have to give some credit for that to my rector at St. Matthew’s, Saint Paul, the Rev. Dr. Blair Pogue. I’ve learned that if what we are doing feels awkward or difficult, we are doing something wrong. If we make ourselves or others uncomfortable about giving - that should be our clue to stop, take a step back and find a new path.
At its best, giving is something that we do with real excitement for what will happen because of our gift. It is our chance to partner with God and experience the divine. It is our response to being loved by God and wanting our friends, neighbors and the world to share in that love.
There are a lot of moving parts to a well-run pledge drive. It is usually a year-round effort, it involves a significant portion of the congregation, it shines a light on ministry and mission near and far, is based on solid theology and includes the nuts and bolts of distributing and collecting the pledge cards.
The ECMN Council has asked me to act as a resource on giving and pledge drives to anyone who is interested. I am delighted to be asked and even more eager to respond. Some of the specific areas where we might help or provide resources are in the physical distribution and collection of the pledge cards, doing it thoroughly and in a manner that builds community. Effective pledge drives usually involve year round education of the parish and we can offer specific ideas for methods of congregational education. Often it helps to share information about past pledging patterns in the congregation and there are specific and constructive ways of sharing that information. There may be some unhelpful history around giving in a congregation. We may need to re-structure our messages to be positive and based on the assumption that our members will do their best to help the church.
My hope is that this column can become the focal point of an ECMN wide discussion about giving. Many of us have run or been a part of pledge drives and you have seen them at their best and worst. Let’s talk about it! We have a chance to build a future of giving in our faith communities where our relationship with God becomes deeper and more joyful.
If you have a story or question to share please send them to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (952) 457-8660. The answers to our giving challenges are out there. They are in listening to God and in the experiences and knowledge already in our congregations and faith communities.