The goal of the Annual Pledge Campaign is to grow generous givers.
The Finance Committee of your church may disagree. But the Annual Pledge Campaign is not about money, and it’s not about the budget.
Our mission proceeds from the Great Commission – to go out into the world, baptizing and teaching in the name of Christ – and from the Great Commandment – to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If there are any measures or metrics we need to focus on, it is those.
So, when we come to stewardship and generosity, we church leaders might be worried and anxious about the church budget. But the ultimate goal in this work is not the budget. God will support and equip the church, and doesn’t need our money to do it. What God needs is our hearts and minds and souls and strength.
But I will admit that our giving is a perfect entrée into more meaningful spirituality. There’s a cartoon I really love. Some poor soul is applying to enter the Pearly Gates. And St. Peter responds, “Charitable giving isn’t the ultimate test of one’s humanity, but it gives us some numbers to play with.”
You know Matthew 6:21, but let’s read it again, this is from Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message, and it gets the point home:
The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Our hearts follow our investments. If you go to the track and put $2 down on number 5 in the 7th race, you’ll follow that horse as it races around the track. And if you put $2,000 down on that same horse, you’ll follow it even closer. It’s true, wherever we put our treasure, that’s where our heart will end up being.
That’s why this work of stewardship and generosity is so important.
Billy Graham was famous for saying, “The last thing between Jesus and someone’s heart is their wallet.” This is important work we’re doing. Approach the annual campaign not as a way to keep money coming in, but as a way to transform the hearts of the people who are in our pews and our small groups and in our ministries.
Annual Pledge Campaign Formats
With that understanding, we can move now to the kinds of Annual Pledge Campaigns that you might use in your congregation. There are three basic categories:
- Personal Contacts
- Small Groups
- Congregational Appeals
Let’s summarize these in reverse order, from the least effective to the most.
Summary: A Sunday/weekend is set aside for pledges to be received. In the weeks preceding, presentations are made during worship appealing to the congregation to make a pledge.
- Easy to implement
- No opportunity for dialogue or questions
- Relies on 100% attendance, or significant follow-up
Summary: Small group gatherings are held, either one-time, or a series (e.g., a Bible or book study on stewardship). During the gathering, attendees are asked to consider a pledge, usually dedicated on a particular Sunday/weekend.
- Some opportunity for dialogue
- Strengthens fellowship among members
- Can elicit feedback and buy-in for new ministries
- Relies on 100% participation and follow-up for those who don’t attend
- Needs more organization than Congregational Appeal
Summary: Trained Callers visit with every household for a conversation about stewardship and ministry. Callers ask members to consider making a pledge, usually on a specific Sunday/weekend.
- Best opportunity for dialogue and feedback about ministry
- Strengthens fellowship among members
- Best positive results in increasing generosity
- Highest level of organization and administration
- Recruiting Callers can be very difficult
- Not best to use in consecutive years
I failed to mention the fourth category of Annual Pledge Campaign – those churches who do nothing at all! This is tragic, because our use of money expresses our values and we are called to be generous Christians. Our pastors and congregations must help us in this area of our Christian walk.
It’s not about the money – it’s about our hearts growing more and more into the likeness of Christ, who was generous himself.
Take a moment now and consider – which direction should your church take in this year’s Annual Pledge Campaign?
Reframing Money Talk in the Church
For more thoughts, see my Reframing Money Talk in the Church, a 5-minute YouTube video you can share with your leaders.