Last week, some people came by First Parish Church of Taunton when I was between appointments and wanted to see our building. They explained that they had often driven by the church, but had heard around town that new things were happening in the church and that they wanted to learn more. I gave them a tour, and talked to them about all of the exciting growth and new programs that are going on in the church. One of them, who has never been part of a church before, asked “How does a church run, anyways? Where does your money come from?”
It’s a good question. Churches have been around for so long, one might think that they have always been here and will always be. As those of us in the business know all too well, however, churches (and any religious institutions) do not have guaranteed financial survival. I explained to this young woman that churches run off of charitable donations, otherwise known as pledging, from people who are part of our community. She remained confused and asked “Is that what people put in the basket on Sunday mornings? That’s where all the money comes from?”
I couldn’t help but smile at that point. It would be so awesome if we collected enough on Sunday mornings to support all the work and ministry of the church. How simple that would make life! But the reality is that the Sunday morning offering is just a small section of our budget, and that the majority of our funding comes from our members, friends and other members of the community through pledging. I explained to her that each year, churches hold what is called a “pledge drive,” where we ask everyone who is part of our community to commit to giving a portion of their income to the church for the next year. From the pledge cards, we are able to know how much money to expect in donations for the year to come, and create the annual budget based on what people have volunteered to donate.
It was a timely conversation for me to have, since this Sunday is the kickoff to our pledge campaign at First Parish for the 2012-2013 church year. I’m really excited about this year’s pledge campaign, mostly because there is such energy and capacity in the church! I’m also excited, though, because we have been given a wonderful challenge and gift this year from an anonymous donor who has agreed to match all of the funds we raise, dollar for dollar, during this year’s pledge campaign. This means that all of the donations made this year will literally be doubled! It is a tremendous opportunity, and I am confident that our community will rise to the occasion.
As I explained all of this to our guests earlier this week, their eyes grew wide. ”You mean, a church has to run things like a business?” one of them questioned in disbelief. ”You have to have income and expenses and salaries and everything?” I nodded. Surprisingly, she smiled. ”That’s so cool. So this church really is about being for the people and by the people – a real community.”