This nice Episcopal couple feels good about their decision making; it is a spiritual decision and they believe an appropriate one. Their signed pledge card to the Parish will equal 8.5%, with the remaining 5.5% going to the other worthwhile charitable endeavors. Good people, great plan, everyone is happy; drop the pledge care in the offering plate and all is well. If only that were true!
Two Sundays into the New Year they hear the Rector announce an anticipated budget shortfall and suggest everyone just add $5.00 a week to their pledge. (In the trade this is called the “Numbers Game”.) Wait a minute our nice Episcopal couple thinks to themselves; we have already talked to God about our stewardship and now you tell us we are wrong?
Two more weeks and the Rector again announces that the budget shortfall still continues and admonishes the congregation to consider what they spend on fancy clothes, nice cars, grand vacations. (We clergy know this as the “Guilt Trip” approach to stewardship.) Our couple discusses this at home and again believes that to increase the total percentage to stewardship is inappropriate; equally inappropriate would be to cut the amounts going to other worthwhile charities.
The Rector next announces that unless the members dig deeper, the Parish will just fade away (the “Poor Us” approach). Of course, that can’t be God’s will - therefore the Rector and Vestry have decided on a “Faith Budget” which means that they are going to spend at the predetermined budget level and have “Faith” that “God will provide.”
Some Rectors will cry “foul” and plead they have never used the Numbers Game, or the Guilt Game, or the Poor Us Game, or the Faith Budget Game. But Rectors do play games with the congregation every time the bulletin lists or they announce a fund raiser or a special offering.
Nothing is more frustrating than to make a meaningful pledge to a congregation and then be nickeled and dimed to death. God Bless the Rector who tells the congregation that the Parish will operate on pledge/plate giving and there will be no special offerings or fund raisers - period! One Parish I lead endorsed this policy and allotted $50,000.00 to the Out Reach Committee; they handled all special offering requests, some were funded, others were not.
It is time to trust that congregation members are telling the truth when they make a pledge and to write a budget accordingly. To keep asking for more is to view them as dishonest cheaters that have to be manipulated.
What happened to our nice Episcopal couple? They moved their membership.