Stewardship is dealt with by different churches in many different ways. Some favour the annual letter, signed by the priest, pleading for a much-needed injection of cash for some project and for everyone to consider increasing their giving. Then there are the different schemes which churches buy in to which involve bible study or invitation suppers. Some clergy do annual stewardship sermons either on one named day or over a month. All well and good.
But something has recently come to my attention and I’d like your advice. Like most clergy I have no idea how much people give to church. Some give by Standing Order through their bank, some have a set of weekly envelopes which they bring to church, (I’ve heard of one person here who does both!) and others pop in a fiver or a tenner – or sometimes a few coins. I’ve noticed that the elderly favour the envelope method. Some even bring a pile of them if they’ve been absent for a few weeks and that’s how it should be.
However, we have noticed that some don’t bring a pile in if they’ve been off for a few weeks. But they’re elderly and so sweet that nothing is said. We are grateful for what we receive and we shouldn’t complain. Then there are those who are housebound. Many of those receive communion monthly and more visits from time to time. A few of them will hand over their envelope when you are there but these are really in the minority. I’ve just assumed that the others give through their Bank. But we have recently found out that they don’t. Many of them don’t give anything at all. Some have had the envelopes for the past few years but have never handed in a single one! (By the way, I’ve no idea who these people are nor do I want to know.)
The thing is… I don’t think people mean to withhold their collection. I think they are just forgetful. I don’t think people deliberately withdraw their giving to the church. I think they just get confused. Now you might all be yelling at your screen just now with fists flying and screaming, “Ruth! They are old. They’ve probably given all their lives! Let them off with it now. Who care if they don’t pop in a fiver every now again?” And I know that. My heart knows that and my heart bleeds. The widow’s mite is ringing in my ears. But, and it is a big BUT, what if your congregation has more than 50% , or 75%, who are elderly and housebound? What if the future of your little flock relies on everyone giving their fair share? What if your church is at risk because so many givers have either died or just forgotten to give?
Is anyone getting this or am I just being mean? And why are we so polite that we can’t talk about this in church? Has anyone out there dealt with this? I know that some of these elderly people are not hard up. These are not breadline people. But I just don’t know how to improve the giving among those who have just forgotten to give.