Our church depends on the voluntary service of our members to function. Without thousands of volunteers in our councils and committees and groups, teaching, singing in choir, taking care of our property and our finances and serving in so many other ways, we would not exist. We also encourage our members to be good citizens, employers and employees, who enrich the lives of others with their God-given talents.
Some Christians plan their financial giving by tithing. This is giving 10% off the top for the work of God. The "tithe" is a Biblical term. The Old Testament talks about people giving the first 10% of their crops to God out of gratitude for the harvest.
I like the idea of the tithe, but I object when people try to make tithing into a rule. That takes the heart out of giving and turns it into a business transaction. Giving out of gratitude according to what God has given us is a much better principle. Measure your giving with your heart, not your calculator.
Using an offering envelope helps us to keep track of who gives what and where they want the money to go. Revenue Canada also requires churches to keep such records so that receipts can be given for income tax purposes. I like using envelopes for another reason. It helps me to place my offering on the plate at worship without being self conscious about the amount I am able to give. If I am able to be very generous, I can give quietly without notice.
In the ELCIC, we believe that those who give should be able to find out how their money is being used. We insist on proper financial records at every level of our church. These records are regularly audited.
Financial reports are provided telling people where we get our money and how we spend it. Most people have very little idea where the money goes after it goes on the plate. They know that some of it pays the pastor's salary, maintains the building, buys necessary supplies and so on.
They often don't realize that a portion called benevolence goes on to support the work of the wider church. This helps to finance a wide range of programs and ministries at those levels such as training pastors, preparing Christian education resources, supporting missionaries, campus ministry programs and developing new congregations.
Pledging is a system of planned giving that many congregations find very helpful. If you have already figured out a percentage of your income which you feel you want to give and is feasible for you, it's very easy to fill in the figure on a pledge card.
You are just sharing with your congregation what you already planned on doing so that they can make their plans. In some congregations, the pledge card also provides opportunities to volunteer your time and ability through various avenues of service.
Our congregations don't treat a pledge as a legal document, but it is something to consider carefully. People are counting on you to keep your word.