Should a pastor know who pledges?
Have been reading some recent articles presenting the pros and cons of clergy knowing who and how much congregants pledge. While I didn’t ask for official access to pledge information, I couldn’t help but know in general terms some of the pledging patterns of church members. Having some access to pledging patterns can provide important information in managing operational budgets.
What I would ask for as a pastor is information on pledges with names redacted so I could review and analyze general pledge patterns spanning a number of years. Some examples of what I was able to learn:
The highest or top pledge(s) were consistently on the short list of top ten pledges for a number of years. I could tell from analyzing the list of top ten pledges that these contributions made up almost 60% of the budget. I could only assume these were probably the most active of members. At the same time, one of these persons I know was a homebound member close to 95 years old who told me what he was giving. In fact, a number of members chose to visit with me about their pledge.
Another examples: without knowing what this member was giving, she came to me to share that her pledge would be lowered because of some personal struggles. She offered to wash windows and clean flowers. Other church members offered to do some painting to offset what they couldn’t put in the offering plate. This actually caught on with several members helping with basic custodial and office management responsibilities.
In looking at the numbers with names redacted, I could learn from year to year to year how many pledges were increased and or decreased. From this information I could glean patterns. If there were a significant number of lowered pledges the question “why” becomes extremely important! Increases sent a positive message that members were generally satisfied with how things were going. It is always important to look at how giving patterns change from year to year.
Always frustrating was the fact that a significant number of pledges were for $25.00 or $52.00. Some of these low pledges could be coming from children or youth or members on disability or fixed incomes. Without judgment, I found it appropriate to preach on occasion on the value of tithing or proportional giving.
I also know of a few members who would pledge a certain amount – usually pretty generous. In looking at the records (with name redacted) I learned that this pledge was rarely paid. It is important for church leaders to know that some who pledge may never get around to paying what they hope to give.
It is always positive watching pledges grow from year to year i.e. a pledge year one for $520 grow to $624.00 year two to $780.00 year three = a pledge that grows from ten dollars a week to fifteen dollars a week. This person or persons must be feeling pretty good!
More recently I found it helpful to look at and preach about our “capacities” to give or pledge based on our personal assessment of gifts and blessings received. There are many ways to preach positive messages on giving back to God in proportion what God has been so generous to give.
Another topic in this blog of random thoughts — the mechanics of giving. I am seeing more and more churches relying on electronic, digital giving. While this takes away from feeling like I am presenting a gift to God on Sunday morning, it is but one way to assure reliable, steady giving.
Finally, a worksheet that was developed to help our church management (finance) team analyze pledge information:
FORM: 2011 Stewardship Report — This report completed each week while pledges are received…
|# of Pledges|
|Pledge Cards Returned|
|Pledge Cards Still Expected|
|Pledge Cards Returned Last Year|
|Pledge Cards Sent Out This Year|
|Cards Returned With No Pledge|
|Lost Pledges Due to Death or Transfer|
|Dollar Amount of Pledges To Date|
|Estimated Dollar Amount of Pledges Still Expected|
|Total Anticipated Pledges ($77,458 – $7,564)|
|Dollar Amount of New Pledges|
|Dollar Amount of Increases in Pledges|
|Dollar Amount of Decreases in Pledges|
|Dollar Amount of Lost Pledges|
Just some random thoughts to blog about…..