The first step towards financial faithfulness is simply deciding to make a pledge. This is a big step for many of us, and a very important one. A pledge is a promise to do one’s best to meet a goal, a confidential “best guess” estimate of annual giving, which is crucial to helping our church leadership make responsible financial plans for the year ahead. Of course, a pledge can always be adjusted at any time if a person’s financial circumstances change.
The specifics of pledges are confidential. Only a very small group of church leaders has access to that information. But general trends and statistics are good to know, and can be widely shared. For instance… In 2020 our church received 278 pledges for a total of a little over 1.1 million dollars. The average annual pledge was a little over 4,000 dollars. Our 2020 budget planned for about 1.7 million in expenses, with the difference covered by other sources of income, including unpledged “plate giving” and donor-restricted funds. For next year, 2021, we anticipate ministry expenses of over 1.9 million, with the increase due mainly to the needs of our beautiful but aging facilities.
So how does a person or family decide how much to pledge? There are many ways to think and pray about this, but here is one way to get started…
1. Consider the Biblical idea of the tithe (10 percent), which is the first tenth of one’s harvest given back to God, the Creator and giver of all good gifts. Many Jews and Christians today commit a tenth of their income to the ministries of their church or synagogue.
2. Consider your household income, perhaps in relation to median household income in New Hanover County ($52,716).
3. Consider a percentage-based gift that feels to you like a challenging, but reachable, goal. Be patient with yourself and remember: For many people of faith, the full tithe is a long-term goal, which takes years of planning and praying. Why not start with a smaller percentage, even half?
4. Consider that a 5-percent pledge on our county’s median household income would equal about 2,636 dollars.
5. Consider that if the 722 households of our church together averaged a 5-percent pledge on median household income in our county, we would easily fund our 2021 budget (1.9 million) entirely on pledges.
As you consider these things, please don’t be discouraged or look askance at fellow church members! There are many reasons for having fewer total pledges than households, for instance. Instead, be challenged and encouraged to be part of God’s work in this community we love. The most important thing is simply to get started with pledging, and then continue listening for God’s call to greater and greater generosity.