by The Rev. Ken Howard
For the first decade of my ordained ministry, I always hated stewardship season. I alway felt like I was being a bit dishonest with my congregation. I started out every “stewardship season” preaching about stewardship as a spiritual practice, when what we really wanted was for them to open up their wallets. And by the end of the season, we were increasingly talking about how much more of their money we needed to meet our budget (while still cloaking the need in spiritual terms).
The Perils of Archaic (Yet Loaded) Language
With more and more newcomers having smaller and smaller religious vocabularies, words like “pledging” and “tithing” seemed less and less helpful. With each successive generation, they sounded increasingly remote and archaic, yet at the same time increasingly loaded: like the way the rite of Holy Matrimony used to require the bride and groom to “plight their troth.” I was always having to translate, explaining that the word “pledge” was not as ominous as it seemed: “It’s only a best estimate of what you think you can give,” I would say, “You can change it at any time if your financial circumstances change.”
But increasingly, my explanations weren’t getting through. It seemed like every year people were taking longer to turn in their pledges, like they were taking it too seriously.
Sometimes, WAY too seriously…
A parishioner called during the annual pledge drive to apologize for the size of her family’s pledge (they were a young couple with two small children). This was their second pledge drive: for the second time in their lives they were considering what they would pledge to give. There were hints of guilty feelings and tearfulness in her voice as she said, “Father Ken, I’m calling to say we are so, so sorry that we will not be able to pledge as much this year as last. My husband lost his job this year and we had to take out a second mortgage to fulfill the pledge we already made.”
I was horror struck.[Read more…]